A 13.1 Mile Run Down Memory Lane: The Hamptons Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday, I returned to the scene of the crime.

“The crime,” of course, being East Hampton, NY, where I ran my first marathon one year ago. This time, I was heading back to race again, but for the Hamptons Half Marathon, not the full.

My expectations were equal parts low and high: I had no pace plan or time goal (that’s the low/no expectation part), but my hopes were hugely optimistic that merely being back in The Hamptons would mean instant magic and overwhelming happiness.

The verdict?

I truly do believe that magic happens in The Hamptons. I had an awesome time running the Hamptons Half. The day was everything I had hoped it would be.

If you’re here for the numbers, here you go:

The numbers according to Garmin…
…and the real numbers according to the official race results. Evidently I was 7th in my “division” (which should say out of 199, not 1,330), and I’m not sure if “division” is the same as “age group,” but 7th seems cool to me.

But as I’ve said many times (OK, maybe two or three times, but with emphasis, so they count more), my last-minute decision to run this half marathon was never about a time goal. In fact, I told myself going into the race — and reminded myself at the start line — that no matter how great I felt in those first few miles, this wasn’t about gunning for a PR.

This past week of running was a cutback week for me, which I definitely needed. After an 18-miler, a week of traveling and hard running and a 20-miler, my legs were tired and my hips were feeling extra tight and achy. So scaling down the mileage and taking a complete, total, legitimate rest day Friday (that means sitting in my desk chair all day, not “running an easy 6 miles” or “doing a light spin class” or “lifting, easy yoga and a 90 minute swim”) felt good.

By Friday afternoon, I started to get a little nervous.

Thank you, Emily, for picking the colors for my outfit and also telling me to calm down in a nice way.

It was fun, though. I liked having a little pre-race anxiety, and it felt good to actually be signed up for a race that I was excited about but also cared about. For a long time I stopped caring about racing, and then I stopped doing races altogether. It’s nice to be easing back into it, and I’m working harder on my mental game this time around instead of stressing and obsessing over my physical capabilities. I need the mental work more.

I need the physical work, too. But I’ll do that eventually…

Brian and I rented a little 4-door vehicle and drove out east (that’s what the Long Islanders say when they’re leaving Manhattan: “going out east”) Friday night. We stopped for some carbohydrates on the way and were settled into the lovely Holiday Inn Express in Riverhead by 11:30 PM.

I went to sleep Friday night with happy butterflies smacking around in my stomach.

Oh, my stomach. Remember when it was so so so bad? Well on Saturday, it was so so so good. Hooray! Victory! Success! A Porta Potty-less race!

I was pretty psyched to wake up at 5 AM Saturday. I did the usual stuff you know about: shower, abs, granola bars, legwarmers, braid hair, figure out what to wear because I definitely didn’t pack enough options…

BRIAN, WAKE UP! HELP ME DECIDE WHAT TO WEAR! He did, in fact, pick an outfit for me, and then I ignored him and wore something else instead. I don’t do so well with “input.” Even when I ask for it.

My stomach felt unsettled the whole time I was getting ready. I was never too worried because I assumed it was just race nerves. Brian and I drove (OK, he drove, I changed the radio station every two seconds and played a game I like to call “Ali’s Car Karaoke,” and now that I think about it I will rename it “Caraoke”) the hour to the race start, and as soon as we parked and I got to the bathroom and I pinned my bib on, my stomach pain went away.

Baby, I’m ready to go! (“From the rooftops shout it out…” Anyone? Jock Jams?)

I did a “warm-up jog” which consisted of running around a soccer field for 30 seconds before I got bored, and then snagged a kiss from Brian and scooted into my little corral.

I have no pithy caption for this. I’m just pinning my bib to my shirt. THERE IS NOTHING HILARIOUS ABOUT THAT.

Everything was just the way I remembered from last year, and the familiarity was comforting. Same bathrooms, same “corrals,” which were really just a few signs with mile times written on them, and the same National Anthem being played from a set of speakers.

In those final few minutes before the horn went off, I decided on my plan: I’d go out at an 8:30 pace and try to carry that throughout the race. If I felt good, I could speed up, but not until mile 8 or 9. I don’t consider myself in “race shape” right now, and I didn’t want to hit any walls or burn out. Thus, 8:30s and “then see what happens.”

