Main image for Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon 2023 Time to Read: ~4 min

For this year's Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon, I dropped Amy and Elizabeth off at the start line, drove ⅔ mile up the road to park our car at a friend’s house, and ran to the staging area on Jacksonville Road as a warmup. After milling around a bit, I walked to the bridge overlooking the upper falls. A lot of runners were from farther-flung places, so Taughannock is a new thing for them. I took a moment to see the falls through fresh eyes, as a newcomer would, and it really is impressive. I hike and run there often, so it’s kind of like my backyard and I’m used to it.

The first half of this race approximates the FLRC Challenge’s Black Diamond Park to Park course, though the start sign is a short distance before the start line. Damian Clemons talked with Ian before the race and learned that they’d keep the start line active until we’d gone through if we decided we wanted to start at the challenge sign. John Hummel and Verity Platt had a similar idea, so we found ourselves starting the half marathon as a group, huddled as a trio far away from the start line waiting for Damian to come down the path and let us know the race had started. I joked that Damian was like a modern-day Paul Revere, telling us, “The race has started, the race has started!”

Damian and I are closely matched, so we shared with each other our goals. His goal time would put us at a pace of about 6:50, which sounded agreeable to me. I’d quipped to a fellow runner who’d asked about my goals earlier, saying “I plan to do this somewhere between a training run and death,” which left things wide open for me. I was ready for the distance, but not sure if I was ready for the speed.

We all started our watches and hammered up the short hill to the start line, now devoid of runners. Damian and I were running in lockstep and soon approached a mass of runners that hadn’t broken up much. The trail is only 8-10 feet wide, so navigating the crowd could be interesting. I briefly lamented our choice to start at the sign and have this count as a “challenge effort”, but navigation was actually kind of fun. We dodged, darted, and slinked (slunk?) our way past much of the field, making our way to more thinned-out sections of runners. At one point I came upon Amy and Elizabeth, who were really surprised to see me since they didn’t know my plan. In hindsight, it was kind of smart, as it kept Damian and me from going out too fast.

The humidity started to get to me after a few miles and I took my shirt off, hoping for some evaporative cooling to provide some relief. We’d been running a little faster than 6:50, but not much, and I started to pull away, feeling the allure of the tree-covered trail. It was a cloudy day, so rather nice for running even without tree cover. I grabbed water at every aid station but did not stop, and was grateful that my cup-grabbing skills have improved.

The transition from the trail to the roads and sidewalks of Cass Park and the Waterfront Trail was brutal, as usual, but I didn’t lose too much of my mojo. One of the standout moments from this portion of the race was on the bouncy bridges in Stewart Park. I narrowly passed Ron Heerkens Jr. on the first bridge as he walked his bike across to get to another spot to take fantastic photos. On the second bridge, I came up sharply behind a duo who were running side-by-side. There was no easy way to pass by, so I did what I do best and made a fool of myself.



Michael Lesher – working with Ron Heerkens Jr. at Goat Factory Media – captured this laugh-out-loud photobomb of me. As I passed he smiled and said “Good one!” And lest you lament that these runners missed out on an otherwise wonderful photo, in the split second before, Michael did capture them. I was tucked discreetly behind the runner on the left. As always, a classy event, and per usual, fantastic photos.

The remaining miles were uneventful, and though I desperately wanted to stop, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I passed a group on the last mile who remarked that it was nice that the second wave (my wave) was passing the first wave (which started an hour earlier) since it provided them with a pull to keep on going. I flashed them a double-thumbs up and kept making steady progress toward the finish.

I made my way back up the course to cheer Elizabeth and Amy in, and we made a decision to head back home without waiting in the lunch line. We were all too exhausted and not hungry enough to do that, so that was just fine. I was incredibly exhausted at the end of the race, given my lack of specific training, and I paid for it with some awkward walking for the next few days. But, this was the last planned race of the year, and plenty of yoga, cross-training, and pleasure running awaits.

By the Numbers

Time: 1:31:13
Age Group 40-49: 7/55
Gender: 26/276
Overall: 29/712

Subscribe to Wanderfull

Did you enjoy this? Did it help you? Make you laugh? Dare I say, all of the above? If you like my work — my writing, distributed work tips, or drawing, you can get more every week. Subscribe below for my weekly Substack: Wanderfull!