- 5 miles/8K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
I had a great time running the Hilton Head half marathon this past weekend. We really lucked out with the weather. The storm passing through two days earlier left cool temps and minimal wind. I arrived late on Friday night after driving down from Raleigh, so couldn't make it to the expo. Thankfully they offered bib and swag pick-up the morning of the race.
Start Time: This was great for us because we didn't have to get up too early, and could still arrive with plenty of time to grab our bib, vest, and get back to the car to drop our packets off.
Race Logistics: The host hotel was about a 15 minute drive from the start line. Not ideal, but the hotel location was directly on the beach, so you could at least get a full Hilton Head experience before or after the race. Race day parking was at the local high school across the street from Jarvis Park, the start line location. We arrived right at 7 and got a parking spot right in front. It was less than 10 minutes walking to the registration area where we easily picked up our bib and fleece vests. The fleece vest was an awesome change from the typical race swag.
There were porta potties and a public restroom, though the latter was just two stalls so had a much longer wait. The start line was a few steps away, so everything was really easy to navigate on race morning.
The Course: The course was flat as a pancake except for an overpass that the half marathon traveled over twice. The road wasn't completely closed off to traffic, but it wasn't super busy that early in the morning, and the cones left a generous amount of safe space for the runners. While we ran on one side of the road for the whole race, I didn't find it excessively graded to where I felt lopsided or uncomfortable. I've definitely had that experience (hello Smokey Mountain half!) and aside from a couple of times where I shifted over to adjust, it was fine.
Race aid was water stops every two miles. Starting at the water station, they also had gatorade and they seemed to have it every other station. No gels or GUs along the course but I know they had some at the expo the day before (according to posts I saw on their social media).
The distances all started together, which was a little congested at the start, though it thinned out as soon as the 8k split off to return back to the park. There is no crowd support on the course, so if you rely on that, it's going to be a challenge. The course had some beautiful views over the overpass, and you briefly enter a park that has some turns through the trail and parking area where you make up mileage before the half marathon turns around to head back. That was the only part of the race that slowed me down. The previous reviewer that complained about the 'trail' is pretty hilarious. It literally was a short strip that took you back to the road, I would question even calling it .25 miles.
Heading back, I found myself now running into the headwind so it was a little more challenging. But it was the same course as before, so I knew what to expect. Coming down from the overpass the second time, I had a little burst of speed to take me into the final couple of miles. I was able to pick up my pace and power through, ultimately getting the PR that I had been training for.
The race medal was really nice. Nothing fancy, but clean and a nice embossed design that was better-looking than the flat digital pictures posted pre-race. The finisher's area had a tent where you could look up your individual results, an awards tent (they awarded to the top 3 of the various age groups, as well as overall top 3 for the distances). There was a kettle corn tent, dj, and finisher food area that had pizza, bananas, granola bars, and the post-race beer (your bib came with two beer tickets for your free drinks). Oh, there was also a photographer on the course. I saw him a couple of times, but not sure what the deal is with photos (if they're free or not), but as the race was pretty no-frills overall, I'm not really concerned either way.
I would definitely recommend this race for someone looking for a winter race with PR-worthy course. It offers the basics and was well run, with nice swag and no fuss.