On your marks…HORN!!!!!!!

As soon as the horn blew, I unexpectedly lost it. I’m sure I looked totally foolish. I put my headphones on and started my watch and started running, and I saw Brian waving and taking pictures on the sideline, and I just started ugly blubbering.

I’m a crier. We all know that. I cry at many things and I’m not usually embarrassed by that. My Sister’s Keeper? Stepmom? The mere mention of Denny Duquette? Forget it.

But I cried for a solid 30 seconds at the start of this race. I was so happy. Happy to be healthy, happy to be running, happy to be back in the place where so many good things have happened in my life.

Let me be cheesy, just today, OK?

So mile 1: The Crying Mile. Way to keep it together, Feller.

Amazingly, I didn’t go out too fast. Am I learning? Am I getting better at this running thing? Nah. It was probably just a fluke.

The first mile was just slightly faster than I had anticipated, so I scaled it back for the second mile. Well played, Young Ali. You are seeing your past mistakes and you are not re-living them!

From there, I just cruised. My shins were a little achy at first, but I didn’t dwell on the “sensations” and eventually I felt fine. My legs loosened up and my pace felt comfortable and sustainable. I was never breathing too heavily and I always felt like I could speed up if needed. But I didn’t. I was too scared to potentially leave my comfort zone, which is a topic for another day, and I was really afraid of burning out in the second half of the race.

And so I just kept doing what I planned to do: I happy ran! Don’t get me wrong, I felt like I was racing. But was I all-out, totally killing it from start to finish? Nah. It wasn’t the day for that, I’m in no shape for that, and running this way was more fun. I got to smile a lot, I got to feel like I was working at a comfortably challenging rate, and I got to literally take a trip down memory lane.


I was surprised at how much of the course I remembered from last year. The half and full stay together up until mile 5.7, when the full marathoners turn right and are all “we’re going to run so much more than you now.” But the full marathoners end up running the entire half course at some point. So when I signed up for the half marathon, thinking I’d miss “that awful climb from mile 17–20,” I was incorrect.

Because when we parted from the full marathoners, all of a sudden I was on a dirt road.

I remembered that dirt road.

That damn dirt road when I had to start walking during the marathon last year.

Apparently I didn’t read the course map very closely. Oops.

This is an elevation chart. It indicates minimal hills, though it fails to say “this one particular climb is on a groovy dirt road.” And I don’t mean groovy as in “Brady Bunch cool.” I mean groovy as in there were many grooves and uneven surfaces. Also that “hill” is pathetic-looking and barely worthy of being deemed a hill, I realize that. YOU GO RUN IT.

But it’s amazing what a little perspective can do: Last year the “big climb” came at mile 17, and I remember rounding a corner and seeing a mountain. It hurt so badly, and it was halfway up that hill where Coach Cane was waiting for me — camera and words of encouragement ready to go.

This time, the hill started around mile 5, and it wasn’t nearly the Everest I remembered.

Do you know what’s awesome? Having a fan out on the course cheering for you. Do you know what’s not awesome? When that FAN/guy named Brian chooses to wait for you at the top of a hill. “Oh hey, Brian, want to see me at my absolute shittiest? Great! Stand at the top of a hill while I’m running up it. Love ya!” For the record, we never had that conversation. I would never say that.

It was long, yes, and it was a climb, no doubt about it. But it was significantly easier at mile 6 than I remember it being at mile 17.

And when I reached the top — and saw Brian, who rode around the course on his bike for optimal viewing — I still felt good and strong.

This photo gives you a good side view of my “weak glutes.”

I knew the hilly parts were done, and I’d get a little downhill before a flat jaunt to the finish.

This is from when Brian rode his bike alongside me for a few seconds and I freaked out because riding and taking photos at the same time just doesn’t seem safe. I yelled “BE CAREFUL!” so that probably helped.

I remembered every little marker along the way. I remembered the spots where I saw my family last year, and I remembered the exact point on the hill where I saw Coach Cane. I remembered that seemingly endless stretch leading toward the finish where I rounded out mile 25, with Nicole “Mrs. Coach Cane,” at 7 months pregnant, running with me on one side and my dad on the other.

