Rabun Half Marathon 2024 Race Report

I’ve run the Rabun Half Marathon four years in a row. It’s a great laid-back no-frills race that’s run the first Sunday of June every year. It’s only an hour from my house and has become a staple of my racing calendar and I’ll be there every year as long as I’m able to make it.

This year my 15 year old son Teagan and my running buddy Alex joined me. On Sunday, June 2, 2024, we left my house in Habersham county at 5:30 AM and parked in the woods outside Scaly Mountain an hour later, got checked in, and were ready to go by 7. Going into this race, I was the most fit and healthy that I have been during any of my attempts of this race. So I hoped to run a PR. In terms of strategy, my goal was to manage my effort on the climbs and try to run hard on the flats and downhills.

Running the Race

Right from the start, Teagan went out with the race leaders and I followed along somewhere about 12 or 15 runners deep, doing my best to manage my effort level on the long climb from the start to the top of Rabun Bald. I climbed strong. I ran the entire 2-mile gravel stretch to the start of the trail, ran the first mile or so of trail, and then transitioned back and forth between running and power hiking for the rest of the climb. I felt strong the entire way up Rabun Bald, and never felt overextended.

It started raining before the race began, and as the race went along it rained harder and harder. This posed no problem during the climb, but it did mean there was no visibility at the top of the mountain, and it also meant the lookout tower was extremely slick. In the past, a race marshal has required every runner to climb the tower, but this year climbing the tower wasn’t required or even encouraged due to the slippery conditions.

I opted to skip climbing the tower and immediately began descending off of Rabun Bald. I had passed a few runners during my climb up Rabun Bald and encountered another runner within about 100 yards of the summit on my way down. The runner offered to let me pass but I opted to stay behind them for about a quarter mile or so. I have fallen near the top of the mountain in two of my prior three runnings of the race, and I wanted to use this other runner to slow myself down a little.

As soon as we were past the worst of it, I did pass the other runner and pick up the pace. I ran hard off the top of the mountain, but by this point it had been raining pretty hard for over and hour and trail conditions were deteriorating rapidly as the dirt trail turned to mud. For the most part this didn’t slow me down, but on the steeper descents the slick footing did force me to reduce speed to avoid sliding off the side of the trail going around switchbacks.

After a few miles of (mostly) descent the path let out onto a gravel forest service road. My legs felt great and I ran hard along the road to the Holcomb Creek Falls trail.

Holcomb Creek Falls: a tall cascading waterfall that falls multple times across a rock face surrounded by greenery.
Holcomb Creek Falls

I continued to push hard: running the downhills, flats, and modest climbs, and finally hiking the last third of a mile or so climbing up from the falls. As soon as the climb ended, I knew I was only about a quarter mile from the finish and ran hard until I reached the finish.

In the end, my official time was 2 hours and 12 minutes. I placed 9th overall out of 50 runners. I never saw Teagan after about a quarter mile from the start and he ended up winning the race, placing first overall in a time of 1 hour and 47 minutes, a full 10 minutes ahead of second place.


I ran a 2 minute PR and I didn’t get hurt. This year’s race was an unqualified success.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel like I left some time out on the course. In prior years I’ve run between 2:14 and 2:20. So 2:12 was a great result. However, when I finished, I still had a LOT of gas left in the tank whereas in prior years I’ve been completely spent by the end.

I’m not totally sure where I should have pushed harder. I feel like I ran the downhills as fast as I could run them while not sliding off the trails due to the wet conditions. I definitely could have pushed the climbs harder, especially during the first five miles, but in the past I have blown out my legs by going too hard on the climb up Rabun Bald and been unable to run very much later in the race.

In the end, I think I paced perfectly…. for a race that was 15 to 20 miles long, while this race was somewhere between 10 and 12 miles long (depending on whose GPS watch you ask). It’s really hard to nail effort exactly right, but if I could have a do-over I would push the low-grade climbs and flats harder and run the rest of the race exactly the same. If I can get to next year’s Rabun Half healthy that’s what I’ll try to do.

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