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The Pittsburgh Marathon offers runners lots of choices. Full, Half, Relay, and 5K events. The 5K, Toddler Run, and Pet Walk are on Saturday, the Half and Full are on Sunday. The Steel Challenge gets you an extra shirt and medal: run the 5K on Saturday, plus one of the Sunday races.
RACE EXPO and PACKET PICKUP
The expo was at the Pittsburgh Convention Center downtown. Hours were 11 am to 8 pm on Friday; 9 am to 6 pm on Saturday. You looked up your bib number, got your bib, bag, and shirt. Signs were clear and there were plenty of people around to help.
We tried to hit the expo on Friday morning. Parking was tight since city workers and everyone running on Saturday were already parking in town. You could park and walk in to the expo but we didn't have time before a lunch date. We returned early on Saturday morning. Parking was easy, and the expo wasn't crowded. We were in and out in under an hour.
It was a big city expo with samples, vendors, fuel, shoes, and race gear. If you forgot anything you could find it at the expo. Brooks had a black and gold Pittsburgh edition shoe which looked sweet. Price was right, too. More details and photos at ThisOldRunner.com
I love the way the corrals worked. It was organized and easy. You could find all the info you needed about everything online or in emails. There is an app by P3R that sent notifications on race weekend. I appreciated messages like "Expo is Open" and "Head to Your Corral."
The starting line was organized and moved at a good pace. We opted for the last corral and ran a low pressure, back of the pack race. We started about half an hour after the first wave.
The course for the half was scenic and fun despite the cloudy, wet day. It was great to see the city on foot. The half had rolling hills — nothing too terrible. I did a lot of hill repeats to train for this race, so either they paid off or the marathon had more challenging hills.
Aid stations were about every 2 miles. There was NUUN and water at every station. Plenty of hydration for everyone. On course med tents and EMS and police were plentiful. If you had trouble on course there were plenty of professionals around to help.
SPECTATORS and ENTERTAINMENT
There were pockets of people cheering on the runners. It was a rainy morning, but there were lots of spectators. There were bands playing along the course, people dressed in costumes, and groups of people offering encouraging words.
OMG, I love, love, love the way this race ends. There are a couple of turns before you end up back on Liberty Avenue. Since there's a marathon there were still plenty of people lining the street and cheering when half marathoners finished. The tall buildings create an echo chamber. It was thrilling to run to the finish with loud cheers on both sides.
FINISHER CHUTE and FAMILY MEET UP
After crossing the finish you receive a medal, water bottles, banana, bagels, fruit cup, EatnPark Smiley cookies, salty snacks, and a heat sheet. There may have been other things I missed. Point is, there was plenty of post race food.
The chute funneled racers towards Point State Park where you could meet up with friends/family. Take a quick right for the porta potties and gear check. BTW, the full marathon's named sponsor is FedEx. Gear check was in FedEx Trucks parked along Liberty Avenue.
Marathoners received a free beer; $5 for everyone else. The beer tent was a couple of blocks away from Point State Park.
Inside the park were more vendors, free samples, an official merchandise tent, challenge medal pickup, etc. The rain was on and off all morning, so we joined the group huddled under the arch to visit with family. When the skies cleared we made our way back to the ice arena where we parked for free.
The race medal is nice -- shows the city reflected in the river, plus highlights the three rivers. The race shirt is black tech long sleeve. It was nice to throw it on after the race. In the swag bag there were some $10 coupons for Dick's Sporting Goods and GNC, plus Honey Stinger Waffle + coupon, NuGo Bar and info on getting your medal engraved.
People in Pittsburgh are always friendly and fun, and so was their race!
Photos and more info here: www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-pittsburgh-half-marathon-review.html
Can a spectator review a race? Yes, yes they can when it's as awesome as Rugged Maniac in Dade City, Florida! I didn't run since I had a half marathon soon, but I enjoyed watching and cheering for all the muddy runners.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The race was held at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City, FL. It's a beautiful rural area about an hour north of Tampa. The obstacles were positioned on a 5K course that wound through open fields, sloping hills, and oak groves. Spectators could watch from a multi-level viewing stand, or walk out to some of the obstacles.
The course and festival layout were excellent. Start and Finish line, festival, bag check, check in, shower area, and port-a-potties were all conveniently located.
CHECK IN and BAG CHECK
Check in tents opened at 8 am. Runners were encourage to arrive an hour and a half before their start time. Free bag check was available near the starting line.
