Latest reviews by Jessica Schaefer
The communication leading up to the race was poor. A week before the race it still said that the expo and packet pick up info would be updated in June. The first time I saw the update was the Wednesday before the event.
I opted to pick up my bib at the expo on Saturday morning. The expo was two or three tents which may have been due to the cold and rainy weather. I didn't spend any time walking around it.
My packet included a tech shirt and two forms for other races. There was also a 13.1 sticker that I was really excited about until I realized it said Key West Half Marathon on it. So I guess I will have to run that one eventually.
I got to the race early to find parking, but it wasn't marked so I mostly just guessed at a parking lot. There wasn't much to do before the race started. There was a band but the songs, though good, were a little too mellow for my taste before a race.
When we lined up, the starting area was not organized by estimated finish time or really by anything. Luckily the race was very far from full so the chaos wasn't as bad as it could have been.
The course itself doubled back a lot and sent us through trailer parks. Eventually it sent us through unlit trailer parks after dark, which was far from comforting. I think I ran extra fast though, so there is a silver lining.
There were also no mile markers. Actually someone said there were mile markers but they were still piled up by the start line throughout the race. I hadn't planned on using my tracking app because I wanted to take it easy, but I am glad I did or I would have had no idea how far I had gone at any point.
The water stations were decent. There were plenty offering water and Accelerade. None offered GU or food of any type and I did not notice any medical assistance stops.
The course was, unfortunately, not marked or manned very well and it was easy to get off course. I ended with a distance of 14.5 and many runners ended up significantly under distance (by 2 miles or so). The course was also not closed to traffic which was pretty scary. I ended up running in the mud on the side of the road a few times to avoid road ragey drivers.
At the finish line I was handed a HUGE medal and a bottle of water. Unfortunately that was it. All the pizzas had been eaten and there was no sign of the promised doughnuts. I finished in just under 2.5 hours so I was nowhere near the 4 hour cutoff.
There was nowhere for runners to get/stay warm so spectator support was pretty slim at the end as well.
Overall it was a disappointing experience though I did have a good run and met some great people.
I do want to end with a few positives:
The course was mostly flat with just enough hills to keep it interesting.
The volunteers were AWESOME! Super friendly and encouraging.
They are posting all the pictures on their Facebook! Free pics are always a plus.
The medal and shirt are great!
Want a more detailed review? Visit my blog recap: http://seejessrun711.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-spooky-and-not-in-good-way-halloween.html
This was my first marathon and I could not have asked for a better experience.
Communication before the race was fantastic. The website had all the important information and there were several emails that went out in the months and weeks leading up to the race. I never felt like I was missing any pertinent information.
I stayed at one of the host hotels and it was great. I arrived on Friday in time for the mingle event. It was pretty low key (at least while I was there) but a great chance to meet other runners and chat. I traveled alone and didn't know anybody so I really appreciated it.
Saturday I went to the expo about an hour after it started. Packet pick-up was available at a local running store throughout the week for those who wanted to skip the expo. They had official merchandise available there as well. Unfortunately they were out of women's small and medium shirts but I was able to get a large that fit pretty well. I think they ran out of most other sizes later in the day but were mailing shirts to those who didn't get one. I was offered this option to get a medium as well. I was able to pick up a Brooks shirt with the race logo as well as a Tervis tumbler. I was really happy with the variety of merchandise available. The expo was very crowded and I heard it got worse later in the day. People were a little impatient but if you weren't in a terrible hurry it was no big deal.
Race day started bright and early with free shuttle busses from the host hotels starting at 4:15. The bus I was on actually filled up and left by 4. Gear check was a quick and easy stop. Bathroom lines were long but there were also plenty of port-o-lets available. There was an announcer by the staging area who kept everyone well informed and moving along smoothly. The half started before the full so once they were all on course the full runners were moved to the start. The pace groups were spread out to help you line up by expected time. They sang the national anthem and started the race with a countdown and video of a shuttle launch on a big screen. I was towards the back so I couldn't see much but they did have other space shuttle themed videos showing as we ran past so that was a nice touch.
The course was well marked and easy to follow. Once we made it to the part also run by the half marathoners I really appreciated the mile markers being in different colors for the different races. The aid stations are manned by different groups and most were dressed up to match the space theme. All the volunteers were super enthusiastic and friendly which made the event even better. I believe this was the 43rd year they've held this race, so there was also great support from the local community. There were some Florida hills on the first of the course, but it was pretty flat overall. The whole course also followed the water which made for great views, especially at sunrise!
I was towards the back of the pack for this race and really appreciated all of the volunteers staying and cheering just as much for us as they had for the faster runners. During the last half mile I was unbelievably happy that they had put my name on my bib as the last bit of the course was lined with spectators on both sides cheering you on by name to the finish line.
The medal it's huge and awesome and the beach towel is such a great and useful thing to revive in place of a space blanket since it's plenty warm out.
The post race celebration had beer, soda, pancakes, pizza and more. As much as I wanted pancakes, my stomach was not on board with that idea. Publix had a tent and they gave me a couple bananas which was perfect.
The shuttles were available to take us back to the hotels with only a short wait. A few local YMCAs were also open for runners to shower.
Race photos were also available the very next day which I thought was impressive. They are not free but the turnaround time was great and they got some reallreally good shots!
Overall I had an amazing time and cannot wait to come back to this race year after year!