How TO train for a half marathon, apparently

When I last left you I was discussing how NOT to train for a half marathon.

Well, I ran the South Shore Half Marathon and it’s official. You can ignore my advice. I clearly DO know how to train for a half marathon.

Why do I say that? Because at the South Shore Half I ran my second fastest half marathon ever.


Yeah. I was surprised, too.

I decided at the beginning to not pay attention to my Garmin and just run by feel. I’d been running a 9:30 pace during the few long training runs I did so I was pleased to see my first two miles were just a tad faster. Yes, I know, I just said I wasn’t going to look at my Garmin. I promise you, after those first two miles I didn’t.

The South Shore Half is on a bike path that starts in a park in the Bay View area of Milwaukee. You have a beautiful view of the skyline in the distance across the water but you’re never in downtown Milwaukee. Which is perfect because you don’t have to fight traffic or hunt for parking. It’s all residential and free!

There are indoor bathrooms and a nice warm place to wait for the race start. Oh, and did I mention, it’s only $15 if you register in advance and only $25 on race day?? I got a free entry from the race director but I’ll totally pay the money next year.


Photo from

I believe the race had around 950 participants so it was much larger than I was expecting. The first few miles were a bit crowded and there was a section after the turn around of the out-and-back course that was pretty narrow with people going both ways but that might be because I seeded myself too far back in the pack.

Around mile 8 or so I tucked in behind a couple who had passed me in the first mile. She was something like 7 months pregnant (at least!) and they were chatting about how she was doing. “I’m happy we’re still holding a sub-9:00 pace!” she exclaimed.

Excuse me? What? Is that right? I snuck a glance at my Garmin. Yep. Sub-9:00 minute. Well, okay then. I’ll just hang out right here and see how long this lasts.

I ended up passing them.

The course is full of shade for the most part and reminds me of a mix of the the lakefront path in Chicago and the Salt Creek bike path in Brookfield. It’s mostly park with a good section along the lake. The only downside? Wind! At mile 11 or so you go up a hill and on race day the wind was blowing down the hill. Uphill into the wind? Yay.

When I hit mile 10 I looked at my Garmin to see if there was a chance I could break 2 hours; it read 1 hour and 30 minutes meaning I had to run a sub-30 minute 5K. No problem. I picked up the pace and my last three miles ended up being my fastest.

The weather was perfect. Chilly and overcast at the start but warmer and sunny at the end. I wore a t-shirt, capris, arm warmers and gloves. I ended up stripping off the arm warmers and gloves but I was really glad I had them at the start line!

The South Shore Half Marathon is an interesting mix of no-frills and great perks. There are only two water/Gatorade stations but you hit each one twice since the course is a pure out-and-back set up. No bands or GU or really even that many spectators along the way. Fine by me. The finish line has beer (good beer!) until they run out and communal bags of pretzels, chips, and cookies. It’s kind of like if your bachelor friend with good taste in beer threw a party. Also fine by me. The race is chip timed and the timing company had iPad stations set up so you could check your official time ASAP. They also emailed it to you as soon as you crossed the finish line. Now that’s service! No official pictures, medal or t-shirt but if you’ve run enough races you aren’t necessarily interested in those things. And for $15 (or $25) you still get a really well done race.

palominoAnd I promise I’m not just saying all of that because I finished in a time I never expected. I would feel that way regardless. If you’re tired of over-priced and over-hyped Chicago races then the South Shore Half is your antidote. Plus, now I know the best place to refuel after the race. It’s called Palomino and it’s within walking distance. Be sure and get a Danger Zone and at least one biscuit.

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Filed under: Running

Tags: half marathon

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    Erin Vandenberg

    I'm a 30-something who decided to get off the elliptical and expand my fitness horizons. Since moving to Chicago in 2008 I've run marathons and biked miles. I've done group fitness classes and lifted weights on my own. And now I want to share my fitness finds with you!

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