Since the DJ was playing music and the festival was set up early, there was plenty to see and do before racing. (Bull riding, corn hole, food, vendors, merch tent, walk around the ranch, etc.)
Runners took the course in waves of 200 people. The elite wave was at 9 am. They were the only officially timed wave eligible for awards.
Everyone else self reported based on their watch or the clock at the finish line. The waves of runners kept the event moving at a good pace. No traffic jams at the obstacles, and a constant flow of racers to watch.
There were two water stations on course, plus water, bananas and oranges at the finish line.
The festival area had games, free samples, music, bull riding, food and drinks. Racers receive one free beer. The DJ kept everyone entertained with a steady stream of activities and contests. Stein-hoisting, pull ups, and pie-eating contests happened throughout the day.
Food and beverages were for sale using a ticket system. You had to purchase a block of $10 tickets.
POST RACE CLEAN UP
There was a shower area and changing tents across from the festival area. Hoses on scaffolding create the showers. There were large garbage cans filled with water for deep dunking. Runners could donate their wet, muddy shoes to a charity that cleans and donates the shoes.
The weather was perfect: 72 degrees and low humidity with lots of sunshine. It was easy for runners to warm up after the race.
Parking was $10 per car. $15 for a van. Cash only. Everyone parked in an open field, then waked about a quarter mile to the starting area. It was a pleasant walk with views of the race.
Every racer received a tech shirt, finisher medal, free photos, and one free beer if old enough to drink. The photos were online by Thursday after the race.
FIRST TIME OCR?
Everyone I spoke to said Rugged Maniac is the best choice for first-time obstacle course racers. From what I saw, I'd agree.
The obstacles were challenging, but not impossible. You could walk around anything that was too difficult. Some obstacles offered alternatives like a ladder instead of an incline.
Overall, I think anyone who trained for it could complete the race. I saw runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes on the course. And they were all smiling!
Like any race, register early for the best price. Early bird pricing for next year opens right after the race and lasts for several months. There is a $10 discount for military and students.
CHECK OUT MY PHOTOS
See tons of photos from this awesome event here: http://www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-rugged-maniac-dade-city.html
This was the fourth time I ran the First Watch Sarasota Half. This year, I received a free entry as a BibRave Pro.
• THIS YEAR THE RACE WAS IN OCTOBER •
For 13 years, the First Watch Sarasota Half & Relay was in March. This year the event moved to October. That meant a different mindset for training over the Summer. It also meant more heat and humidity on race day.
• WEATHER & SAFETY CHANGED RACE PLANS •
There was severe weather during the days before the race. Saturday’s 5K was rained out. It was moved to Sunday morning with the other events.
Between 8-9 pm on Saturday night, it was announced that the second half of the half and relay course wasn’t going to be safe for runners.
Race management notified racers via social media and email that Half participants would get a refund. Half runners were invited to run the 10K for FREE on Sunday. Relay runners could run their 6.2 miles together instead of in two legs.
There’s no question, last minute changes are upsetting. The downside to a late announcement is some people don't see the message until race morning. I felt bad for out-of-town runners who traveled for a half.
I thought First Watch Sarasota did a good job handling everything. Participants had choices:
• Choose to skip the race and get a full refund
• Run a 10K and get a full refund
• Run with your relay partner instead of in shifts
• Make it a training run with on-course support, a finisher medal, and a post race party
That worked for me and a couple thousand other runners who showed up on Sunday morning. Race management thanked everyone for understanding.
Side note: Since there wasn't a half marathon, there weren't any pacers with signs to help runners seed themselves in the corrals. No big deal since there were fewer runners, but I missed having that cue.
• RACE DAY •
80 degrees and super humid at the starting line. We started in the dark, which felt good. Everyone I talked to was in good spirits.
• POST RACE •
After the race, everyone received a medal, water, and gatorade endurance at the finish line. The beer garden was open and serving Michelob Light and hard seltzers.
The food tent had lots of food: apples, bananas, muffins, yogurt parfaits, and hot pancakes.
I love sitting by Sarasota Bay — close to the water there was a nice breeze. There was a live band playing music, too.
• EXPO + PACKET PICKUP + SWAG •
There isn't an official expo. There were a few vendor tents at the race.
Packet pickup was at the downtown Sarasota Fit2Run store on Friday and Saturday, and at the registration tent on race morning.
