Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Empire State Marathon and Half Race Review

Or alternatively titled: A Tale on How to Organize a Race.
On Oct 16, 2011 I ran the inaugural Empire State Half Marathon in Syracuse, NY. I PR’d my half marathon time by 6 and half minutes from my previous time set in June 2011, for a final finish time of 2:30:12 – just shy of my B goal from my previous post.
I’m going to start by reviewing the race itself- my personal performance and reflections on this race and training cycle will be reserved for a separate post.
For the first year of this race I was totally impressed with how well the whole thing went. Even if it had been the 50th year of this race the whole experience was just so superbly put together.  Registration was a breeze, the medals are super nice, the atmosphere was great, their facebook presence and emails were super personal. Just wonderful overall.
They had a weekend-long expo that had approximately 20 vendors there. This was super exciting to me because none of the other races I’ve been to had a “real” expo! They also had lecturers at the expo and the pasta dinner (which I didn’t go to). But seriously, pulling all that together on the first year of a race? awesome. The bib pickup was perfectly painless, the tees were long-sleeved TECH shirts! Awesome. They also had cotton tees for sale. And goodie bags full of fun stuff!!
Race day: The marathon started a half hour before the half. I got there early enough to see the marathoners (and marathon relayers) take off. I stood around with my dad, absorbing the race day atmosphere. I heard the bathrooms were super nice, though I didn’t use them (I should have.) I ran into Sara just before the start so we were able to start off together. The weather was perfect! sunny, cool, and no wind! There had been a wind advisory until 7pm the night before, so we were worried about the wind along the lake course – but no worries!
The course was super super flat. The water stops were decently planned out, and manned. There were a LOT of portapotties along the half marathon course – always room to stop (why didn’t I? I had to pee the whole race). They handed out water, some sort of gatorade or vitamin water, and gels at most of the water stops.
One of the most awesome things about finishing this race (besides the fab medals) was the sponsorship they secured with byrne dairy – bottles of chocolate milk right after the finish line! There was tons of food and water at the finish too. A real celebratory atmosphere at the finish!
There were a few things I did not like about the race:
1. A general pet peeve: the  course was long by .2 miles. In this day in age of garmins etc, I just don’t understand courses that are measured long. But that’s more just me – I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.(**Update: This first complaint was written before I came to the realization that wrist Garmin's aren't freaking magical. They work on tangents, not perfection. The course is certified, its exactly a half marathon. My apologies for being a run-douche).
2. The first water stop was just after mile 1. That was too soon (though it was well placed for the way back), but the next water stop wasn’t until just after mile 4. That’s too far. I skipped the first water stop because I didn’t need water a mile in. But my mile 4 I was in real need – that giant gap also sucked on the way back.
3. The turn around. The turn around for the half marathon veered off of the paved path in Onondaga Lake Park to an unpaved path – this in itself is fine. However, it was very narrow and very congested. You couldn’t pass anyone without running into “oncoming traffic.” Granted, this wasn’t a very long stretch of the course, but it was a bit irritating.
4. Miles 9-13. Not just because they were miles 9-13, but there were virtually NO spectators. when you’re coming down the parkway, and the bridge just isn’t getting any closer some spectators would help in curbing the creeping fear that you’re certifiably insane for doing this to yourself. This could easily be solved by putting in another water stop somewhere in there. Two birds, one stone.
That’s really it. The finish line volunteers were fantastic. I am one of those people who is incapable of making basic decisions (besides finding water) after running a half marathon, so when some volunteer swooped out of no where to “crown me” (hehe) with my medal I was most appreciative. In the park, for the most part, there were tons of spectators and it was awesome. I was really truly impressed with how well this race came together, especially considering they got a turn out of about 2500 runners in their first year! Spectacular race, and a spectacular running community.
Way to go Empire State Marathon and Half!!


LawGirl said...

I agree that they did a great job with this race, especially for the first year. I agree that they should add a water stop between miles 1 and 4, especially for on the way back. I didn't mind the tight squeeze of the turnaround so much because I was super excited to watch for people I knew.

Even though it was really well done, I don't think I'd do this race again. I need more spectators, especially in those last miles, and the location of this race just doesn't allow for it.

Admittedly, one of my favorite parts was starting the race with my best friend.

Carrie said...

i ran this race too. i did the full, and the race itself was awesome. but never again a full for me. that was craziness. i do love the half distance though and will definitely be at Empire doing the half next year!!