Hilton Head Island Half Marathon (1:38:28)

On Saturday, I broke out of my comfort zone and ran the Hilton Head Island Half Marathon.

The Hilton Head Island Marathon races have been around for a few years, and my friend Virginia ran the marathon last year and BQed, so I knew about them but had never raced there or even visited. Hilton Head is about a two hour drive from Charleston, and it’s not a bad drive. My friend Andy lives on the island as well and runs a lot of races there.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Joyce mentioned she and some friends rented a home on the island and asked if I wanted to stay at the house that weekend and run. I hesitated because of family happenings and because my Charleston Half Marathon recovery took so long.

About a week before the race, my schedule was clear. As my friend Noah says, bring on the adventure!


Spontaneous Half Marathon? I’m in!

Running a race most weekends adds up in costs. A week before the Hilton Head Island Half Marathon, I saw a Facebook giveaway from Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company that offered a free entry into the race. I entered the giveaway, thinking my odds might be pretty good, since half marathon and marathon runners don’t usually wait until the week of the race to register.

If I didn’t win, I planned to sign up for the race the Wednesday before when I received a $75 check for a freelance article I wrote (the entry fee was $75).

The Tuesday before the race, I got an e-mail that I won a free sponsored entry into the giveaway. I also won a free running shirt from Natalie’s Juices, as well as several stickers and coupons. I hoped to wear the shirt during the race, but it didn’t arrive in the mail until the next week. I did wear it to the Fleet Feet Pub Run on Wednesday night


I first tried Natalie’s Juices at the Charleston Half Marathon finish line. The Orange Beet juice is my favorite. Beet juice is supposed to improve endurance, and I’m not sure how true it is, but a cold glass of Natalie’s Juices sure tastes good after a hot sweaty run in Charleston.

Natalie’s juices are sold in Publix stores across the Southeast and are popping up at race expos and finish lines as well, so look for them at your next race and run juiced!


The Hilton Head Island Half Marathon was 4 weeks after the Charleston Half Marathon. I spent two weeks recovering from Charleston, and when you spontaneous enter a half marathon the week before, very little race specific training happens. In my last 10 miler, I threw in some marathon and half marathon paced miles just for fun.

Since I hadn’t planned this race in my calendar, I decided to dedicate my race to my friend Anne Boone who is fighting esophageal cancer. Our running and triathlon communities are coming together to help her right now. She is a rockstar runner and ironman and will beat this cancer.

The Trip

I took the Friday before the race off work to sleep in, pack, and drive to Hilton Head Island. The drive was uneventful except I never could find a gas station with a working bathroom. I finally stopped at a thrift store that let me use their bathroom and I had to buy something. I paid 75 cents for a spoon rest for our kitchen- it’s a nice souvenir.


The ladies at the thrift store, and others in the area, knew there was a race going on on the island which shows that the race did a pretty good job of advertising.

I picked up my number at the expo and headed to the rented house in Sea Pines. It was fun spending the weekend with other runners, watching the Olympic Trials Marathon, and going out to dinner and breakfast.


Race Day

We got to the race about 45 minutes early and walked about 1/2 hour from the parking lot to Jarvis Creek Park to stand in the potty lines. It was cold out but the lines moved quickly. One of the girls travelling with us, Caroline, wasn’t running the race, so she collected our warm up clothes and throwaway which was a big help. It never warmed up during the race so I was grateful to have these clothes back.

I saw Andy before the race and he introduced me to a Masters runner named Sarah at the start. She ran a 1:35 half marathon a few weeks before, so I knew to stay well behind her! It was great to see Andy running the 5K and Dave, another friend who ran the marathon. We started without much fanfare. After the National Anthem, we were off!

The Start Line: Bye Bye Bunnies

Unlike Charleston, I didn’t write any sort of race plan or strategize the Hilton Head Half. On race day, I glanced at a course map long enough to realize it was an out-and-back with a bridge. I planned to start out at a comfortably hard effort and if I felt good, I’d keep it up. I let all the speedsters and those who started too fast (which is usually most runners in a race) run on by. I’m no expert, but I’ve run enough half marathons to know that the race starts around mile 8.


I settled into a comfortable pace and ran the first few miles like a metronome, just ticking them off. Despite missing my usual pre-race caffeine, I was feeling pretty good. The course was well marked with adequate volunteers. We had a headwind but that was okay because I’ve run in headwinds before. I settled in with a group of similarly paced runners and tucked behind some guys to avoid it.

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Hello Big Bridge

Soon, we approached the bridge we had to run over. I could sense the fear and nerves in the runners around me. I tried not to look at the bridge because that would mess up my mental game. I thought about Anne because she loves running on the Cooper River Bridge when she is well enough to get out there. The bridge was over quickly and even though it goes up, it also goes down so my miles were still on pace.

