one Man of a Certain Age's journey to a healthier lifestyle

RoaCA podcast

Welcome to my fitness blog. I started running in early 2012, having set my sights on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which I ran in January 2013. (You can read about that in my other blog). I intend to update this blog weekly with training progress and run reports. Please follow and join this blog (links below) for updates. If you want to share please feel free to, there are links to share via Facebook or Twitter below as well. You can also follow me on twitter. And please comment letting me know what you think!

My upcoming races: My recent races:
NYCRuns Central Park Half Marathon February 23, 2014 2013 Year in Review
Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon - DC March 15, 2014  

My Blogs Thompson Family Web (Travel, Disney and fun) The Runner of a Certain Age Blog

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Run Report: Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon

On Sarturday, March 23, I ran in the 3rd annual Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon held in the historic town of Sleepy Hollow, NY. The race is organized by RiverTown Runners, who also organize 2 other annual events - a 5K and a 10K - all of which take place in town.

I signed up for the race some time ago. After running my first half marathon during the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Weekend in January, I was looking for more races. There weren't any available that I could find in the dead of February in my neck of the world (just north of NYC) and the first race I spotted was the NYC Half Marathon. I looked into that but it was sold out. I could still do it as a charity run, but I would have needed to raise $1000. I thought this was do-able, but then i found out about the Sleepy Hollow race so I decided to do that instead.

As the date of the run approached I felt a bit of trepidation. First, I had heard from several folks (including my chiropractor, who is a runner and actually one of the sponsors of the race) that the course was very hilly and challenging. I also read that the race has a strict 3 1/2 hour time limit. I had completed the WDW race in 3:27. On the one hand that was my first race, it was very hot and I had to deal with huge crowds. On the other hand, the WDW course was flat. In the few days before the race I had some new worries to add to my list - we were hit with a sizable snow storm just a few days before the race. Much of the race takes place on trails and I was worried that there might still be snow or, even worse, ice. On top of all that my back had been bothering me (I had taken a few yoga classes a while back that did a real number on me.)

As you will read - all of these things were no problem.

First, with regard to the hilly course, I learned about this early enough so that I was able to do a lot of hill work in my training. Read earlier posts in this blog for more details. As to the condition of the course, with the exception of a few muddy spots it was fine. As to my time, I came in at 3:02. Yes, I was one of the last finishers but I got in well under the limit. Finally, as to my back problems, it was not an issue during the race. My back hurt like a son-of-a-gun after the race, but no issues during :-P. I also had been having some minor twinges in my knee during the couple of days leading up to the race, and while I did feel something a few times it was no problem and, unlike my back, my knee has not bothered my after. I'm not worried about my back, I can tell it's just muscle soreness, but it still hurts.

The race started at the very civilized time of 9:30. On race day the weather was sunny but cold and windy. I had been doing training runs in much worse weather, so I was used to it and not at all concerned about the weather. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect so I arrived early - about 8:00. I had already picked up my race packet a few days earlier so I didn't need to check in. The packet included your bib and an RFID chip you put on your shoe as well at a long sleeve t-shirt. It also included a bunch of info and freebies from race sponsors. Upon arriving I went to a local deli to get a breakfast sandwich and then I hung around the gathering area and walked around a bit trying (mostly in vain) to stay warm (and trying to keep my toes from getting numb.) Finally the race time arrived and we gathered by the starting gate.

Course map
Course elevations
The Course. The race started in the village and after running up hill on some village streets we entered a park and started running on trails. The trails meandered though some really lovely wooded park setting with several small bridges over bubbling brooks swollen from the melting snow. Just past mile 2 we went over a bridge above Rt. 117 where we would be running later. We then got to the northernmost section of the course where we were treated to spectacular views of the Hudson River. Mile 3 was mostly downhill as we made our way down to the level of the river. We then ran along the river for a while and at about 4 1/4 miles were treated to an extremely steep hill which took us back to the upper level of the park. We left the park just past mile 5 and made our way through a parking lot before coming out onto Rt. 117 at about mile 6. We then ran up Rt. 117 for about 1 1/2 miles and back. And I do mean up. This was, by far, the worst part of the course. A big, open, boring highway with traffic on the other side that went at a steady uphill grade for about a mile and a half. Absolute torture. When I finally got to the turnaround at about 7 1/2 miles and would be able to run downhill, the wind picked up making the trip down equally miserable. At about mile 9 we entered a parking lot for a medical center. On the plus side we ran downhill again and were able to run along the river again (although this section was very windy), but on the negative side we had to climb another steep hill out of the parking lot. We then meandered through town neighborhoods which was a blast because there were folks standing in their lawns and driveways to cheer us on. There was even a local rock band serenading us from their driveway. I had the feeling that, had the weather been nicer, there would have been more. Just past mile 11 we ran along the river a bit more, then out to a lighthouse point and back for mile 12. The last mile was again through neighborhoods with a final, nasty hill just before the finish.

Obviously this is a very challenging course. The first 5 miles through the parks was very nice as was running along the river and through the neighborhoods. I could have done without the highway and parking lots - but I understand why those elements were necessary. Overall I would give the course a very high rating - especially if you are looking for a challenge.

Organization. I must confess I don't really think I can make a fair comparison here because the only other race I've done is the WDW half which had about 25,000 runners vs. about 1,000 at Sleepy Hollow. (Interestingly, my chiropractor told me they were expecting about 1,400, but only 877 finished. I can't imagine that many started and didn't finish so I have to imagine that either their estimates were way off or a lot of folks signed up but didn't run. That's possible - I did see bib numbers well into the 1,000's and I suppose some folks may have bailed due to the weather.)

That said, I think RiverTown Runners did an outstanding job. There were lots of volunteers making sure you knew where to go. There were plenty of water stations - not nearly as many as at WDW but honestly, not so many were needed. I never felt a lack of hydration. There was a lack of porta potties. There were some at the start and there was supposed to be some at mile 9 but I didn't see them. But then I didn't need them and wasn't looking for them. Overall high marks for organization although I might have felt different had I needed facilities.

Tchotchkes. Bling. Goodies. Extras. You get the drift. As I mentioned earlier we got a goodie bag with some freebies from sponsors - the usual stuff. A pen, hand sanitizer, sports drink sample, lots of brochures, that sort of stuff. The 2 biggies, of course, are the shirt and the medal. The shirt is a cotton long sleeve T. On the one hand I would have preferred a tech shirt, but on the other hand it is a thick, high quality T. The medal looked to me to be a non-custom medal with the race logo on it. Not the fanciest, but then when you are running a smaller race like this one obviously you can't afford a fancy custom medal. I'm just happy to get anything - it's a symbol of the accomplishment. Considering this is a pretty small race I give them good marks for extras. They definitely have the right idea.

So, will I do it again? Very likely. Probably not next year, but some day. I'd like to do it in a much better time. This is not the sort of race that folks will travel a great distance to run, but if you live in the area you should check it out. Please let me know if you have questions or feedback.


  1. Thinking of running this race in March. Thanks for the great breakdown. Time to start working my hills!

  2. Congratulations! Thanks for the review. I am considering the 2017 race and this helped immensely. PS/ 13.1 is 13.1 regardless of your pace. But I am happy you were worried about finishing it in 3 1/2 and you blew that time away!