Race Report: Milton Half Marathon

Milton Half Marathon 2013 finish

copright Kevin Vagg 2013

This was a good one! Not because I PB’ed – in fact, I was about 4 minutes off my PB, set at the Sarasota Half Marathon earlier this year. I did place first in my age group (male, 65-69) – but it turns out I was the only one in that category. No, this one was good because:

1/ I’m at a new place re my diet, weight, and nutrition;
2/ I made a new discovery about my running technique;
3/ I shared good times with running friends before, during, and after the race.

Let me unpack that for you…


I started on a ketogenic diet at the end of June. In a nutshell, that means no grains and no sugars at all. It’s about eating a diet that’s high fat (a lot of whole-fat dairy), adequate protein (grass-fed and pasture-raised meats) and low carbs (lots of vegetables, very few fruits). In late June, I weighed 147 lbs (66.7 kgs) and was carrying about 14.5% body fat. On race morning, I weighed in at 135 lbs (61.2 kgs) and was at 8% body fat. Eating keto has resulted in having more energy and better mental focus and enjoying stronger runs. I now run fasted, don’t take any fueling supplements, and eat better than I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Running Technique

At about the 16K mark, I found that my hips opened up dramatically. I felt as if I were striding and floating, all at the same time. I think it happened because I’d briefly increased hip flexion and extension. It wasn’t about increasing my stride length, but about letting my knees swing more easily and fluidly. Only lasted a while, unfortunately, so I’ll have to experiment more with this. This adjustment came as a result of reading Brian Martin’s excellent ebook Running Technique. I’m learning a lot from this book, and recommend it highly!

Running Friends

Met some good dailymile friends at the start, got cheered by a few more – at both the 2K and 16K marks – and got together again at the finish. That was simply icing on the cake of a very good morning. Can’t say better than that!

The Race! The Race!

A fairly low-key start. About 240 runners set off. No gun, no airhorn, just the announcer’s voice counting down to zero. A short straight, a turn, a longer straight, another couple of turns, and the we head of on a long southerly straight. I’ve decided to shadow/stalk the 1:55 pacer for a while. If I stay with him for the whole race, it’ll be a new PB, but I’m not married to doing that. My original plan for this race, after all, was to run this one for a 2 hour finish, since it’s really just a training race for next moth’s Vulture Bait 50K.

The Milton course is basically a big rectangle around the town, with a couple of little loops thrown in to make up the distance.

Milton Half Marathon course map

So it’s south and then west and then north again. Along the way, there are a couple of nasty bits of sidewalk and road construction, which means I have to dance a bit or move either to the road or the sidewalk, depending on where the lumpy stuff is. That slows me down a bit. More importantly, it breaks the rhythm of my running. Part of what I like about this course is the long straight stretches, where I can fall into a groove and stay there. I’m following my planned fueling strategy, which is to only take a sip of water at every second or third aid station and a couple of organic raw cocoa beans every 6K or so. I soon discover that it helps a lot to take the cocoa beans just before an aid station, as they’re a little dry. Good to chew on, though, and a nice taste.

As time goes on, by the 12K mark or so, I let the 1:55 pacer and the couple of guys who are with him pull away slowly. I’m doing OK, and I’m not really keen on pushing my pace. I run with another fellow for a while, then in front of or behind a couple of women. Then, from about 14K on, I’m running on my own, and liking the feeling.

At about 15K, I discover the hip flexion/extension thing, and get kind of lost in it. It just feels so good that I can’t quite believe it’s happening. Then, I have to pay attention because I have to cross a major intersection, and I get distracted. Can’t get back to the new discovery, so I let it go, knowing that I’ll get back to it another time.

At the 16.5K mark, some good dailymile friends waiting, cheering, taking photos…

Milton Half Marathon 2013 16.5K

(thanks to Amy D.)

Another couple of turns after that, a slight and short uphill, another corner, and the home stretch. I pick up the pace just a wee bit, adjust my form, and do my best to look respectable as I cross the finish line. And get the photo you see at the top of the post.

Post-race had its own goodness. I met with the friends I’d chatted with pre-race, checked out the notice board to get my official time and placing, and wandered over to the car to get ready for the trip home. On the way, I had the pleasure of congratulating local legend Ed Whitlock on setting yet another age-group world record (1:38:11 for males 80 years and older). Then I sat in my car, savoured all the good feelings, and had my post-race snack – two coconut flour/cocoa powder cupcakes, two low-carb high-fat egg cups (eggs, whole fat cream, spinach, mushrooms, and onions), and a couple of dried beef jerky strips.

Next Steps

In contrast to the photo at the top of this post (which I like very much) I give you the following video of me crossing the finishing line. (My thanks to dailymile friend Shawna G. for providing it.) In it, I’m not graceful looking at all. I’ll grant you, this is nominally good barefoot form – short strides, high cadence, upright body. I just wish I could look less prissy and delicate. I think that improving my hip flexion and extension will resolve that.

Next up (on Saturday, September 21) is the Tom Marchese Trail Run 6.6K. It’ll be my first barefoot trail race. As a much younger person would say, I’m stoked!



  1. Fantastic clip of you crossing the finish line! I’m interested in that diet, because high protein, high fat, and no sugars seem to be working better for me, as well. Avoiding refueling on the course would be a dream come through, as I always throw up from sport drinks…

    1. I plan to write an update post rest my diet soon. In the meantime, I recommend that you look at eliminating all grains from your diet as well as all sugars. For more on that, read Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Grain Brain.” It’s a gamechanger!

  2. Sounds like a great race! I stopped you in the street once for barefoot advice and figured I’d say hi and let you know I’m reading.

    Good luck with Vulture Bait!

    1. Yes, of course I remember talking with you. In fact, I’ve looked for you on my runs, thinking that we might chat again. Thanks for the good wishes!

      1. I’ll definitely flag you down when I see you. My training has been inconsistent at best this summer. I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple of charity runs before it gets cold, but nothing more than 10-12 km

      2. Run for the Cure in Brampton is potentially next on the radar – a friend’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer so he’s asked me to help out. The Run for your Lives Zombie run was supposed to be next, but it was cancelled. Then I’m a maybe for the Colours of Hope run in Mississauga.

  3. I thought I clipped out the part of me messing up saying sub two hours (sub two minutes- now that would be incredible!). A great race nonetheless and great review!

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