After the bridge, the marathoners broke off from the half. I missed my little crew and the only runner I could see immediately ahead of me was my friend Darrell who was staying at our house. He’s a lot faster than me but ran this as a training run since he’s been sick. I had to keep Darrell in my sights to know where to go.

We ran through a trail path in the woods and I had my slowest split there. I didn’t realize there was a gravel/trail section until I was running on it, but I knew every other runner would have to run it (and slow down) so I just relaxed and conserved my energy for later in the race. It was over quickly, and my next mile split was better. I just ran by effort because the race was about to begin.

Rabbit Hunting

One benefit of not starting too fast in a half marathon is that you have energy to pass people later in the race. This gives you a nice mental boost when you need it most. I passed a few runners on the bridge and waved and cheered for some of the half marathon walkers. With a four hour time limit, the Hilton Head Island Half Marathon was very walker friendly.

At mile 12, I passed a lady who was texting on her phone while running. Forget running a sub-1:40 half, texting while running takes real talent! It’s all I can do to not trip over my own feet when riding the pain train. I told myself I only had 10 minutes until I was done and plugged away. Sarah was the only runner I saw ahead of me. I couldn’t believe I was running fast enough to see someone with her PRs.

I entered Jarvis Creek Park, ran on a paved path, felt my watch vibrate at mile 13, then crossed the finish in 1:38:28.

It was good enough for 34th overall, 9th female, and 1st among 30-34 females. This was a 91 second improvement over the Charleston Half Marathon.


Post Race Thoughts

After the race, I waited on my house mates and enjoyed the post-race refreshments. The coffee, soup, and cupcakes were delicious, and of course I got some Natalie’s juice and took a picture with Natalie. I was grateful for the sponsored entry, and it’s always fun to meet the faces behind a business or company.


I received an additional medal for placing in my age group. Mark, the race director, was super nice and congratulated me when he handed me the medal. I talked to him at the expo, and he knew I didn’t have any time expectations. I think Mark was happy I crushed it!

Running for someone who can’t is always a great idea, and thinking about Anne and what she’s going through definitely kept me going in the race. Racing hurts. When the pain hits you, it’s better to think of someone going through much more.

Someday, I won’t be able to spontaneously run a half marathon- but today is not that day.

Splits and Race Data:

My Garmin logged this course as 13.08. I’ve never had this happen on a certified course. The only thing we can think of is that we lost signal somewhere on the trail. Several runners logged the course as short and some logged it as long on Strava.

The course is USATF certified and the marathon is a Boston Qualifier. Certified courses are more accurate than GPS, so unless I hear a human error was involved and it was indeed short, I guess my Garmin was off.

7:33, 7:34, 7:27, 7:38, 7:36, 7:33, 7:54, 7:17, 7:31, 7:41, 7:29, 7:22, 7:29, 7:23 (last .08)


Race Name: Hilton Head Island Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K

Location: Hilton Head Island, SC

Date and Time: February 13, 2016, 8 AM

Swag: Tech shirt for ladies, soft cotton shirt for men, gym towel, finisher’s medal for the half marathon and marathon races.

Post-race food: Apples, oranges, bananas, Gatorade, pizza, soup, cupcakes, coffee, juice, beer

Weather: 43 degrees, 65% humidity, 10 mph winds

I received a complimentary race entry courtesy of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company. I did not receive any other compensation for this post, and all opinions are my own.

This entry was posted in Half Marathon, Hilton Head Island, Hilton Head Island Marathon, Moore On Running, Race Recaps, Race Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Hilton Head Island Half Marathon (1:38:28)

  1. runner1313 says:

    Huge congratulations! So glad you raced HHI.

  2. runner1313 says:

    On another note, super speedy, and congrats on another PR! That bridge is lovely isn’t it? Imagine running over it four times during the marathon race. The last time at mile 22 is super not fun. 😉

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I didn’t think the bridge was that bad. It was a lot easier than the Cooper River Bridge and WAY easier than the Sampit Bridge in Georgetown, SC. Still, any bridge at Mile 22 in a marathon is going to suck…

  3. Hollie says:

    Nice work and awesome job on your PR. It’s always nice when you don’t expect it. I’ve been stuck many times when traveling just looking for a bathroom. It’s definitely not fun. I actually didn’t realize it was that far from you! I thought it was close which makes it even more awesome you ended up doing so well.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Hollie. I think not having expectations lately has really helped me with my mental game. Truthfully I’m just enjoying running and the PRs have happened to come.

      Geographically, Hilton Head Island is not far from Charleston. If you’re a bird or a plane, you could quickly get there. Thing is, we have tons of water around here and with the road system and how Hwy 17 runs, you have to drive way inland, then drive back to the coast to reach the island.