Most of all, I remembered that left turn when the finish line comes into view.

I didn’t get much of a sprint out in that last stretch. I looked all around, hoping to see Brian (which I did!) and, yeah this is cheesy again, I turned off my music and listened to all the fans screaming.

All done!

I may not have run 26.2 miles, and I didn’t have my crazy-huge cheering squad on call, but this still felt victorious.

That sweaty space blanket is currently taking up precious real estate in one of the apartment closets. Don’t tell Brian which one.

For once, I ran a race just the way I planned and it paid off. I maintained a mostly steady pace, I didn’t obsess over a time goal and I had an awesome time. I forgot that racing can really be fun! You just have to do it right. And not set yourself up for failure. And not beat yourself up over every little detail. Right?

I was also excited to cross the finish line and see I had two more fans than expected: Brian’s mom and her boyfriend surprised me at the end!


Brian’s mom is the nicest person ever and she gave me many sweaty hugs, which was kind. She’s a teacher. I think teachers are wonderful people.

The takeaway from this race?

I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I’m certainly not in the worst. I’m very proud of my 1:47:41 finish time, especially considering my shoddy training all summer.

I’m really happy I was able to run this race because it meant a lot to me.

Brian LOVES a good post-race sweat hug. Really. They’re his favorite. He’s disgusting.

I loved being back out in The Hamptons and I’m glad I’m spending this pre-marathon time working hard on my mental efforts, because I’ve always been an over-thinker — and an awful-thinker — and I think altering my race day mentality starting now will pay off on November 4.

SOMETHING IS FUNNY. Actually, this is when I saw Brian’s mom just past the finish and I was excited but also too out of breath to do anything about it. So I just drunk-smiled.

I spent the rest of the weekend attending a garlic festival, cruising around Central Park for proof that it is, in fact, fall…

Oh, this is nice. Hello, Bethesda Fountain. Looking sharp.
All Bridle Path signs point to fall. CONFIRMED.

…and baking.

Two years ago, I went to the Union Square Greenmarket and tried chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Since then, I have craved it and I have never satisfied that craving. Yesterday? Oh I went for it. I baked chocolate chip pumpkin bread and chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and there isn’t a whole lot left over today…Craving = fulfilled.

And cooking.


I made soup! More specifically, I made “stracciatella,” according to the recipe in Real Simple magazine.

I hardly recognize myself anymore.

But I do recognize a good time when I see one, and I had one heck of a good time this weekend. Thank you, Hamptons, for never letting me down.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD TIME? Did you race this weekend? Or run long? Or bake something delicious? Tell me about it! This is my favorite part. Do a little bragging, throw down your long run numbers, let it all out.



74 Responses

  1. Something that makes me happy every day – easy one – my little dog Brady!

    Race day must have – Eminem Till I collapse!

    Favorite carb before race – Bagel w/jelly – plain and simple

  2. Congratulations on an awesome half! So happy to hear it went so well!
    And pumpkin bread…that needs to happen soon. I just bought a case of pumpkin and cannot get enough. Hello fall 🙂

  3. Congrats on the half! I am beyond impressed with your time. I just registered for my first and am just hoping I finish before they re-open the roads to traffic.

  4. Hells yeah and congrats!!!! No racing here, but last long run pre-half marathon on the 14th. I wish I could run your time, but that’s pretty unlikely! 😉

    1. Yup! They’re the “Groove Shorts” and I love them. The crotch on my shorts doesn’t tend to get pilly — definitely don’t put them in the dryer after washing. I always air dry my workout stuff, which I think helps.

  5. Congratulations on your race. I had a good weekend, life with a new puppy dog is very interesting. Today, I baked a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. I enjoy sweets myself, especially chocolate. Pumpkin bread with chocolate chips sounds good. Today, I also started my day saying ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!’ It also rained this weekend, I live in Texas and we have had a cool front and it has been windy the past few days.

  6. So all day while writing the date (10/1) I’m thinking to myself…Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!! You’ve officially rubbed off on me gal! So glad you had a great race….I’m running NYC next month too, hope to run into you!!

