Race Report: Thom Ward’s Denver Half Marathon

Newton Running’s own legal intern Thom Ward breaks down his first podium in a half marathon!

I love racing, and so despite only 45 miles of running in the past month, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run in the Denver Half Marathon. I’d been recovering from an IT band injury, but was still certain I could finish the race. I was excited to be running in Newton’s Distancia lightweight trainers, and a great singlet from our Singapore distributor.

The course is a series of loops, and is roughly consists of one-third each concrete, crushed stone, and narrow singletrack, (with a short patch of beach-running). Not ideal conditions for a PR, but the varied terrain kept the race fun and challenging.
I’m under no illusions that I’m anything but an average runner (Newton-sponsored athlete Craig Alexander ran the same distance twenty minutes faster at the 70.3 championships the same day), but when I’m standing at the start with the national anthem playing, I’m ready to RACE. I ran the first two miles just under six-minute pace, keeping the lead pack in sight, until cramping forced me to slow my pace for the next two miles and walk an aid station.

After three people passed me, I managed to pick up the pace again, and dial into my goal pace of around 6:45 minute miles. Around mile six, I noticed two men trailing me, one twenty meters back, and the second a bit behind him. I couldn’t shake them for the next twelve miles, despite forcing myself to work the hills as hard as I could to open a bigger gap. I finally had my chance to make a gap at mile twelve when we entered dense brush, with visibility limited to five feet ahead. I charged through the brush over the next half mile as hard as I could, knowing that the two behind me wouldn’t see me making the effort. After emerging from the brush for the final mile, I didn’t see them again, and finished with a smile, third in my age group.

The Denver Half is in its second year, and is a beautiful and fun course, staffed by cheerful volunteers. However, the non-standard 13.45 distance and the poor course markings lessened the experience a bit. I twice came to an intersection to encounter chalk course markings simultaneously indicating that I should turn both left and right. The 10K course winner was so confused by the markings that he ran past the finish, and entered the finisher’s chute from the opposite direction. Still, I had a great day, and most runners I talked to were in great spirits at the finish as well.

Photo credit: Annette Mitchell