Clearwater Distance Classic Halfathon {Recap}

Three half marathons down! One more to go!

Of course, I’m referring to the four half marathons of the Florida Road Races Halfathon Challenge! Last year, through a partnership with Florida Road Races, I was offered the opportunity to run all four of the Florida Road Races Half Marathon to complete the Halfathon Challenge. Now with finishing the Clearwater Distance Classic Halfathon (otherwise known as a half marathon), I’m three quarters of the way to reaching my goal and medal.

Clearwater Distance Classic

Since I’m back into full swing of marathon training, training with a heart rate monitor, sleeping well and eating right, I felt really good about my performance at the Clearwater Distance Classic. The weather was also in my favor for a decent run, not too hot, not too cold. Under sixty degrees at the start and perfect by my standards!

For this race, I decided against wearing my heart rate monitor and focused on maintaining my race pace. In true stunner runner comfort fashion, wore my new favorite running pants (Nike Epic Run Capri) and my hot pink Suncoast Strider shirt so my fellow Striders could find me in the crowd. I don’t think anyone could miss me in that outfit!

After the national anthem, we were on our way through downtown Clearwater making our way to the first bridge, the Clearwater Memorial. Between the Upper Tampa Bay Trail training runs, the New York City Marathon and the Holiday Halfathon just a month before this race, I felt prepared for the steep incline. I felt strong!

Clearwater Marine Aquarium - Home of Winter and Hope

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Home of Winter and Hope

As we made our way through Clearwater Beach, my friend, Linda, greeted me from behind. With her running coach, Tia, running by her side, Linda looked strong and confident for her first marathon.

Blurry photo of Tia and Linda

At the three mile mark, I grabbed some water and walked for a few seconds, but not long. I wanted to stay focused to finish around 2:15. I decided to save my energy and walking if needed for the Sand Key Bridge.

I actually managed a decent pace over the steep Sand Key Bridge incline.

Selfie with Coach Tia on Top of the Sand Key Bridge

My running club, the Suncoast Striders, manned the mile 4, 6 and 9 water stations just outside Sand Key and this boisterous bunch was the best water station on Gulf Boulevard! Their cheers and smiles put an extra pep in my step and their enthusiasm refueled me better than the water they offered!

Suncoast Striders Mile 4 Water Stop *Photo by David Griner

Photo by David Griner

Photo by David Griner

Photo by David Griner

Although I was thrilled to see their smiling faces, I planned to stop when I exited Sand Key Park. I was doing great for time and I didn’t want my usual social butterfly self to slow me down. Since I knew I would need water and a Cliff Shot around mile six, I planned a walking break around rehydrating and taking photos before I heading back on my way.

And snacking, sipping water, socializing and snapping photos was just what I did, although I didn’t stop too long. I posed for one photo with my friends and went along my merry down Gulf Boulevard.

Chicago and NYC Marathon Moms – Daffodil, Chrissy, Me and Jen

Around mile seven, we began our return trip back to Coachman Park. The Clearwater Distance Classic Halfathon course follows the same course as the Iron Girl Half Marathon. Or maybe Iron Girl follows the Halfathon course? Either way, I was happy to be running the second half of the course.

Upon reaching the Suncoast Striders water station at mile 9, I took a short walking water break. With two long rows of Striders cheering on the runners, I felt like a celebrity! Their energy lifted my spirits and gave me the boost I needed to climb the Sand Key Bridge once more.

Photo by David Griner

Daffodil cheering me on.

As I followed behind Wonder Woman, I held onto a decent pace over the Sand Key Bridge.

Approaching mile ten, I still felt strong as we ran along Clearwater Beach again. The sugar white sand and blue waters washed a happy, content feeling over me.

Clearwater Beach

By mile 11, I began to slow down, but I thought I could hold onto my race and a 2:15 finish time was still within my reach. Then, I hit mile 12 and the last steep incline over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway. I found myself walking more. I just didn’t have it in me to push it and I lost steam rapidly.

Although I was *this close* to hitting a 2:15 WITH BRIDGES, I didn’t allow myself to become too deflated as I made my way around the spiral descend to the finish line.

Photo by Chessie Photo

Photo by Chessie Photo

With the finish line in my sight, I gave it all I had. Still not a half marathon PR, but I definitely beat my Holiday Halfathon Time AND I ran so much better than last April’s Iron Girl. Plus, I didn’t have to visit the Medic Tent. SCORE!

Gun Time 2:21:37
Chip Time 2:20:44 10:49
Garmin Time 2:20:45
Ave Pace 10:49
Age Group 29/87
Gender 216/478
Overall Place 430/783

After crossing the finish line, I still had three miles to run to finish the full 16 miles on my marathon training plan. For that reason, I was so grateful that I saved my legs and I didn’t push it on the final bridge. I needed that strength to run the bridge once more for the additional three miles.

3 miles
Time 36:34
Avg Pace 12:10
16 miles total

Once I finished my 16 miles, I made my way back to the finish line to watch the Ultra Marathoners and Marathoners cross the finish line. I even had the pleasure of seeing Linda finish her first marathon for a whopping 4:41. She even earned an age group award! Simply incredible!

A few days after the race, I discovered that my race chip failed to record an official time. A few emails later, it was all sorted out, however, my finish time was eleven minutes better than my Garmin recorded. Does this mean I officially PR’d?

Chip Time 2:09:17
Ave Pace 9:51

Incidentally, it’s all been sorted out and a more accurate finish is listed now, but it was fun to feel slightly faster while it lasted.

Next up for the Halfathon Challenge: The Florida Beach Halfathon! In March, I will run the final half marathon to complete the Florida Road Races Halfathon Challenge. Wish me luck a real PR!

Stan, Suzan, Me and Mike

Disclosure: I received a race entry to the Holiday Halfathon as part of my promotion and partnership with the Florida Road Races Halfathon Challenge Series. All opinions shared are my own.


  1. Chris Lauber says:

    Thanks for running with us again Denise! It never gets old to read your race reports of our races. Also love seeing the pix – it helps me to know what takes place during our races.

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