The Muddy Mini Half Marathon sounded appealing to me because it finishes at Fifth Third Field – home of the Toledo Mud Hens and their mascot Muddy. The Mud Hens are a minor league team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. It sounded especially cool to finish a race on the field’s warning track. I pulled the trigger when I received an email about signing up by a certain date to guarantee a race t-shirt in the correct size. I’d been debating if I should sign up and finally decided to just go for it. I’m really glad I did!
Toledo is an hour and a half away and I didn’t want to pay for a hotel room. That meant I had to wake up crazy early on race day, which was Saturday, June 15th. I left before 4:30 to make sure I could find parking and get to the packet pickup when it opened at 6:00. I also had to catch a shuttle to the half marathon start and didn’t know how long the lines may be for the buses. Everything was really easy and I didn’t need to be there so early, but I guess I’d rather play it safe and have time to kill so I don’t feel rushed.
After taking a walk around the outside of the ballpark I hopped on a shuttle bus that took me to the start in Maumee. Between Boston, Bayshore and this race, I’ve done several point-to-point races lately that require bussing to the start and then playing the waiting game. I was thankful that this time I got to wait in a nice downtown area by a church and some shops rather than on a damp grass field.
Also like Boston and Bayshore, there was rain prior to the start of the race. I may have had an hour or so to kill and luckily the rain didn’t start right away. I was able to find a bench on a sidewalk and play on my phone for a bit. 15-20 minutes before the 7:45 start the rain began to pick up. Some people took shelter by the church or other buildings.
I wore a raincoat and sat in the rain until I was ready to unload my extra clothes at gear check, then I did a brief warm up jog around some parking lots. Most people weren’t very anxious to line up and opted to stay out of the rain until a few minutes before the start. When people did line up they left a big gap at the front. I realized someone was holding a 1:30 pace sign behind me, so maybe most people didn’t plan to run much faster than that. I moved back a little bit but was still surprised to be so close to the front. Oh well – if I was too slow people could just pass me. At least I wouldn’t get stuck in congestion like I had at the Bayshore half marathon.
There was an out-and-back stretch to start the race that took us down a hill and on a road that ran next to a metropark. The rain wasn’t too heavy but it kept up for a little bit. Thanks to the lack of congestion and running downhill my time for the first mile was 7:45. That was a bit faster than I intended. I made an effort to slow down for the second mile. Going back up the hill helped me run the next mile 20 seconds slower. The hill wasn’t too significant though and the rest of the course was mostly flat.
After that, my pace sped up to the 7:45 range again for a while. I kept telling myself that I had just run a 1:44 half marathon a few weeks earlier. That averaged out to a pace in the 7:50s. I wasn’t sure I’d done enough work in the weeks since to set me up for something much faster, but maybe I actually did have more in me? Still, I wondered if running 7:40s could set me up for trouble later. Aside from the Bayshore half, I hadn’t done more than a mile or two at that kind of pace in training runs. I was running by feel though and somehow that pace didn’t feel too labored so I kept rolling with it. There were a couple guys running a similar pace for several miles so it probably helped me lock into that rhythm.
The temperature was in the low 60s. Whenever the rain let up I realized I’d rather have it back than cope with humidity. The rain was pretty much on and off throughout the race. I really appreciated the enthusiasm from the volunteers despite having to stand out in the rain. Police were also out in a ton of spots blocking traffic for us. Although there were very few spectators along the route, it was really nice to have the volunteers and police out there.
The course wasn’t quite as scenic as I thought it may be, but the gloomy day and my concentration on running strong may have distracted me a bit. We ran along River Road for much of the race and caught glimpses of the Maumee River in spots. I liked looking at some of the nice houses along the river. We ran past part of the Toledo Zoo but I guess that portion must not be very noticeable from the road because I completely missed it!
