North Face Half Marathon: Pine Mountain
The North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon should actually be called, The Half Marathon You Will Not PR On. The course was a solid loop with just enough elevation to offer the impression that you’re in the mountains of north GA rather than relatively flat middle Georgia. While some trail halves I’ve run have offered a very runnable course-one where you might get close to your road half time- this course was the opposite. I was told before the race to add a good 30 minutes to your road half. Sure enough, I was able to add 31 min to my road time and finished with a time of 2:06.
The weekend was packed with trail races of all distances, ranging from the very competitive 50-miler to a 5k. Saturday was saved for the longer races of the 50-miler, 50k, and marathon. As I was running the half on Sunday, I kicked back in Columbus, GA, with a girlfriend and made the most of the gorgeous fall weather. She took me on a tour of the new whitewater center on the Chattahoochee, the revamped downtown, and we watched some SEC football. But when Saturday finished and Sunday rolled in, I realized I might have partied a bit too much while celebrating my beloved UGA’s win over LSU.
The first mile itself was a gradual incline that took everyone by surprise. I remember looking at my watch and seeing that my pace was over nine-minutes-per-mile with only of a few of the top guys in front of me. The rolling hills continued, but I was able to shuffle my feet through the three aid stations and had some encouragement along the way. The 10k and 5k began after the half started and all three races overlapped on portions of the course, offering me the good fortune of running into many people towards the end of the race. Even though there were plenty of rocks and roots, I luckily only fell once when my energy was getting sapped. Despite a bit of partying the day before, I managed to finish 4th overall for women.
If you are looking for a good loop on semi-mountainous terrain with some great swag (Clif bars, Smartwool socks, shirts, and more), put this race series on the calendar for next year. With almost every length of trail race available, every type of trail runner can find a great challenge.