Race Report: Healdsburg Half Marathon

It was awesome, I PR’d. 

Quick version

Fell apart at mile 8. Didn’t PR. Cried a bit. Wonderful friends cheered me up.


Long Version. 

My goal was very clear going into this race. I wanted to PR. My training had mostly been awesome, I felt as good as I have for a long time now and I was ready to run hard. I would have been happy with any of the below goals.

  1. PR (anything below 1.52.37)
  2. 1.51
  3. 1.50

Option Two was the main goal and I thought it was do-able! That would be an 8.30 pace and I was up for trying.


We drove up to Healdsburg on the Saturday. Jess was over from Oklahoma so I met her at Jen’s and after lots of squealing and hugging, we drove up to Healdsburg, getting there at about 3pm. Jen and Jess are part of my Crazy Cat Lady running crew – the missing Cat Lady this weekend was Kate, so we made a cardboard cut-out of her head to add to photos. This amused us no end all weekend.

Kate enjoys some prosecco

Packet Pick Up at City Hall (where the race would start) was effortless and then we discovered that Matt and Amanda from our Ragnar Team were also in Healdsburg, having done a big bike ride that morning. We wandered over to see and hug them, we picked up breakfast supplies, we met up with our fourth crew-member Angela and then drove up to our little airbnb in Geyserville!

healdsburg woerman amanda jess jen
Ragnar Reunion

We had a lovely dinner at Catelli’s and then went back to get everything ready for the next day. We watched half of Maleficent which was so awful we ended up going to bed.

Walking to dinner Photo: Jen
healdsburg6jen jess kate
Jess and I snuggle down with Kate for the night         Photo: Jen


The race started at 7.30 but Jen and Angela were both using this race as part of a longer CIM training run so we got there at 6.30 so that they could run extra miles before the race. Jess and I were very distracted by a wedding that took place at the finish line. Yes…a wedding! It was very sweet but meant that I didn’t warm up very much because I wanted to see the ceremony.

healdsburg wedding
Photo taken from Healdsburg Running Company’s FB page

There’s a clear self-seeding system in place,  with banners for 10 min milers, 9 min milers etc. I positioned myself exactly between the 9 min mile and the 8 min mile markers and got myself ready to run. I felt pretty calm. I purposefully tried not to get myself amped up – now I wonder if I didn’t do enough mental preparation after all. Who knows.

The klaxon sounded and off we went. Game Time. The first mile was effortless, as first miles always are. There was a slight hill but it was fine. I cruised along, headphones in. Mile two and most of Mile Three are a gorgeous steady downhill along fields of vines. The weather was perfect and I was just so ridiculously happy!!  I was running around 8 – 8.20s which was faster than intended but I knew that this would happen on this stretch of the course and I was prepared for it. To be careful, I kept checking myself to make sure I wasn’t burning up all my energy, but no, it felt good.


As expected, at M3, it got tougher. The next five miles were undulating – in fact I had forgotten how very undulating it would be. Where were the hills in 2012? It had been much cooler than, and densely foggy, I just don’t think I saw them. Well I saw them today and I felt them but my music was great and I focussed on running steadily but carefully on the uphills and then making the most of the downhills by running hard then. My splits were pretty level at 8.30, I was on track, I was feeling steady and good.

I felt good all the way to mile 8 when we turned right….and immediately it all went wrong. I have no idea why. The road surface went from smooth to very bumpy and it threw me. I started feeling very discombobulated. It was warm by now and I really struggled, and I struggled with struggling. At one point, I suddenly found myself walking. That hadn’t been my plan, my legs just stopped. ‘What the heck?‘ I told myself,’You do  not walk. You may end up jogging home but you are not going to walk‘. I started back into a shuffle and felt a little better. There was an aid station just afterwards – I stopped a few seconds to actually drink some water (instead of sloshing it over me as I ran) and finish my gu and then started up again. I did feel a little stronger.

I remember the stretch of Miles 9 – 12 as totally downhill…well no, there are some lovely stretches of downhill but there are a couple of decent climbs. I was struggling a lot now and watching my splits come in way beyond my goal. 9.30, 9.00…I stood no chance of PRing now. Eventually I got to M12 and tried to push a bit harder and slowly I shuffled through the last mile. The finish line arrived and I crossed it in 1.53.

I was a bit gutted. I found myself some space and had a bit of a cry. Not a total melt-down, I promise, but a couple of tears. I fully believe that running isn’t important, that it’s a gift and a pleasure. But if our goals don’t matter to us, then why set them? I was disappointed. Jess arrived a few minutes later and found me upset. Having checked I was just sad and not actually ill, she escorted me over to the water tent and got me oranges. Once I was with her and my other girls rocked up, I felt so much better. Nothing like great friends to put things back in perspective!