  7. I’m really happy to see you had a great race 🙂

    I didn’t have a “long run” this weekend, but I did manage 2 miles without getting sick – first time since I got pregnant! 😀 (10 weeks now)

    1. They’re the Lululemon Groove Shorts. They’re my favorite because they’re not super long but they also don’t ride up. A bit pricey, but I wear them enough to get my money’s worth!

  8. Wahoo! Good job at the race!!!! 🙂

    I did not get out and run this weekend, but I did go on a 12 mile hike, find a new apartment to rent, and melt soy wax into vintage tea cups to make cool candles! It is odd when you suddenly become domestic, isnt it?!

  9. Congrats Ali! What a great race recap. I love your mentality going into the race. I’m running the Chicago Marathon this weekend and due to some training glitches I’ve had to readjust to run it completely goal free… and hopefully make it out alive. This recap inspired me…sometimes the best races are the ones where we just love the run we’re in.

  10. Congratulations Ali!!! This post made me so happy for you! I was just reminiscing about the first half marathon I did last year at this time, and can definitely relate to knowing every turn and hill. Way to crush it this weekend!

  11. congratulations on the great race!
    and I nearly died when I saw the “from the rooftops shout it out” caption… because I had a dance to that song when I was 7… only another former dancer could appreciate that!

  12. I knew you would come back fast (at least to me you are. very much so.) And you are really to have Brian to encourage you and take pictures and all that stuff!
    I am so excited to read on about your training and then finally soon the marathon recap! Yay!

  13. Wss it the garlic festival upstate? Because if so I was totally there on Sunday !!! Awesome weekend !

    I have read for a while….and I have tried to get addicted to sweaty fun but it never took . But I just found spinning and its taking !I wore my I heart sweat shirt and got many comments on it!

    1. Noooo that was a different festival! This one was in Riverhead, NY. The weather was crappy but the garlic soup was faaaaantastic!

  14. Congrats on your half! His past weekend a group of us reunited to attack the Akron Marathon Relay Race. The last time we ran it together in 2009, a lot of us were just getting I to running or just getting back into it, in fact it would be my wife’s first run since having our baby girl just 4 months earlier. That year we finished the relay in 4:48:32. I gave our team a goal of taking 40 minutes off the pace, saying if we just averaged a 9:30 per mile pace between us all we’d finish around 4:08, jokingly I added if we average a 9:09 we would finish right at 4 hours. After my leg with a sun 8 pace and the following leg ran at an 8:44 pace the 4 hour finish was in sites. Our final runner crossed the finish line at 3:54:04 crushing our time from last time and crushing my goal for this years race! We settle bar high, but we’ll be back faster next year!

  15. Great job, Ali!

    Over the weekend, i went to a rock climbing gym for the first time! It was awesome and my upper body is now ridiculously sore.

  16. Congratulations on an amazing race and a kickass time! Also, please post the stracc. recipe. That is my all-time favorite soup, but most restaurants make it too salty. Probably because I usually order it at pizza shops.

    1. 5 1/2 cups chicken broth
      1 1/4 cups cooked long-grain rice (I used wild brown rice)
      4 cups spinach, trimmed and washed
      1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
      Freshly ground pepper
      3 large eggs, beaten well

      Basically you combine the stuff (except the egg) in a massive pot on the stove, bring it to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. As it simmers, slowly pour the eggs in a circular motion into the pan. Let it continue simmering until the eggs are sit. Top it off with cheese and pepper and it is delicious. Boom.

  17. Congratulations on such a great race! I did race this weekend and was equal parts discouraged and motivated by my performance in the half marathon. I had myself a little cry afterwards and then resolved to suck it up and just do better next time. I have a lifetime of running and racing ahead of me, this is just the beginning.

  18. Congrats! I ran the Hamptons Half as well, and without really training for it had no expectations and planned to let myself walk after mile 8 if I needed to. Well I never took that break and PRed at 2:11. It was a great run!

  19. Great job on the race! Looks like you had a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to getting back into racing shape myself…and now that I know how magical that race is, I’ll definitely look to check it out next year!

