- 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
Houston was amazing! 27,000 total runners—13,500 in each the marathon and half marathon.
Registration: Early registration is in January, only for a few days after the race. Then qualifiers can register in early May with open registration a few weeks later. No lottery, which is nice. The half sold out a lot faster than the full in 2016.
Expo: Pretty decent expo with rows and rows of vendors. Lots of fun photo ops! I loved the marathon magnets that Chevron was giving away and the big 26.2 in the Dick’s Sporting Goods area.
Swag: At the expo runners received a cotton t-shirt. After the race finishers earn a medal, a glass finisher mug, and a tech shirt. I love the mug! And I also love that the women’s finisher’s shirt is a v-neck!
Start Line: The start line was well organized. Runners were assigned to 1 of 4 corrals with pace groups within each corral. I was a little nervous starting with the half marathoners but everyone seemed to line up at the correct pace so there wasn’t much pushing and shoving in the first few miles.
Bathrooms: There were super long lines for the bathrooms inside the GRB. Each pace group in the corrals had a few “Port-o-cans” but not enough. There were SO MANY out on the course—like a dozen at each aid station. I think the start line needed them more!
Course: The course itself wasn’t very memorable. A lot of highways and neighborhoods—but it’s FLAT! That’s important to me when I’m choosing races. Be aware that most of Houston roads are concrete, which is much harder on your legs. Mile markers are at every mile AND every kilometer. Timing mats at every 5k and a Houston Marathon App so people can track your run!
Aid Stations: The first aid station was 1.5 miles into the race and then every 2 miles after with both Gatorade and water. So many tables! The first half of the race there were 2 sections of water after the Gatorade so if you missed the first set of tables (like I did a couple of times), you can still grab water—in fact they were less crowded. After the split with the half marathoners, that second section of water tables disappeared, so don’t wait!
Weather: The average low on race day is 40 degrees, average high is 60. Perfect running weather! Houston can be known for high humidity that time of year but 2016 was a little on the cooler side with a breeze.
Food: I totally skipped right by all the food lines. Unlike most big races where you pass all the food tables as you head out of the finisher area, you have to walk into the convention center and go out of your way for food. I had no interest in walking any extra knowing I had bananas and yogurt back in the hotel room. My dad went through the line and said there was a few different types of granola bars, oreos, ice cream sandwiches (they were gone by the time I finished anyways!), coffee, hot chocolate, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy…
Hotel: The Hilton Americas Houston Hotel is SO CONVENIENT. It connects to the GRB, which is the site of the expo and pre/post race festivities. You can see the finish line from the hotel lobby. The start is also right there.
Other: While Houston is great for running, it’s not great for spectators! My parents and I always compare races to the Chicago Marathon where they were able to navigate the city and take the train to 4 different spots along the course. Houston had a Metro but it was only running in one direction. My mom asked a bunch of volunteers at the expo how to get around and the only advice she got was to pick one spot.
You can read my 2016 Houston Marathon Race Recap on my personal blog Run Jen Run: