It seemed quite reasonable to expect, Esther Erb thought, that she would make her Charleston Distance Run debut and average less than 6 minutes a mile for the 15-mile race.
Erb, a Richmond, Va., resident, is a marathoner extraordinaire and an Olympic aspirant with an eye on the 2016 trials. She entered the CDR last year as a way of supplementing her marathon training and maybe earning a few extra bucks in a race not far from home.
But in anticipating a sub-6-minute pace, she overlooked a few relevant points.
For one thing, she didn't expect to feel the scary symptoms of dehydration late in the race.
After about 13 miles, Erb touched her skin, felt coolness and knew that Charleston's late-summer swelter had delivered a harsh body blow — and shot down her pre-race prediction.
In addition, she didn't realize that the lengthy stretch through South Hills would be so painstaking and would slow her pace so noticeably.
Instead of averaging five minutes, 55 seconds a mile, as she originally forecast, she struggled through the 15 miles at a 6:25 clip, completing the race in 1 hour, 36.06 minutes.
Her efforts were good enough to win the women's division, but they were also a good lesson in the devilish challenges of the Charleston Distance Run.
"It was really, really humid that day,'' she recalled recently. "It wasn't super hot, but it was definitely humid, and it took a toll on everybody. Times were slow across the board, from what I can tell. People who had run it before and everybody said it was slow.''