  20. Awesome job! I had a great weekend. A solid workout, hanging out with my BFF sans husbands and babies, seeing another friend’s newborn, and Chinese food. And no work. BEST WEEKEND EVER.

  21. Great job! I was out there cheering on my sister and all the runners at mile 9 and was so excited to see you running strong. I tried to cheer you on but doubt you heard me with the headphones.
    So glad you are feeling healthy again!

  22. I got out for my 16 mile training run on Sunday, despite having a bit too much fun on Saturday night. I love fall! It makes Forbidden Drive in Philly look like heaven on earth. Congrats on a great race! And please don’t mention Denny Duquette ever again, thank you.

  23. Gosh, I was just thinking about that race. I remember how humid it was last year. I hope the weather was a little better for you this year. It will never be one of my favorite halfs, but I am glad I did it. I mean, how bad can anything in the hamptons be?

  24. My boyfriend and I ran together for the first time yesterday. I was a little nervous . . . I don’t normally run with other people and I prefer to listen to my music and not talk or anything. But we ran together, kept up with each other, listened to our own music, and he made me laugh a ton–it was one of the best and most fun runs I’ve ever done 🙂
    Congrats on the race! Looks like you had a blast! So happy you’re doing better!

  25. Congrats! Sounds like you are doing well in your training for NY. It will be my first NY marathon as well and I’m so excited!

  26. Awesome race! I love the crying part! Mostly bc I do that in pretty much every race I run. Sometimes I will cry for no reason. Think if I just laced up for the Chicago Marathon (after 2 weeks of minimal running), that I too can run a happy race? 😉

  27. Nice race, Ali!!! 🙂 Such a pleasure to read this jubilant report!!! Also, I want that pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Please bring it for me on Thursday? I will eat it in place of chomps or gels or whatnot. Also, I know I owe you a return email. Will get on it. xoxo

  28. Congrats on an awesome half! Yesterday I ran a PR in the Pittsburgh Great Race in the cold rainy rain. Looks like you had better weather. I am jealous.

  29. Sounds like a great time, Ali! I don’t think it is cheesy at all – unless I am also cheesy – but I always shut off my music for the last 1/4 mile or so. I love listening to the crowds and hearing my name as I go over the finish line. Your time is great! I wish I could move my body that fast!

  30. Congrats on a smart, healthy, and fantastic half marathon this weekend! It sounds like a really fantastic time! I ran on Saturday morning (long run for my half marathon in a few weeks), and it was a perfect fall run! My right shin has been hurting a bit since then, which is really no good.

  31. I think the Hamptons Half Marathon finish line is my happy place now too – I had such a great time on Saturday, and I still can’t believe it’s over and that I made my time goal! Great to see you there and meet Brian. You’re going to be fabulous on November 4th!

  32. Congratulations! You looked like you felt awesome as you should after your crazy Chronsy year! You are inspiring! You make me want to go out and get my behind running!

  33. Great job on the Hamptons 1/2! You nailed it! I ran 8 miles yesterday in prep for the Boston 1/2 next Sunday. I’m very nervous for some reason even though this is my 3rd 1/2 this year. I didn’t do any baking, but I should have this weekend! I did cook some tasty black bean soup on Saturday, which lasted all weekend. Have a great week!

  34. I didn’t run because I woke up Sunday (on my planned running day) with a lame migraine and it just kept getting worse. But! I made applesauce in my crock pot on Saturday and it made my kitchen smell amazing and it tastes really good.

    PS. Congratulations on a great race! So glad you felt great and had a good time through it all!

  35. Congrats on the happy, well paced, mentally strong race! And the baking/cooking, too. I baked oatmeal cookies with a cookie butter glaze and saw friends I hadn’t seen in a while. win.

  36. Congrats!!!!! I’m so happy you had such an awesome (and to me, very fast) half marathon in the Hamptons! Everything sounds like it went perfectly and as always, you make it seem easy. I LOVE your running outfit. LOVE!! Brian looks a lot like his mom! I like how Andy’s parents saw me finish my half last weekend and Brian’s saw you this one. Also, I am SO excited to go back to Richmond and recognize my own marathon course now!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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