Race Recap: The "tiny" Half Marathon

On Saturday February 9, 2013, I was fortunate enough to take part in a first ever running of The “tiny” Half Marathon. The race was created to benefit the UC Davis Children’s Hospital, Mended Little Hearts, Galt and Liberty HS Athletics and tinySmiles. This event event was designed to create awareness for CHD’s (Congenital Heart Defect), raise money for the incredible care and support babies and their families need. For me any race that helps benefit children is something I will go out and support along with the fact that this event is a small race and just 20 miles south of Sacramento along Highway 99. Though the cause is great and I will never say anything to criticize the groups that benefit from the event, the race itself has some things to fix in order to make the race more enjoyable for runners.

Packet Pick-Up

If possible I always try to attend the early packet pick-up if given the option. This allows me to make sure that I get my goodies and no mistakes have been made on my part when registering or the event coordinator’s part when transferring registration to to actual event bibs, etc. For this even they offered a 5k division along with the Half Marathon distance. In the past I have been accidentally placed in the wrong distance, this creates for a nightmare when trying to figure out timing and such at the finish line.

the “swag”

I arrived at the packet pick up around 11:30 am on Friday February 8, which was about 2+ hours after they advertised for their opening of the early packet pick up. This should have made it smoother, allowing for me to get in and out of there within 2 minutes, assuming there was no line. There were a total of 4 people there (including myself) when I walked through the doors of Delta Physical Therapy in Galt. I ended up waiting nearly 20 minutes, just to start getting my stuff. The multiple people working the pick up seemed to be a bit unorganized with 2 people working on the same thing at the same time. I know there are things some volunteers need to be trained to do and that is expected with first year events, however the companies involved are not first year companies running events (On Your Mark Events and Fleet Feet Stockton).

However once I started to get my stuff, I was surprised by the decent swag that the race provided. Along with the running bib and goodie bag of promotional “stuff” that most races provide, runners were given a white long sleeve technical shirt and black / reflective running vest. The swag definitely had me walking away from packet pick up thinking, “this is some really good stuff”. Also the volunteers were all very friendly along with the Fleet Feet Stockton employee that was there. The only downside of the pick up was the amount of time it took to get my packet, everything else was great. Had I been in a hurry to get out of there, perhaps my attitude might have been different.

Race Day

Like all races, I always try to get to events about 40 minutes before the scheduled gun time. This always allows for time to find parking, use the restroom, and any other needs such as warm-up time, etc. This half marathon like all my other races going until the Honda LA Marathon on March 17, is part of my training schedule. So along with the 13.1 miles of the race, I had to tack on some miles before and after to get my prescribed total of 16 miles for the day. The parking was very easy to get into and find a spot, so I had plenty of time to get a couple of miles in before the race where I ran the route starting from the finish line backwards towards the mile 12 marker to turn around.

During my warm-up, I was pleased to see that all of the event was pretty much set up and ready to go. At some other races, people tend to scramble to put people into place, mile markers aren’t set, and marshals or event officials frantically trying to figure things out. In fact during my warm up, volunteers where already in place by the mile 12 marker with water etc, when runners wouldn’t be come around for over an hour.

After my 2+ mile warm-up, I got myself together and  got into my “race” gear. Conveniently, the start line was near the parking lot, so there was no need for a gear drop station, where I would have to worry if my stuff would get lost or given to someone else by accident. I started to “toe” the line with a number of other runners. As I scanned the start area (and let’s be honest, all runners stare down the competition), I noticed that I might find an opportunity to “place” in today’s race. While we were given the final instructions before the start, a couple of us noticed, “hey it looks like there isn’t a lead cyclist around”. Yup, this was true, it was confirmed when we found out that the course was well marked and the cones would keep us on track.

I guess we would find out shortly, how well this course was marked… The horn went off and we were on our way for the 13.1 mile run. Within the first half of a mile, the top 5 runners were thrown a curveball when the cones went in a different direction. So the lead runner made a decision and we followed suit. Not only did we come across a chalked arrow on the road did we realize, “hey the arrow is pointed the wrong direction”, so we made a u-turn and sorted ourselves out. The problem here is that we now had to scramble in and out of the other runners who were originally behind us to get back to the front of the pack. Within the first mile the 5 of us, were able to find separation from most of the pack and get out away from scrambling through crowds and get into a rhythm.

The front end of the course took us through Historical Galt before we made our way into some of the neighborhoods and along side open fields and Highway 99. Mile markers were placed every 2 miles and there were plenty of flat roads to provide for some easy running especially in the neighborhoods. As the course made it’s way through the final 5 – 6 miles, we hit areas of 2 lane streets with very little shoulder space. The race did not close off streets but rather just coned off the shoulder space for running. Along these roads cars seemed to come pretty close behind us, as we ran on the right side of the road. Perhaps putting us on the opposite side would have been a safer option on areas where there was no traffic control volunteers.

Moving through the course in a decent pace, I was hitting 7:00/mile pretty consistently, but I wanted to test my legs out, so the final 4 miles I started to push the tempo a bit, knowing that the final 2 miles would give me a little hill to climb. Just before the mile 12 marker was a freeway overpass that had us go over Highway 99. The final 2 miles I was able to clock in at 13:00. As I started to make my way into the finish area of the Galt Fair Grounds, plenty of cheers welcomed the runners across the line. I crossed the line at an official time of 1:30:42.5 (6:55/mi). For this race my time was good enough to finish 4th overall, 3rd male, and 1st in my age group.

After crossing the line, I made my way to tack on the remaining distance to give me my total of 16 miles for the day as my cool down.

Post Race

the “bling”

While running my post race mile I realized, that I did’t get a finishers medal when I crossed the line. The website / registration did advertise a finishers medal for all half marathon participants. After realizing this, I made my way back to the finish and looked for a race official. I asked him if they didn’t have half marathon medals. He in fact said they did and they were all sitting in a box on a table near the finish. At this moment he realized no one was there handing them out to the finishers as they crossed the line.

While getting my half marathon bling (and all of you runners know you love that bling), I asked the race official about overall medals and age group winner awards. He mentioned that all of those award would be presented after the final runner crosses the finish line! … WAIT WHAT? So in other words, those who won overall male , female and age groups would have to wait nearly 2 and a half hours to get their awards. To me this does not make much sense, why not just give awards right after the top runners complete the race. I understand waiting a little bit, but not four hours after the start of the race.

the free photos

There was one thing that was provided at the finish that I found to be really interesting and cool about this race. Photos that were taken along the course by official race photographers were being printed and placed on a board for runners to see and take home with them. Well done by not making runners pay more money for photos! I know this is probably built into the cost of the race, but it makes me feel like I am getting something extra that other races over charge for! Along with the printed photos, runners were provided with a card with a website, so we could go home and download the photos for free as well from the race!

When I got home, I emailed On Your Mark Events to find out about the age group awards, and within moments I had a response, that they will be mailing my age group award to me. Credit to them, they are doing this.

Overall a fun route, some really good and well planned items like the photos and swag, but still some logistical and organizational fixes that need to be done. If this group can get this event a little more on track, I can see this race being a well supported local race. In fact, I will put this on my run again in 2014 list!

Did you run a race this weekend? If so, how did you do? If not, how did your training run go?

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