Susquehanna River Running Festival Race Report – Hannah Breedlove

Race: Susquehanna River Running Festival

Runner: Coach Hannah Breedlove

Race Date: 09/24/2022

Location: Havre de Grace, MD

Results: 1:58:59 (https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/68742/IndividualResult/ZZkF?resultSetId=342779#U20690744)

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7859482898

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

I love this race. It’s one of those “do it every year” races that I hope to be able to show up at every single season!

  1. Listen, this race is in the decoy duck capital of the world. There’s a museum and everything! So it’s only fitting that the overall winners receive a decoy duck on a plaque as a finisher prize. It’s such a cool and creative award that makes this race so special.
  2. It’s fast! Between the mostly flat course and the perfect time of year, it gives you just about everything it can if you’re looking to try for a fast time.
  3. Probably what the race is most known for, you get to cross the Susquehanna River via the Route 40 bridge and the scenery is absolutely stunning. This crossing is only open to pedestrians during this race, so it’s a pretty special opportunity.

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

I’m not typically so great with identifying negative feedback, but I’d really have to dig deep to find a flaw with the race. The directors put it on really seamlessly, the communication is great, the afterparty is wonderful, and the town of Havre de Grace is the perfect host. Honestly, no notes.

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

This race was a big PR and also a milestone that I’ve been after for a long time. But honestly, I walked away from this race feeling like the highlight was my mental game. This race was not pretty. I felt really, really rough. Around mile 5, my self talk was already pretty negative. “I’m not going to finish, there’s no way I’ll hang on at this pace, this isn’t going to happen.” But every single time, I was able to combat the self talk with “okay, maybe! But you don’t need to drop yet so just hang on for now.” My mental strength has been something that I’ve been working on, and feeling like I ran this race mentally strong and exercised that muscle was honestly more valuable to me than the PR. It was the first time I’ve really fought through when I didn’t think I could, and I came out of that finishers’ chute so proud of myself.

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

I ran a 12-miler a few weeks ago at my goal half marathon pace. I ran it strong, I ran it confidently, and I felt really good after the end! This race, running that same pace while going after a goal I really cared about and feeling like I just didn’t have the fitness, it was really easy to start thinking that the good race a few weeks ago was a fluke. I remembered something I read recently from running coach Jack Daniels; to summarize, a good run is never a fluke. A bad run can be a fluke, you can have times where the fitness is there but you don’t deliver, it happens! But if you have a good run, it shows that you have the capability to do it. It’s there. Hold on to your good runs and let them give you confidence on the tougher days because that good run was NOT a fluke.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Around mile 7 of the race, my left quad completely stopped firing. It was dead weight and I had to rely on my poor right quad to do all of the work. Then at mile 11, my right quad stopped firing too. I’m hobbling along, trying my best to keep up with the pace group, and I told the pace group leader what I was feeling. She told me “use your glutes!” so I kept on trucking, clenching my butt, trying so hard to figure out how the heck to “use your glutes” when my legs felt so completely foreign from my body. The moral of this story: strength train!!!!! I will never take it for granted again!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

You’ll spend about 4 total miles on a bridge during this race crossing the Susquehanna River (2 miles out, 2 miles back). There’s a bit of an incline going up the bridge, but all things considered, it’s really not that bad. This is your smooth sailing time. Put your legs in cruise control and look around, check out the water and the sunrise, and take advantage of the miles.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It’s a gorgeous course. You spend a chunk of it in Havre de Grace, and the neighbors really come out to cheer you on. Another chunk of the course is in Perryville across the river, and you run through the scenic VA Campus and park in Perry Point. The rest of the race is on the bridge crossing the river, and you just can’t beat those views.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, it’s really not. I don’t love a totally flat course, and this has just enough variety to keep you moving with some momentum while still not testing you with hills.

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

This race is absolutely well run. I find the communication to be top notch, packet pickup is a breeze, and there are so many volunteers out who truly seem THRILLED to be out there cheering you on.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It’s a small race, but some fast people come out. There were 419 total runners in the half marathon this year, and the overall winner ran it in 1:11:38.

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

There were a lot more aid stations on the course than I expected. With about 1 mile to go, our pace group made an announcement to grab water or gatorade if we need it because this would be our last chance. Then .5 miles later, we came across another aid station! It’s great because it is such a small race and there are so many aid stations (and so many helpful and delightful volunteers), they really don’t get congested.

Weather and typical race conditions

Oh boy. It was 49 degrees at the start and cloudy. No humidity. I couldn’t dream of anything more perfect. The sun came out after the race during the post-race party and it turned into perfect non-running weather.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Very spectator friendly! I’d recommend hanging out in downtown Havre de Grace. There are no spectators allowed on the bridge, but the Main Street in Havre de Grace lends itself really nicely to cheering.

How’s the Swag?

I think the swag gets better every year! This year, it was a hoodie tech tee for the half marathon and a long sleeve tech tee for the 5k and 10k. I didn’t expect to like it, and the pattern was a lot, but I ended up loving it. The quality is great and it’s different.

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

5 Stars! I highly recommend this race. We ran into a group of runners on the course who came all the way to this small town in Maryland from New York and Boston just to run this race and cross the river. And I’m positive that it was worth it 🙂

Hannah Breedlove is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.