Always happy when I'm with these gals Photo: Jen
Always happy when I’m with these gals
Photo: Jen

Everyone else had decent races. Lisa took 15 minutes off her PR, coming in just a few seconds over two hours. Jess, Jen and I all ran our third fastest half marathons ever, which was weird. Angela ran a solid 20 miles across the morning.

This rockstar!!! She's going to be so fast!
This rockstar!!! She’s going to be so fast!                                                       Photo: Lisa

We hung around for a bit until Gladys came through a little later. There was food afterwards (rice, beans, meat, chips) but I only wanted oranges. And then we got out Flat Kate, took some silly photos and went back to the airbnb for showers and a change of clothes.

Kate was delighted to find a clean portaloo                                                           Photo: Jen.                                                                                                                     Brave person who went inside the portaloo to make this happen: Me

Next up? Pizza! And sparkles!


48 hours later, I am much more philosophical about missing my goal. Although I went to Healdsburg to PR and although I’m still disappointed I didn’t have the magic on the day, I know the day will come at some point. I am mainly proud that I didn’t give up. I was so desperate to walk many times in the second half of the race, but apart from that one fleeting moment, I kept running, even if it was just a shuffle. There’s no shame in missing a goal if you know you didn’t stop pushing throughout the race!

A few notes on the race itself.

  • It’s a great event.
  • 700 people ran, so it’s a good size but was never too crowded. The first few hundred yards were busy but I was never held back by other runners.
  •  The course is beautiful. Oh my word. The rolling hills covered with autumn-coloured vines, the gorgeous houses, the sun coming up over the hills? It’s beautiful.
  • The aid-stations are good. They give out water, gatorade and gels.
  • Excellent loot. The medals are great and you get a free wine-glass and a nice t-shirt too!
Photo: Angela
Photo: Angela

Last night, I found myself back on race directories trying to find my next half marathon. This 1.51 challenge isn’t over yet!

But first…a little rest.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Layla says:

    I’m so sorry you didn’t reach your goal time. But you did keep fighting even when you knew your PR was gone, and that takes SO much work. So, so much work. You only came in about a minute over your goal, which I know is frustratingly close, but it also says a lot about your mental strength. Considering that you started struggling at mile 8, at that pace I think most people would have lost 30-60 seconds per mile from that point forward, meaning that most would have finished around 1:55-1:58. But you kept going, and I think that PR is definitely in close reach. I think sub-1:50 is also more than realistic.

    Numbers/analyses aside, the cardboard Kate photos made me laugh so much. Too much fun!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you for that massive ego boost 🙂

  2. Jen says:

    I agree with Layla. You have A LOT to be proud of! My worst races aren’t the ones when I’ve missed my target; they’re the ones where I gave up and didn’t try my best. It’s fine to be disappointed – I think you’re right about your priorities (riding that fine line between not taking things too seriously, but setting goals too). Now just pick a cooler, flatter course and get Margot to pace you! #fasterCat

    p.s. thanks for being a part of my pre-birthday weekend 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Your pre-birthday weekend was the BEST!!! I had so much fun! And yes…there’s no shame in missing a goal if you knew you gave it your all!!!

  3. dlubi says:

    Definitely be proud of all your hard work! You will get that PR next time! Don’t let one day get you down! There are lots of things that can influence any particular race, so learn all you can from the experience (including nutrition, feelings, thoughts), be proud of all you accomplished, and get ready to crush the next one! Be sure to take some time to recover too – recovery (& refueling) is equally important to training!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, love. Thanks for all your training advice and your wonderful cheering, I really appreciated it. One day I’ll pull it off! Lots that can be improved on! (Nutrition before and during, wine consumption the night before, mental training etc…). Having a lovely rest week eating ice-cream.

  4. Grace says:

    So sorry you didn’t hit your goal time. But 1:53 is VERY impressive given the conditions! What happened sounds so odd. Some days just aren’t your day – massive hugs!
    Also – that is some excellent race swag (a cute little wine glass! I need more of those) and Flat Kate cracks me up!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you – I’ll cool with it now!! Just wasn’t my day. And Flat Kate definitely cheered me up!

  5. Nic J says:

    Well done – you gave it your best shot! Some you win some you don’t! 1.53 is still a tidy time! Xx

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’ll take it!! How was Portsmouth?

      1. Nic J says:

        Still to come – this Sunday. Fingers crossed for decent weather!

  6. Paulette says:

    More of the same I know, but chiming in that I agree. You pushed through when it got tough and that’s so awesome, not to mention a great way to build mental toughness. Your 1:51 will happen! Plus the flat Kate photos are amazing.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, love!!! I have so much run-envy of your Hawaii trip!!!

  7. Angela says:

    What a fun weekend! It’s always tough to miss your goal, but honestly I think you just need the right course & a cool day. It will happen!!!

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