- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
The Cleveland Half Marathon was my 15th half marathon and I was running it to help pace a friend who was running it as her very first half marathon. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this race as I'm not from Cleveland although in 2010 I ran the 10K associated with this race and in 2011 I ran the Cleveland 10 Miler.
I arrived on Friday evening and stayed with my friend. When we went to the expo on Saturday I was surprised at how far away from downtown it was. It appeared they had shuttle buses to take people from downtown to the expo but I still thought it odd that the expo was so far removed from the actual race site. The expo turned out to be a lot of fun, though, and definitely on par with other big city race expos. The layout of the bib pick-up and shirt pick-up was a little odd, though, and we stood in the wrong shirt pick-up line for a few minutes before we realized it.
The shirts were gender-specific Nike tech tees and the swag bag was filled with actual products and not just flyers! Excellent! The expo was full of great vendors as well as I even did some shopping which isn't something I normally do at expos.
There were lots of signs saying that all participants needed to be at the race site by 6:00 AM for the 7:00 AM start which I thought was a bit early. We took the RTA from the near suburbs to downtown and arrived a little before 6:00 AM. Thankfully I was with a local otherwise I would have had no idea what to do! We waited inside Tower City to use the rest room instead of trying to find the portapotties and then headed outside to find our corral. I honestly didn't even realize we were assigned a corral as it was only in small letters on the bottom of our bib along with our name, age and shirt size.
Apparently lots of other people didn't know they had a specific corral or severely overestimated their pace because we started in corral E near the 10:45 pacer but spent the first three miles dodging slower runners, families, and groups that were walking 4+ across. It cleared up a bit after the 10K runners split off but didn't fully clear up for several more miles. Overall, I'd say there were a lot of people running this race who didn't have great race etiquette.
Aid stations were plentiful but tended to only be on one side of the street meaning you had to notice them pretty far in advance in order to get across the crowds even though they had no signage to tell you one was coming up. Aid stations on both sides of the street would have been very, very welcome. Also, large signs indicating that an aid station was ahead would have been helpful. Because the course was rather crowded it was sometimes difficult to get to the aid station in time.
The course had a nice amount of shade as we ran through neighborhoods and the residential areas had a decent amount of spectators. I have to give a shout-out to the Tremont neighborhood who did an amazing job of welcoming the runners. There were also DJs and bands every few miles which was nice (although, I think the DJ only had four songs) and portapotties at every aid station.
Because of all the weaving we had to do in the first 3 miles we added about a quarter mile to our distance which made it a bit disheartening to hear my Garmin beep for the mile marker but not actually see it for another .25 miles. Also, the last few miles have the most hills as you go up freeway ramps and bridges. You get a spectacular view of the city and the lake during mile 12 but you may be so focused on finishing that you don't even notice. Thankfully there is a downhill in the last half mile.
The finish line had some great food options (Pretzels! Chocolate milk! Popsicles!) but felt very crowded. The beer garden was already packed less than 2.5 hours after the start of the race and we didn't see any massage or stretching tents. In a larger city like Cleveland I'd like to think they could find a PT school or a massage school or SOMETHING to help participants work out the post-race kinks. Still there was a lovely park in which to relax as well as plenty of other post-race food purchasing options for anyone who wanted to buy lunch right away.
The medals are really nice, double-sided, full color, with a spinning guitar in the center! If you're someone who picks races based on the medal, this one was a winner.
If you bring a spectator to the race with you either they need to have a vehicle or they will probably only see you at the beginning and the end. Parking downtown is around $25 but I don't know if that includes in-out privileges or how close it is to the start/finish line. If you take the RTA to Tower City you will be within yards of the start line.
Overall, this race has the makings of a great big city race but still has a few small town race quirks. The race directors do a great job but could take this race to the next level by observing a race in a city like Chicago. Still, if you're looking for a spring half marathon in Cleveland, this is a good choice.