  4. Nice work! I have run a few races where I didn’t look at the course in advance and I paid for it…one in particular that was mostly rolling hills the whole way. And I rarely find a hill to use in training so let’s just say it was a painful day! Congrats on a great race!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I knew it couldn’t be TOO hilly considering this is coastal SC, but I am with you on that… if I were racing very far away from home I would definitely look at an elevation map first.

  5. Theresa says:

    .02 or not, you still killed it!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I think it was the bridge or trail section, but the difference was significant enough for me to count it. Not like it takes me 91 seconds to run .02 (maybe 9-10 seconds). Harder course than Charleston, too, since it included a bridge.

  6. Way to go! I enjoy your race reports, though I find myself comparing the races out here to the ones back home and I miss it terribly! I especially love reading how you enter/win contests. I do that quite a bit myself 😉

    I ran the Austin half on Sunday. I threw my goals out the window when I got injured…and sick…and I was just plain lazy with the holidays and getting comfortable in a relationship. It was also hilly and humid, but I persevered! I was happy with the fact I have done better on nutrition and hydration. I heard your voice in my head about not going out too fast, so when I saw a huge hill (15th St bridge) at mile 12, I was impressed that I attacked it rather than struggling. I likely could have run faster, but I was not unhappy. It was great to see a new city while running 13 miles through it. I’m like you with mile 8. My boyfriend actually tried to meet up with me there, but somehow we missed seeing each other 😦

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Contest and giveaways are the BEST! I follow the Erica’s Finds blog and have won several things from there as well (plus she has some fun reviews of different products). You gotta play to win and if you play, sometimes you will win.

      Sometimes it’s not so bad to finish a race and feel like you could’ve run faster. I always think that in the afternoon if I’m not tired, even if I felt like I was giving 100% on the course. At least it sets you up for a speedier recovery and return to training.

      It’s so hard to meet up with people on a race course or at the finish! My parents tried to meet me at the finish at a race last year and barely made it (I guess I underestimated my finish time on that one…)

  7. WOW! Speedy race! Some of my best races have been last minute entries. Congrats on placing and PRing! I’ll have to remember this race for next year. 🙂 have a beautiful weekend Amy!

  8. tiarunnermom says:

    Congrats on this spontaneous race!! What a gun weekend. Looks like you raced smart and finished your last 5k with strong splits! Nicely done all around!

  9. thisrunnersrecipes says:

    Congrats on the spontaneous PR! Those races are the best because they really show just how fitness has improved, even without a taper.

  10. Dolly says:

    Congratulations Amy! Nice even splits too!

  11. Sometimes spur of the moment races, ran in honor of others, ran with no expectations other than to finish lead to unexpected PRs! Glad you had a great race, and don’t worry about that 0.02!
    Here’s to a great recovery week ahead!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I posted this to Facebook and we all got into a weird discussion about the .02 and what different people have for the race on Strava, standard deviations, and other things. I deal with enough data at work that I don’t want to deal with it running… so I just changed my Garmin reading to 13.1 and set it as a PR on Garmin Connect ;).

      I’m gonna try to get some speed into my legs for 5K season now!

  12. supereli23 says:

    Huge congrats on the race and PR. You are running so well right now, you’re going to be hitting some great times this year!

  13. Pam says:

    Your race reports are always such fun to read and I love that you always seem to be so well passed that you can hunt down other runners the last few miles of a half marathon. Great work and congratulations on your PR and placing first in your AG. Your finish time is amazing and those medals will be a great addition to your collection.

  14. Elizabeth C. says:

    WOW- that is a huge PR in such a short time. Especially for something that you weren’t specifically training for. But I guess that goes to show you that going into a race really relaxed with no expectations totally works wonders. Also, I love that you freelance as a writer. Your blog is really well-written and I appreciate that it’s easy to read in terms of structure/format. Congrats again!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Aww, thank you for the positive blog comments!

      I don’t do much freelance, as I write for my 8-5 big girl job and prefer NOT to spend my weekends and evenings writing (also why I don’t blog as much as I probably should). I’d love to dedicate more time to updating my blog, especially pages like the About Me and Blogroll, but those take a lot of time and I just don’t feel like doing it after working. I don’t think many non-bloggers realize just how much work it is for no pay (we pay to blog, not get paid to blog).

      The PR was a PR in pace as well, although the Charleston Half Marathon course always measures a little long for me. It’s certified, but a lot harder to run tangents and I always get 13.2 there. I do feel like the HHI course is harder than Charleston, being a smaller race with fewer spectators and also with the bridge in there.

  15. Whoo hoo! Love the spontaneous run and PR. Great pacing, too!! You are on fire this year. I hope it keeps up all year long.

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