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Charlie Horse Half Marathon: Mud, Sweat, and Beers

Results: 2 hours 14 minutes, 8th girl, 1st 35-39 lady

My 39th birthday this year fell on Memorial Day Sunday. And so did one of my favorite races… the Charlie Horse Half Marathon, run on the bucolic trails (and some roads) of Central Eastern Pennsylvania.

It was our third year doing it. Last year, the race mixed up Mr. P and mine’s ages on our bibs, so I inadvertently won 1st Masters (40+) female, while Mr. P placed 1st  in the 35-39 division. It was sorta funny, but at the time I thought, “Maybe I can never do this race again. Because someone might remember and question why I’m suddenly not a Master.” But of course, no one is that invested in the results of this nifty yet obscure trail race.

I like this race for a number of reasons.

  • It’s a race that Mr. P and I get to do together because it coincides with our Memorial Day pilgrimage to PA to visit family. This year, Mr. P is nursing a knee injury and wasn’t excited about racing, but we were both pretty excited to get to go on a “date” while Little Boy hung out with his grandparents.
  • Charlie Horse is a race with a little bit of everything. It’s billed as a trail race, and yes, the majority is rolling trail with a few steep climbs and semi-technical descents. But the race also has sections of flat, non-technical trail that you can practically fly on. Then there’s a road section, with a loooong descent followed by a killer climb. At mile 12, the obstacles start: logs, mud pits. The last mile is just a grind of rolling trail that never seems to end. This is a race for the versatile runner.
  • Finally, because they have 5-year age groups, it’s pretty easy to win a cool medal made from a real horseshoe. (Probably one quarter of the runners win a medal!) And there’s free beer and BBQ at the finish line, which is at a nice, relaxed country club.

At 9am, just as the morning was beginning to turn uncomfortably warm, the race started – a dash across a parking lot, and then into a river crossing. I don’t care anymore about getting my feet completely soaked within the first minute. (This is also a good race for the runner who never seems to blister.)

The trail climbed uphill for a bit, and then flattened out. At the mile 3 out and back, I counted five girls ahead of me (not knowing if there were any really far ahead I might have missed). My pace was solid on the flat/downhill section; I passed some guys who went out too fast while trading places with two other girls who ran well. The mugginess of the day affected me a bit and I regretted not carrying water.

At mile 9, one of the girls and I encountered some volunteers directing runners up a steep hill. The volunteers knew the girl and informed her she was 7th girl (though I was only a step behind her). This invigorated me and I chugged past her up the hill. That was followed by a long descent on a road. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of long concrete descents in my training, and I went at the downhill with wild abandon.

The subsequent uphill was much harder. Compared to last year, I was much slower due to the humidity and creeping heat. I did pass a number of men and saw some women further ahead, but I took it easy.

After a short descent, the race returned to trail and the obstacles. There was girl on my heels as we plunged through the succession of 4 mud pits.

She seemed full of energy. I asked her how old she was, and upon hearing “29”, I told her to go ahead and pass me.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Today is my 39th birthday!” I told her.

She said something to the effect of “Wow, you’re so old, I’m hope I’m still this fast when I’m so old!”

I finished behind her as 8th girl, first in my age group. I got a medal, beer, BBQ.


Mr. P finished 30 minutes after me due to his knee. He was not pleased when he finished, but brightened when we dug into the aforementioned beer and BBQ.




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