Runners got a race shirt, sunscreen, chapstick, probiotic and CBD samples. There were discount coupons for First Watch, Floyd’s of Leadville, and Up4 Probiotics in the goodie bag. I always size up for this race shirt, and was happy with it.
• PARKING •
Less runners meant more parking spots at Van Wezel. When you park there you are steps away from the start/finish line and all the festivities.
• RACE COURSE •
I love running the Ringling Bridge, so I was happy. It's a good challenge for me. You go over the bridge twice — on your way to and from St. Armand’s Circle. And the downhills are so.much.fun!
The 10K course is the first half of the half marathon course. Runners start at Van Wezel, then run on Tamiami Trail to the bridge. There’s a long approach on both sides of the bridge. We went over the bridge, did a loop around St. Armand’s Circle, then over the bridge again. Then, we ran on Tamiami Trail back to Van Wezel.
Normally, the half marathon (miles 7-11) takes runners through mature older neighborhoods with bay views, big trees, and pretty homes. We skipped that this year.
• AID STATIONS •
I think there were 4 (5?) aid stations on the course. There was Gatorade Endurance thirst quencher and water offered at each one. There were GE gels after mile 4. There was water and GE at the finish line.
• MEDALS •
Everyone got the medal for their original race registration. Half mara runners got a a half medal despite running a 10K. I’m happy to have it. I appreciate the creativity and design. It’s a beauty!
• FINAL NOTE •
If you run long enough you’ll experience cancelled and postponed races. No race org wants to cancel or modify a race. Life happens. It’s part of the deal, and that’s okay. Hopefully, next year the race won't have any problems.
I enjoyed my 10K on Sunday. It was a challenge with hills, heat, and humidity. And, there were beautiful bridge views, on-course support, and finish line festivities with tasty food and beverages.
There’s only happiness when I get to race through Sarasota with a couple thousand sweaty running friends!
Check out photos and more details: http://www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-first-watch-sarasota-half.html
Best Damn Race Safety Harbor is the 2nd in the 2019 series of 5 Best Damn Races. (Jacksonville, Safety Harbor, Savannah, Orlando and New Orleans). Safety Harbor is located on the west side of Tampa Bay.
This was year 7 for the Safety Harbor race. It has steadily improved each year. I can’t say enough good things about this year's event.
• PACKET PICKUP and THE EXPO
Racers had three options for packet pickup. Thursday in Tampa at Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Friday and Saturday on-site at the BDR Expo.
The expo was at Safety Harbor Marina Park on the waterfront. You could pick up your packet then peruse all the vendor tents. There were freebies and samples from local races and places. Several races had giveaways and discounts. If you needed sunglasses or a headband before the race, you could get it. The Best Damn Race merch tent featured new items like a sugar skull hat and Tervis tumblers.
Picture spots were set up at the expo. You could grab pics in front of Tampa Bay, the finish line, or a BDR backdrop. The weather was a happy surprise. The threat of rain disappeared. It was a gorgeous weekend.
• THE SWAG
Everyone received a Best Damn Race reusable bag. Inside was a location specific pint glass, discounts to local race, Biscoff cookies, a Sticker Mule sticker of a race medal, and promotional giveaway items from the sponsors.
The race shirts are a soft poly/cotton/rayon blend. Dark blue heather with a bright logo on the front. You could exchange it for a different size on Saturday after the last race began.
• RACE COURSE
I ran the Half marathon. It began on Bayshore Boulevard with excellent views of the sunrise. We ran along the water then headed inland long enough to get to Philippe Park.
Philippe Park has huge oak trees that form a tunnel through the park. It was a fun place to run. Slight inclines and declines. We ran out and back through the park, then headed across town. We ran to the other side of Safety Harbor then up and down some hills.
The hills are mild compared to places like Pennsylvania and Virginia, but they’re hills to Floridians. It was a good test. The race finished by running along Tampa Bay again with park and water views.
Every mile is marked. LEO and volunteers were abundant on course. No chance of getting lost.
• AID STATIONS
There were 11 aid stations available to half marathoners. The first stop had water, the rest had water and Gatorade. SIS gels and GU gels were available at mile 5 and 8. Two port-a-potties at each aid station.
• MEDALS and MORE MEDALS
The medal is a SAND GLOBE. It’s a 3D globe with sand inside. (See photo). All the medals are all bright, fun graphics that depict the race city. Every race has it’s own medal: 5K, 10K, and half. An additional medal is earned if you run the 5K, 10K Challenge.
