United States Minor Outlying Islands
- 13.1 miles/Half Marathon
- Road Race
In full disclosure, I won my race entry in a contest. I did NOT win the plane fare, the hotel stay, or anything else. So, yes, I paid for my vacation on my own but didn't have to pay for the race entry to the half marathon.
I believe this is the second year for the Puerto Rico Marathon and Half Marathon but you wouldn't know it's a newer race. I felt it was very well done! The expo is tiny and the included shirt is just a unisex tech tee but I bought a hat, two pint glasses, and a tech tank at the expo and though the prices were very reasonable.
Since I won my entry I did have some logistical issues getting registered but once I got that taken care of I was good to go. I stayed at the recommended hotel where the expo was being held and was also within walking distance of the start line. I believe there were shuttle buses if you didn't stay at that particular hotel because there was no parking at the start line.
There also wasn't much in the way of signage or lighting on the walk from the hotel to the start line. Thankfully there were a lot of obvious runners all headed in one direction and I just followed them. The race starts at 5AM to try and beat the island heat so it's pitch black on the way. I even tripped over someone's left over beer on my way to the corral!
Because of the dark I recommend that you bring a headlamp. Quite a few other participants commented on what a good idea it was and many of them asked if I would point my head in the direction of their watch so they could see what they were doing! Also, because of the dark, it was impossible to find any of the alleged pace signs for the self-seeded starting area. From what I could tell there were no official corrals. Thankfully this race isn't too large with 246 marathon finishers and 999 half marathon finishers. There's also a wheelchair division that starts before the rest of the runners.
The start was delayed due to police activity on the course so we started about 20 minutes late. The course is not lit so, again I recommend a headlamp until the sun comes up. There is a hill within a 100 yards of the start line and then a hill that even the locals struggle with at mile 1.5 as you enter Old San Juan. Unfortunately, it was still pitch black as we ran through Old San Juan so what might have been one of the most unique parts of the course was shrouded in darkness. The forts and the cruise ships in port were lit up, though, so that was a fun sight.
There are speed bumps and cobble stone streets in the first 4 miles or so and, again, it's dark so wear a headlamp and pay attention! After we left Old San Juan, though, the sun started to come up and we were running on asphalt and concrete roads for the rest of the course.
The rest of the half marathon course goes through various neighborhoods, some nicer than others. And it will get warm! Aid stations are approximately every 2 miles but if you don't do well in warm weather you will want to carry your own water. They do have misters and ice along the course.
There is basically no crowd support except at aid stations so be prepared to run in quiet and not in big packs of people.
There is a nice downhill finish and tons of food for runners. There are also wading pools filled with cold water if you need to cool off and the finish line is near a beach inlet if you want to take a dip. In fact, this is possibly one of the prettiest finish areas I've ever been to. There's an old fort nearby, a huge park, and a view of the ocean.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this race as a PR or a BQ race, but it's a fun one to do if you're looking for a destination race to anchor your vacation.