At the end of October and into the first week of November, my boyfriend Ben and I took a much-needed vacation to Florida and then got on a cruise. While the cruise itself seemed to be more stressful than relaxing since we were involved with a wedding party, we are really glad to have gotten a few days beforehand in Florida to check out the National Parks.
Also while we were there, I decided to check off a state in my 50 states running goal. I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon the morning of the day we were getting on the cruise.
The night before, I tried to relax a bit and not stress about the race the next morning. Ben was off on a bachelor party with the other groomsmen and I planned my outfit and tried to get to sleep was the band outside the window played on into the night.
I woke up for the race just shortly after the groomsmen were done with their night out. I got dressed in my “costume,” dressing up like one of my high school runners I coach. Since I already knew I would be unable to attend State before the season even started due to the Cruise Wedding, and I told the girls team that if they qualified, I would dress like them at my race. I did as promised, braids and everything, and I think I did pretty well!
The race was set to start before the sun rose, and for good reason, as it usually gets pretty warm, even this time of the year. I hailed an Uber to go to the race while others climbed in their awaiting cars to go home. #runnerslife. I made my way to the starting line and joined in with all the costume glad runners to wait until the whistle was blown.
Overall – 4/5 – I did enjoy this race for the most part. I could really see the locals having a blast at this event with all their friends and spectators cheering them on. A few things took away from my general experience; some race management related and some personal, as described further on. However, I did love the theme, the participation by the racers as most people dressed up, and the support along the course.
T-shirt/swag – 4/5 – The shirt was high quality and fit well. The artwork was fun, I just didn’t like the BIG plastic feeling of the sublimation. The medals were HUGE and had a unique Halloween design.
Aid Stations – 5/5 – They were great! Each one had water and Gatorade. There was one about every mile with plenty of volunteers.
Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty – 5/5 – The course was easy with only one tiny hill. It was fun to run along the bridge where the cruise ships were pulling right into port. After the bridge, you wound around to a concrete and boardwalk trail that was along the beach with beautiful views as the sun rose.
Expo Quality – 1/5 – If that. There was not a real big expo beforehand (like those of Rock n’ roll and such), but even at the finish line, there was barely anything except the food. Now, I didn’t go to the after party that was at the local bar, so maybe there were some booths and vendors there. For most people, this probably isn’t a low point, but I like expos and booths to see new running gadgets/trends and the local businesses.
Parking/Access – 3/5 – I stayed at a hotel right in Miami Beach. It was about two miles from the finish line and about 4 miles to the start line. They did have good instructions for parking on their website and in emails as well as a shuttle service from the finish area to the starting line (and vice-versa). I had already returned our rental car the night before (on purpose) and took an Uber to the finish area to catch the shuttle. I’m glad I did it this way because the Uber car would have gotten stuck in traffic trying to get me to the starting line.
When the bus dropped us off, we had a tiny walk to the starting line. Now, the starting line was right outside a parking garage that was open for parking. People were warming up and waiting in the chute while cars were driving in. SUPER DANGEROUS! There were a few police officers just telling cars to turn into the garage but no other way to block cars from runners. I found it super curious the way they had an open lane of traffic next to so many racers. I know people aren’t driving fast, but still!
Race Management – 3/5 – This is where I get to be the pickiest and only because I am a race director myself and notice things that not everyone notices. In addition to the parking/access situation, there were a few other things that took away points from this rating. First, I read online and in the emails that there was a bag drop. I had brought a bag that I placed my small jacket and my cell phone in. Upon getting to the start line, I could not figure out where the bag drop was. I couldn’t even see any booths for registration tents and there were no signs or any sort of communication. I asked the DJ, other runners and the kids at the water station. No one knew. I was starting to get concerned I’d have to run with my phone with nowhere to put it (my costume shorts did not have pockets). Finally, I overheard someone say they got their bib in the parking garage. To get there, the ONLY way to get there, I had to cross traffic, while police yelled at me to stay out of the way, walking alongside driving cars pulling into the parking lot, and around the corner were the tables for registration and alas… the bag drop!
That was a huge thing that made me give lower marks to the race management. Second, was just the advanced packet pick up. There were a couple of location and date options, and I chose the one that was closest to our hotel the day before the race. For a non-Miami beach resident, the traffic is HORRENDOUS. We had a hard time finding the Dick’s Sporting Goods store even with the navigation on my phone. Then once inside the store, there was no employee or race person directing us to where to get my stuff (which was way in the back of the store). I would recommend investing in a lot more signage for ALL areas of their race from packet pick up to race morning.
And the third reason I score this part pretty low is that I had emailed the race directors about a month before the race to ask a question. I never got a response and found my answer, not on the website, but searching the visitor posts section of their facebook page.
MY RACE – 3.5/5 – I’m super frustrated with my personal race. I didn’t really have any goals except, always in the back of my mind, I have a sort-of goal. You know how it is. This time, my sort-of goal was to finish around two hours. Now, I wasn’t really doing any specific half marathon training but I was running with the cross country team I coached and hiking long miles for my 10hikes.com job. I actually felt pretty fit.
I started off with a 2-hour pace group and was keeping up just fine. I felt good! I wasn’t struggling to stay with them, the pace felt great and the pace group leader was very nice. It was around mile 3 that I started noticing the dreaded chafing. Dun, dun dunnnn……..
Now, I’m aware that this does, in fact, happen in humidity. I’m not a completely naive Coloradan that’s used to the dry climate. However, I totally thought the shorts I was wearing for my “costume” were plenty long enough. Oh boy was I wrong and oh man did it HURT. I had 10 more miles. TEN.
So, I did what I could, constantly pulling down my shorts, looking completely foolish, praying that my thong wasn’t showing in the back and pretty convinced I looked like Burt in Mary Poppins.
I was altering my running form to try and avoid the chaffing (unsuccessfully). This led to really sore muscles and back for the following couple of days. I was kicking myself for my outfit and not bringing any “glide.” I was super upset that I felt so good cardio wise and couldn’t finish right with that pace group!
I managed to finish just seconds under a 2:15. Which put me at 12/59 in my age group. After checking the results, and wondering what I would have placed had it not been for the chafing, I decided not to go to the after party and called an Uber to bring me back to my hotel. No way was I walking the short two miles with caffing legs. I still have scars.
Besides all the running stuff, I think one of the most memorable parts of the race is that right after I dropped my stuff in the bag drop, I came out of the parking garage to see a HUGE cruise ship coming into port. It was looming over the bridge that the race was queuing up on. It was enormous, beautifully lit up and sure enough, I saw the words, “The Escape” painted on the side. That was the boat I was going to be getting on later! It was pretty intimidating to a newbie cruise goer that wasn’t so sure about the whole idea.
After the race and returning to my hotel room, I showered, packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We caught a ride to the cruise ship and I hobbled around the decks in my new Halloween Half T-Shirt.