- 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
I think the Austin Half Marathon was my favorite race to date, as of March 2016! It was certainly the toughest, too. My second official half marathon race (technically my third, but my second half was a virtual race), it totally surpassed my expectations.
A well-organized race, the Austin Half provides many of the benefits of a race in a larger city, such as the professionalism, large crowd, and sweet swag (a backpack and moisture-wicking shirt), with the feel of a smaller race, because Austin is a smaller city than many others. They have a great expo with many prominent vendors - local running stores, Clif Bar, Nuun, SpiBelt, to name a few. You can pick up your packet at the expo, and they have pretty good weekend hours. An efficient pick-up area means you can stay at the expo for as short or long of a time as you want. Another nice touch was the heart-shaped bib... the race was on Valentine's Day this year, and it was a quirky nod to the holiday.
The day of the race, my husband and I arrived an hour early. I recommend this because you have to walk a bit to the start line. This isn't too long of a walk, but it is in the city and might be easy for some out-of-towners to get lost. We were able to park in a free garage that was specified in a pamphlet that came with my swag. I'm sure there is also street parking available all over the place; Sundays are usually free.
The starting line seemed packed, and there were no strict corrals. Pacers are available, holding up signs of the finish time they are pacing. The half and full start at the same time, so the marathon pacers are also the half pacers. The gun went off on time and everyone filtered on to the course. Though the start line was a bit crowded, everyone dispersed gradually enough that the course was fine.
There is an encouraging crowd throughout and lots of scenery, like live music on the side of the road, which add personality to this race and help you to keep moving. You'll also see a lot of the unique sides of Austin, such as South Congress, the skyline, the Capitol, and Lake Austin. One word of caution though - this race is totally worth it, but you definitely need to train on hills! The first few miles were a gradual incline, then a steady decline. After around mile 8 or 9, you'll see a lot of rolling, steep hills. These are tough because you're tired!
My one complaint was there were not nearly enough porta potties. I’ve been to races with far more on the course… and I had to result to drastic measures as a result of my over-hydration (oops).
Overall, I didn't hit the goal I hoped to hit, but I did earn quite the PR by almost 10 minutes, so if you prepare, you can be successful with this challenging course.
As far as the post-race party went, there were amenities like a photo area, some typical runner food (but no water bottles though, so bring your own). There were food trucks lined up down the road, but other than that, I wouldn't call it a huge party. It's in the middle of the city, so that presents a challenge anyway. Race managment told me they are planning a bigger party for 2017 though, and it definitely wouldn't stop me from returning to begin with. After the race, you can head on over to 6th street for a beer, or many of the other local Austin establishments.
Again, I highly recommend this race and I do think it is worth the travel. It's a nice taste of the city with a supportive crowd. But I've warned you: make sure you run some hills beforehand!
Be sure to check out my full review of the Austin Half over on my blog: http://freetorunblog.com/austin-half-marathon-recap-and-review/