- 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other
- Road Race
This race in early November is perfect timing for great weather and foliage in Kentucky. We were fortunate to have a nice cool start, and although the sun came out and warmed things up, the clouds rolled back in, and there was some rain for marathon finishers at the end. The race also supports an excellent cause- fighting Multiple Sclerosis. There were 365 half marathon runners, 129 marathon runners, and 105 6K runners. That makes for a nice-sized local race that I was proud to support.
Note: A friend picked up my packet at the expo, so that was not rated.
Parking: There is plentiful free parking in downtown Bowling Green on a Sunday morning. It's a college town, and students were all sleeping...or studying, I am sure. I parked on the square and walked 2 blocks to the start. I could have parked closer. It's wonderful! The race-day packet pickup, gear check, and bathrooms were all at the Bowling Green Ball Park (read: real toilets).
Course: Western Kentucky University students are called Hilltoppers, and for good reason. The race begins on a slow climb up to the top of "the Hill," and then makes a slow decent through the beautiful campus. Then, you tackle another part of that hill, and then another. If you are new to hills, it may seem daunting; however, many people slowed down or power walked the hills at the steepest parts. Included in this challenge are large, beautiful trees in full fall glory. At one point on Chestnut Street, there were big yellow leaves tumbling down like glitter on the runners. It was a magical moment, and everyone around me was oohing and ahhing. Once you head out of the campus (a.k.a. the super hilly area), You are steered through a more urban stretch of road that was open, but an entire lane dedicated to runners both out and back. There were plentiful police officers and marshals to provide safety and direct traffic. The sheer number of cones was astounding. The race team was prepared to keep us safe. It was my first race with an open course, but there was nothing to worry about. Safety was not a concern. Again, this is a college town, so Sunday morning does not have heavy traffic. The race then dipped into one of the older neighborhoods in Bowling Green with wide streets and large shade trees. There were volunteer bicycle marshals throughout the race, and in this neighborhood, I ran into a friend and her daughter who escorted me for about a mile. Leaving the neighborhood, we headed back onto the main street toward historic downtown, back to the ballpark where we finished. Marathoners repeated this loop.
Volunteers/Aid stations: As I mentioned, there were bike marshals, groups of local youth stationed to cheer for runners, and aid stations galore. There was water/Gatorade endurance, Swedish Fish, Honey Stinger Gels, pickle juice, and a watermelon station manned by pirates (a race tradition--don't ask me). Talk about enthusiastic and genuine, the volunteers in this local race were outstanding. Perfect signage, everything was well-thought out.
Swag: A friend picked up my race packet, so when I met her on race morning and saw what she handed over, my first thought was that she had bought me some extras. No! The race "packet" is a nice roomy duffel bag, and inside was my bib, a short-sleeved cotton tee, a long sleeved tech tee, and a sticker. See photo. For repeat racers, they have special swag (i.e. the 7-peters are those who have run all 7 years of the race).
Free Professional Race Photos! I had my first great race photo ever.
Race director, committee, volunteer team: I can't say enough good things about the communication from the race crew. We received frequent updates via email, they had a training team that met for long runs on Saturday mornings, and their social media has been interactive and fun. They re-post nearly all runner posts that tag the race, and respond quickly to questions. This was my first time running the race, mostly because although I live in TN, I work at WKU, and I like to travel to new places in races. I am so glad I chose to stay close and support this race. I saw a familiar town in a different way, and had a great time. I will definitely be back!
Note: In case future reviewers mention the lack of porta-potties this year, this was a race director's nightmare, I am sure. The vendor did not deliver them that morning. The vendor took complete responsibility; however a few racers blamed the race team. I don't think that is fair. The team quickly issued an apology and said they were discussing ways to make it right. I thought the response was appropriate and had the perfect tone, but I would not expect any kind of compensation for something that was not their fault. I saw runners going to some porta-potties at a construction site, running to toilets in a park, and race marshals were directing runners to a gas station that was happy to help out. The start/finish area had restrooms, so I think everyone managed okay. The amount of love and grace given to the race team on social media about this situation was a testament to how much runners love this race and how it will not deter them from returning. I am sure next year there will be more porta-potties than you can imagine.
All in all, a great race in a small-sized city with scenery, hills, and really friendly vibes from fellow runners and volunteers. It was big enough to not be lonely on the course, but small enough that I never felt crowded. It was a nice departure from most of my last large races. Hope to see you next year!