Hurricane Half-marathon Recap: Does a PR count if I walked?

Before the half marathon I was positive and ready to run!
Before! Ready to run!

Two years ago, I ran the Hurricane Half Marathon as my first half-marathon and longest race ever, and it was truly the hardest thing I’d ever done, including my first, second, third, and fourth marathons.  Why?

There is literally a mountain smack dab in the middle of the race.

Don’t believe me?  View the coursemap.  Still don’t believe me?  Read the comments about the race on the Active.com Hurricane Half Marathon 2011 page.  The first time I ran this race it was freezing and for-real tough.  I finished in 161st place, with a time of 2:24.*

Ouch.  I’m surprised I kept running after the most demoralizing finish I’d had in any race so far.

Fast forward two years.  I’ve got four marathons under my belt and I decided that it would be “fun” to see how much my running had improved over the past two years.  A half-marathon was part of my Windermere training plan (May 19) as a tune-up race, so I decided to give it a shot.  But this time, I had a plan.

After a 10 minute warm-up, I’d stretch until the start.  For the first five miles, I run an easy 9 minute mile.  At mile five, when the epic mountain started, I’d simply walk.

Yes, walk.

The hill lasts for approximately half of a mile, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt me much to take it easy, and run down the other side of the hill with fresh legs.  I’d take my first Stinger chews, and eat another every 15-20 minutes.  Then I’d push it for the second half of the race, averaging 8 minute (or so) miles.

Pre-race, I felt awesome.  Despite two tough workouts on Thursday and Friday, I was in a great mental place for this race.  The weather was perfect at 55 degrees and almost no wind. The race began, and I ran it exactly as I’d planned.  Easy for the first five miles.  Walked up the mountain (at a brisk pace). Fueled on schedule.  Ran the heck out of the remaining 7.6 miles.

Post-race, happy to have a new half-marathon PR!
After! And so happy to have a new half-marathon PR!

And PR’ed with a time of 1:56.  30th overall.

Felt amazing.  Still feels amazing.

But then I started to wonder – was my race plan cheating?  Instead of running one half-marathon, I technically ran two races, with a 10 minute walk-break in the middle.  Or maybe I ran a 10k with a long warm-up?  Does my PR mean less than if I’d ran the entire race without stopping?

I’m a big advocate of walk-breaks in marathon running and training, but I usually mean a system of running 9 minutes, walking one, or other permutations of running a lot, walking a little.  But I didn’t take regular walk breaks, just one long one in the middle.  Does this PR and time mean less because of that?

Regardless, I learned a valuable lesson during this race.  The time to create a race plan isn’t on the fly or during the race.  It’s definitely possible to overthink a race/course, but a little preparation and sticking to it goes a long way.  I definitely learned my lesson and will create and stick to a plan for Windermere!

What do you think?  Does walking mean my PR means less?

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021 to raise money for Girls on the Run. Next challenge: Collegiate Trail Loop FKT. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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18 comments

  1. Congrats on a great plan and execution! I absolutely believe your PR is just as valid with your walk break as without it. It’s all about crossing the finish line in the most expedient way, and if that includes walk breaks, it doesn’t take anything away from the effort or the finish. My fastest half marathon to date was on an incredibly hot day that, out of necessity, included several walk breaks for water stops and one for fueling.

  2. You started at the start, went 13.1 miles, and finished at the finish. That’s a PR. Own it and feel great about it. Plus you were very wise about it.

  3. It totally counts. You had a plan based on the course that worked for you and you got an awesome PR. Don’t let walking up a mountain, which was probably smart take that away

    1. It still feels great – and I’m glad I had a strategy! I wonder if the result would have been similar to before if I hadn’t set and followed this plan!

    1. Thank you! I know I’ll be faster on a course without a mountain, but I think I figured this course out! I can’t wait to come back next year!