If you run a half marathon in each of the 5 BDR race cities you get extra medals along the way. 2x, 3x, 4x and 5x racer bling is awarded as you earn it.
• POST RACE PARTY
The location of the race course is super nice. The location of the post race party is excellent. As you cross the finish line you receive your medal and a bottle of water.
A few yards away is the post race party in beautiful Marina Park. Everything is included in your race fee. So, grab a beer, hard seltzer, or vodka mixed drink to start.
The choices seem never-ending: Outback Steakhouse chicken, steak, and Caesar salad. Papa Johns pizza delivered hot to the party. Fresh strawberries, salty snacks (Cheetos anyone?), bite-size chocolate bars, brownies, donuts, coffee, soft drinks, water, and electrolytes were available.
Ring the PR bell, take a photo, watch the awards ceremony. Talk to running friends you haven’t seen since last year. Visit the vendors. Sign up for your next race. Visit the port-o-potties.
There’s plenty of room for everyone to stay and relax after the race. It was a beautiful day, and the post race party was scheduled to last until noon.
Plenty of street parking. Lot parking is available in several lots a mile to 2 miles from the starting line. Race management and the website do a good job of explaining the parking set up. All parking was free.
Race registration kicks off with a blitz in March. Get in early for the best price. The cost increases on a sliding scale based on the number of people who registered.
This year the 5K, 10K, and Challenge SOLD OUT.
• CHECK OUT MY EVENT PHOTOS
See the race course, more medals, and post race party here: http://www.thisoldrunner.com/2019-best-damn-race-safety-harbor-review.html
Everything about this race is sweet! If you haven't run a Hot Chocolate race yet, go find one and register.
The expo was at the Tampa Convention Center. It's also the start and finish point for the race. That means after packet pickup at the expo, you'll know where to park and line up on race day. The expo was in the East Hall. There was signage and staff to guide everyone to the right place. Packet pickup was easy as 1-2-3. Get your bib, get your SWAG bag, and visit all the vendors.
You could sign up for next year's race at special expo pricing. Try samples, play games for prices, and take advantage of discounted deals. There was a Hot Chocolate gear store with accessories, rain jackets, tanks, long sleeves, and jackets. Everything flowed smoothly.
There were picture spots all around the expo. Marshall the giant marshmallow man was outside on the steps of the convention center, too.
Everyone — 5K and 15K runners — receive the full zip hooded jacket. It's some of the best race swag around. The sleeves have thumbholes. There are zip pockets. The jacket came in merlot and black this year. Everyone was encouraged to try on their jacket before leaving the expo. If it didn't fit you could use the SWAG SWAP area to get the right size by trading. There were lots of chocolate samples at the expo. I indulged in the hot chocolate because it's the BEST!
I ran the 15K. It was an out and back along Bayshore Blvd. on Tampa Bay. This is the third year for the #HC15K in Tampa, and I think it was the best weather yet. There was heavy cloud cover which made it comfortable. It was cool at the starting line. Once you started to run you didn't need a jacket. Still, it wasn't too hot.
The entire course is pretty and very flat. Lots of big houses and water views to see. The out and back course meant you see other runners out there. Lots of holiday decorations. Not a lot of spectators, but it didn't matter since you could see other runners.
Every mile is marked. Seemed to be Porta Pots at every aid station, maybe even each mile marker?
There were three aid stations offering water, Nuun , and candy. (M&Ms, marshmallows with chocolate chips, and Swedish fish. The volunteers were a blast — especially at the last aid station. The volunteers made a cheer tunnel, called runners by name, and gave an escort through the tunnel. It was hilarious, and a great boost.
The 15K finishers receive a giant chocolate bar with gold accents. It's city-specific, so the Tampa version had pirates and water. It's a substantial medal for a 15K distance.
Every runner, in the 5K and 15K gets a finishers cup filled with chocolate goodies. The delicious hot chocolate is in a cup in the center, surrounded by chocolate fondue and treats to dip in the fondue. Man, that really is the best hot chocolate around!
The post race finish area offered seating on the steps of the convention center. There were picture spots, portolets, and water views all around. Very well organized race. Great signage that made it easy to find everything.
Parking was easier this year than last year. It was a $5 flat fee. You paid in cash when you entered the Tampa Convention Center garage. No fumbling around with payment machines and tickets after the race. It was easy in and easy out.
There were a ton of runners dressed up in holiday gear. It was fun to see all the creative outfits out there! Great race at a good time of year. Who doesn't need a long run to burn off the crazy during the holidays?!