We are back at home. We got home last night, much later than originally planned but we made it. I had the migraine of all migraines last night so I didn’t really feel up to writing a post. But as promised, here is the recap and review of the Sal Half Marathon in Sarasota!
On Sunday, December 1st, I ran the Sal Half Marathon through Palmer Ranch. Formerly known as the Pal Half Marathon, this race first debuted in 2010 and has grown steadily since that time. This race is a half marathon but also offers a relay half marathon for two-person teams. With strong support from the Manasota Track Club and sponsored by Fit2Run, this race is number 10 in the 2013 MTC/New Balance Race Series.
This race benefits the Sheriff’s Activities League. The mission of SAL is to provide area youth with safe, experiential educational opportunities which allows them to explore the many diverse aspects of the community, while developing positive relationships with law enforcement.
While this is a smaller race with only around 300 runners it still packs a punch in the way of extras. It’s also very affordable.
Starting with packet pick up, everything about this race is extremely well organized and efficient. Because this race is located closer to my vacation house, MacGyver and I decided to stay in Venice for the weekend. I picked up my race packet on Saturday afternoon from the YMCA, located within a mile of the actual race course but the race organizers offered 4 pick-up dates at the Fit2Run store In Sarasota and you could also pick up your race pack the morning of the race. When I got my race pack, there was no one in line and the volunteers were extremely friendly, explaining the race course to me; and they filled me in on all the particulars, including where I needed to report to the next morning. I found this very helpful since I am not all that familiar with the area. The race pack was filled with coupons, some great skin care items from one of the sponsors, and the long sleeve tech tee was pretty cool as well.
The next morning we arrived at the race start at 6:15am. With a start time of 7am there was plenty of time to visit the port a potty and make my way to the start. I noticed a few people picking up their race packs that morning with no delay at all, and the race organizers allowed runners to pick them up all the way up to 6:30.
Once I made my way to the start line, I noticed that the runners were well spread out and there were pacers from the Fit2Run store. I positioned myself between the 1:45 and 2:00 pacer but I could have gone back further and it wouldn’t have mattered, because as I mentioned, the runners were well spread out and we all had plenty of room to run around each other if need be.
The start of this race is near the Costco Parking lot and the Mall. I loved that because it felt very open and roomy. After the singing of the National Anthem, we were off. The race started a few minutes after 7am. Soon after starting we entered our first neighborhood and right off the bat I knew I was going to love this race. Homeowners of each neighborhood that we ran through actually came to the ends of their driveways to give us high fives and cheer us on. It was awesome and I loved it. I cannot even begin to describe to you how cool it was to have a cheering crowd along 80% of the course, but that is exactly what happened.
I don’t remember much about the roads or miles for the first 10 miles of this race because I was just running along and having a blast talking to the residents and cutting up with some of the spectators, one of which even offered me a corona, (I declined, but I didn’t want to) but I can tell you that the race flew by.
Once we entered the Legacy Trail, it was almost over. We only had 3 more miles to go. I ran a steady pace and just tried to soak it all in. I wore my Garmin but I never looked at it. Not once. I had decided going in to this race that I was racing to have a good time and that’s exactly what I did.
As we left the Legacy Trail we entered the last subdivision on the course. Again, it was packed with spectators and homeowners just cheering us on. We rounded the corner to finish up back near the mall
where visions of shopping bags danced in my head.
My time: 2:05:16. The medals are star shaped and look sort of like a sherrif’s badge. I like em. I wore mine all day, and I felt sort of like Barney Fife, MacGyver even gave me one bullet but he made me take it off later that afternoon when I suggested I could pull people over.
(After the race, I went back and looked at all the miles on my Garmin. I ran the first part of the race in 58 minutes and had I held that pace, which felt like a fairly easy pace, and had I not stopped to speak to homeowners in the second half, I probably would have gotten that sub 2).
Running into the finish area was really cool because they actually called out everyone’s name and all the people cheered for you. I was giving everyone my surfer pose because that’s how this chick rolls across the finish line, and I was having so much fun.
But one of the best parts of this race was the after party. As a runner, you get used to the after party and the food they serve, the D.J., and the awards ceremony; but the after party isn’t always spectator and family friendly. I totally get this, but when you pay a lot of money for a race and you bring your family out to celebrate, you really want them to be able to experience all of it with you. And at the Sal Half Marathon, they can.
First off, the food, holy bagels trucks and barbeque, the food was awesome. They had tables full of bagels, a table full of hot dogs, a table of bananas and oranges, a table with cinnamon buns, vanilla and red velvet cupcakes, a cheese table, and a barbeque vendor in his truck serving pulled pork sandwiches! Of all the half marathons I’ve run, this was the best food spread, hands down!
The best part of was that family was encouraged to eat and join in on the celebration so you can just imagine how excited MacGyver was. Normally we leave as soon as the race is over, but I had a hard time dragging him out of there over an hour later!
The race organizers also give out prizes to the top runners overall, and the top 6 in each division, yes, I said 6! I know, pretty awesome, right? Except that those runners are fast. While there were no outstanding first place finishes in the 1:15, 1:20 or even 1:25 range, I thought most of the runners were fairly speedy. I usually place at least somewhere in the top 50% of runners in my age group if not a bit higher, but in this race, of the 20 runners in my division, I placed 13th. The top 10 runners all finished with sub 2’s! Ahmazing.
I didn’t see all of the awards ceremony, because I was a little busy scoring some pulled pork sandwiches but I did notice that they gave out Tervis Tumblers and gift certificates for one hour massages.
Overall, I give this race 10. If you don’t mind smaller, local races this is one race that should definitely be on your schedule next year! And do you know what else? I’ll be there too!
Did you run a race this weekend? Was it well organized? Did you have fun?