After five miles my pace got a few seconds faster and I ended up in the low 7:40s and high 7:30s for the next five miles. I didn’t know where the speed was coming from! I thought about how great it felt though. When running comes naturally and it happens to be sort of fast too, it’s a good feeling. I thought about how I’m kind of good at this running thing and I’m lucky to have discovered that!
Of course it wasn’t a total breeze maintaining the pace and I was definitely working hard. Somehow I was able to keep it up and still managed to take my usual approach of speeding up for the last few miles – 7:31, 7:20, 7:12. I found myself grimacing more frequently in the late miles of the race as I kept grinding. When the 1:40 pacer passed me during the first mile of the race I wondered if there was any possibility I could catch up to him later. Now I could see him and he was within reach. He became my target. My PR is just under 1:40 so I knew it was possible. Could I actually catch up to him?
As I approached the ballpark I felt really strained trying to maintain a 7:12 pace. I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to speed up even more. The pacer was within sight but a bit too far out of reach. I went around the outside of the park and got to the tunnel that goes down to the field. The ramp was steep and turned a couple times, so I slowed down a little bit to manage it. It was pretty cool to run into the park.
We got to run along the warning track on the way to the finish line.
1:40:47 was my official time. I couldn’t quite hit 1:40 but I was pretty close. I ran several minutes faster than I did at Bayshore, ran a negative split, and I was only a minute off of my PR. I was thrilled!
I found the 1:40 pacer after I finished and talked to him for a couple minutes. Although he didn’t have people around him to pace, I wanted to let him know that he gave me someone to chase and I appreciated that.
After rounding the warning track we had to head up the stairs for the post-race festivities. Although I was wiped out at the end of the race I guess I still had enough adrenaline to get up the stairs without a struggle.
I’ve found that most people are pretty friendly about taking pictures at races. After I offered to take a picture of one group, one of them offered to do the same for me.
I ended up chatting with the guy who took my photo for several minutes. He told me this was his third race and the longest distance he had raced. His goal was to keep running the whole time and he had achieved that goal. I love sharing the excitement of accomplishing goals with other runners. I knew that he was proud and I congratulated him and encouraged him to keep it up.
I used one of the computers to check my results and it showed “DNF” – did not finish. Some of the results hadn’t loaded yet so I got some post-race snacks and figured I’d check again later. They had orange slices, bananas, and granola bars for snacks. I wasn’t impressed with the thin selection of food at first, but then I went to the party area in Hensville Park where they had beer, hotdogs, and chips. They also had a great band named Amelia Airharts. They won me over right away with a Tom Petty cover.
I had signed up for text notifications from the race and received one with my finishing time. I didn’t have to worry about that DNF. I had already been excited enough about my speedy time, but I was pretty shocked to see that I had won my age group and had placed so high overall. I never place high enough for awards when I run half marathons. Most half marathons have more than 400 people though, so I think the smaller crowd gave me better odds.
This sweet award is now proudly displayed on a bookcase with other prizes I’ve collected from races.
Since I raced so well and won an award, of course I’m going to say I loved this race. I would definitely recommend it and may have to return in the future. I realized that I have run some of my best races in Toledo. My current half PR is from the Glass City Marathon in 2015. I ran the full marathon there in 2018 and used my time to get into Boston in 2019. Since I’ve had three solid races in Toledo I may need to race there more often!
I’ve run a few strong races in the last month which makes me feel better about my lackluster race in Boston. Although Boston didn’t play out how I had hoped, I’ve heard that one successful training cycle stacks on top of another. I think I’m seeing the results of that. My training for Boston was very successful and it seems like the fitness has stuck with me. It kind of amazes me that this race was so close to my half PR without “proper” training. I trained very specifically for that kind of speed when I achieved my PR. If I’m in the same neighborhood now without doing the workouts, it leaves me encouraged for what may come once I start doing more workouts. I hope to do a whole bunch of races over the next few months, so I may actually substitute those for my typical Tuesday speed and Thursday tempo runs. I’m racing my way into shape this summer and so far the approach seems to be working!