Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon Race Report – Carrie Neiman

Pre-race photo from just below the start line!

Race: Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon

Runner: Coach Carrie Neiman

Race Date: 05/28/2022

Location: Black Mountain, NC

Results: 1:44:03

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Beautiful course with a nice combo of pavement and gravel roads
  2. Fast course, with much of it being downhill
  3. Great finish area with lots of opportunity for friends and family to cheer you on

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The last bit of the race was on a sidewalk, which was fine until the very end when spectators lined both side of the sidewalk and I had to slow down to pass someone.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

It starts at dawn, which is exactly 6:01 am!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I had a great training cycle with focus on downhill training and lots of pace and tempo training to aim for a PR. I was able to PR by almost 4 minutes. Much of that was due to the downhill but I also felt that my training was so much better than my last half and allowed me to keep a steady overall pace.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Train for the downhill! I did a fair amount of downhill training but could have done even more. My quads were sore the day or two after but no more than if I had done a good leg workout. I would highly encourage downhill treating though to help decrease this. I could tell some people were feeling it toward the end of the race.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

More downhill training but also be sure to do uphill work as well. Quad strengthening is also crucial to not getting as beat up after the race. And don’t be discouraged if the first few miles are slower than your goal pace — they are mainly uphill and will be more than made up on the downhill miles.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The first 4 miles are more of a net uphill, with the largest climb coming in mile 4. Don’t focus on your pace as you will make it up on the downhill portion of the race. Miles 5-10 were all downhill. There were a few flat parts here and there but it was mostly a very steady downhill. I was thankful that part of this was gravel to cushion the impact a bit more than concrete. There is one last climb during mile 11, which you will feel, but the race finishes with a significant downhill on mile 12 and then the last half mile is into town where the crowd it to cheer you on.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Gorgeous course!!! Very beautiful scenery throughout the entire course. You run through forested area and lots of trees for most of it. There are great views at the start and even a man-made geyser in the middle.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It is a fast course for sure but the fact it is mainly downhill can be difficult if you are not prepared for it. The start is slightly challenging with the hills but the downhill part more than makes up for that.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very organized. Shuttle service and bag drop-off was very organized with not hitches. Pre-race communication was also on point.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It is a smaller race and not ultra competitive but there are some quick times every year. A lot of people run it to aim for a PR.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

It’s in a rural area so no significant logistics. It starts at a conference center so you can stay right at the start line if you would like.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aid stations about every two miles. Water at all the stations, with Gatorade and pretzels at the ones later in the race.

Weather and typical race conditions

Can be humid but it is at a higher elevation and starts before the sun warms everything up. Temp generally in the 60’s. Mostly tree-covered so that makes a huge difference if it’s a sunny day.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Nothing special needed. Aid stations were great as far as water is concerned.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Finish line is great for spectators. Most of it is on pretty rural/backwoods roads so there are not many places to watch except for the finish. But the finish is downtown Old Fort so it is very easy to cheer your runner on and give them an end of the race boost.

How’s the Swag?

Swag was ok. The shirts ran very big and weren’t amazing. They did offer a 13.1 sticker specific to the race, which was a nice add-on.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

9/10. I would highly recommend it and would do it again!

Carrie Neiman is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with, check out her coaching page.