Race #1: Fly with the Eagles Half Marathon, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge

Welcome back!  I had a pretty good response to my first post, and therefore am excited about post #2!  So, here goes nuttin’….

My first race of the year always seems to be a cold one.  Last year at the Fly with the Eagles Half Marathon, the temperature at the start was 18 degrees with 15-20 mph winds!  Luckily this year was like a heat wave, at 34, with slightly lighter, 10 mph, winds.  The race is held at Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.  A nice sized refuge in Southern Illinois between Marion and Carbondale.

Upon arrival for the race, runners check in and pick up race packets in an unheated, cold, pole barn warehouse type place.  It always seems colder standing in that building than it would outside in the sun, which was ducking in and out of the clouds around 8:15 when I went in to pick up my packet.  This year’s race packet was the first true race packet that I’ve ever received from a River to River Race.  (check out their website at http://www.run.olm.net)  Usually, it’s a race number and a t-shirt.  This year, apparently, they hooked up with the Williamson County Tourism Bureau.  This was the packet I received:


I’ll use the bag in my upcoming races.  And, I’ll probably check out the visitors guide. But, that water thing is probably headed toward the trash…

Fly with the Eagles traditionally gives out a sweatshirt.  Last year’s was nice.  This year’s was nicer:

eagles hoodie

It’s pretty bright, so I won’t be missed when I rock this hoodie at school or in public.  I always make a habit of wearing my “spoils of race” at school within the first few days after the race.  Hopefully, the kids catch on that I stay active and race a lot… maybe they’ll enjoy it when they get older, too.

From the pole barn warehouse, I went back to my truck to warm up for 15 minutes before heading to the ONE port-a-pottie they had provided for pre-race “needs”.  The line there had swelled, so like many of the other men and women racing, I found a spot in the trees to relieve myself.  Luckily, this day wasn’t one when I NEEDED the sit down services of a port-a-pottie!

Next stop, starting line:  For the first time at this race, organizers used a chip timing system. The chip, apparently, was on the back of the bib like a b-tag… except bulkier.  And, apparently, it didn’t work.  I say this because I started at the back of the 400+ participant field, and my gun time and chip time were exactly the same. (results at bottom of post)

The race started at 9:00am.  By this time, the sun had come out for good, and the temperature had soared to the aforementioned 34 degrees.  The course starts down a rocky access road off of a main highway and leads to some paved roads through the wildlife refuge.  The paved roads turn into gravel after the first water station, and turns onto a rudimentary gravel path that resembles an alley through the woods after the third water station. (each of the 3 aid stations are used twice, as the course loops back past them) After a few small up and downhills through the woods for about 3 miles, we reemerged onto the nicer gravel road shortly after mile 7.5.  This gravel road leads to the most daunting hill of the course.  It’s not the worst hill I’ve climbed in a race, but it’s probably a half of a mile long with an elevation change of 70 or so feet.  The downhill on the back side takes us through mile 8.  And, at this point the temperature was bearable enough to remove my hat and gloves.

My plan for this race was to use it as a training race.  I took off slowly to start, but at mile 4 got behind some gentlemen who were keeping a very nice pace that felt good to me.  I stuck with these guys until mile 7, and let them take off.  But, I fed off of this pace for most of the rest of the race.  At this point, I realized that breaking two hours was well within reach.  So, I put it on cruise control and coasted through the next 3 miles.  At mile 11, back on the paved roads and shortly before the last water stop, I started to fatigue.  After consulting with my Nike+ GPS, I found that I only needed to run 2 more 10:00 miles and two hours would be a cinch.

As I came around the last corner, and back onto the rocky frontage road, I was greeted by my coworker, fellow running enthusiast, and friend Shon.  Shon, who is a MUCH better runner than I, paced me home to the finish line, where I saw the clock at the 1:58 mark.

I really like this race a lot, for a few reasons.  It’s close to home, only 15 minutes drive. It has a beautiful course, which I’m sure would be much more beautiful about 6 weeks warmer… umm… I mean later.  And, the entry fee this year was only $25, which will be the cheapest of any of my entry fees for this 13 in 13 challenge.

Some of the negatives of the race are the February race date, which is always cold, and the rocky/gravelly roads.  My feet were wrecked after this race.  I’m the kind of runner that catches the sharpest part of the rock right in the most sensitive areas of my feet!

Overall, on a scale of Never doing it again to making it an annual event, it’s definitely closer to the annual event end.  But, mainly because it’s really the only Half Marathon in the area.

Oh yeah!  Here it is:  My first finisher’s medal of the year!


Also, my results for me in my age group: 30-34

Place Name City Age Overall Chip Time Gun Time
13 Matt Snell Herrin  IL 34 146 1:58:15 1:58:15

Thanks for reading!  My next Half Marathon is March 3rd in Little Rock, AR.  I’m looking forward to this one for the medal and to spend some time with a great friend!


About snellsracechase

PE teacher, Tennis Coach, runner/jogger. Love my life!
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2 Responses to Race #1: Fly with the Eagles Half Marathon, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge

  1. Wanda says:

    Great job! My husband is a teacher too! Sub 2 hours! Wow!

  2. I hope you enjoy running the half in my fair city, even if it isn’t “crowded”

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