Wednesday, December 12

Race report: Holiday Half Marathon in Point Clear, AL

Disclaimer: Any lack of enthusiasm in this post is entirely the fault of yours truly. This race was as well-organized as any I've ever run.

The Holiday Half Marathon in Point Clear, Alabama was a back-to-basics runner's dream. Simple. Well-organized. INEXPENSIVE ($25!!!). T-shirts were optional both as part of race-swag (an extra $5 savings) and among the runners. (Hey, y'all, it was hot out there!)

Organized by the Port City Pacers, the Holiday Half Marathon felt like a long and well-supported group run with a formal finish line. As I said when I registered, more races should be like this race.

The start:
Because the race was small (fewer than 250 people by my best estimate) the event felt very laid-back. Organizers provided a light breakfast (coffee, juice, cookies, bananas) for those who like to eat and run.
Smiling at the finish line... before the race.
Parking was plentiful, as long as you don't mind parallel parking your car so the passenger side covers half of a sidewalk. (It felt wrong to park on the sidewalk, but police were directing people to park this way.)

And the most important pre-race detail: Lines for the port-o-lets were longish but fast-moving.
The starting line
The small-town-est touch about this race was the starting ceremony.

Runners lined up to a chalk line on the road. A shirtless runner waved a dime-store flag above his head while another man held a cassette player and megaphone aloft to broadcast the national anthem to the small crowd. Unorthodox, sure. But effective.

The bad:
Oh, the humidity!
Pre-race: fog over Mobile Bay
But hot-and-humid weather is not the Port City Pacers' fault. In fact, I overheard other runners mention that last year's Holiday Half was freezing cold. (Why couldn't I have run last year???)

My only minor quibble with course support is that the gatorade at aid stations was awful. Either some volunteer mixed the drink so it was horribly watered-down, or organizers bought the zero-calorie junk. (Um... I'm running 13 miles here. Give me a little sugar!)

But there were plenty of aid stations and the race cost me a mere $20 (I skipped the t-shirt), so that's the closest I'm getting to a complaint.

The good:
Despite my complaining about the weather, the simple T-shaped course pancake flat. It was also beautiful. Once the morning fog lifted, the sky was brilliant blue (which also meant that half of the course was baking in the sun, but I digress...)
View over Mobile Bay from the race-course at about mile 12
Skirting the edge of Mobile Bay, the route offered occasional sweeping views over the water, and plenty of scenery from swampy saltwater marshes. (I think swampy marshes are beautiful, but then again, I choose to live here...) On a non-race day I'm sure there would have been plenty of egrets, armadillos, and ospreys to watch. Unfortunately 200 sweaty, smelly, stomping runners probably scared away most of the local wildlife.
Mullet Point Park in Point Clear, AL
Mullet Point Park (named for the fish, not the hairstyle) was the starting line, finish line, and post race party venue. Big enough to fit runners, family, and friends, the park was shady, uncrowded, and offered spectacular views over Mobile Bay.
Post-race view over Mobile Bay as seen from Mullet Point Park

The finish:
Race times were clock time, not chip timed. But in a race this small does it really matter? My stopwatch and the race clock were virtually identical.
Finish line
The post race feast featured pizza, soda, chips, cookies, bananas, beer, and gatorade. While my stomach does not take kindly to heavy food immediately after a run, the pizza seemed to be a hit with everyone else.
Post-race pizza party
(I filled up, instead, on a huge omelette, biscuit, french toast, coffee, and orange juice at a cafe down the road in Fairhope. What can I say? Breakfast is better than pizza.)

Proof that I had a bad run:
I completely ignored the keg of post-race beer. Instead I downed sugary soft drinks - my first soda in... 5 years? 10? Then I took off my shoes, and walked/hobbled sock-shod back to the car.

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