This was the 13th Annual Holiday Halfathon which is part of a starfish medal race series in the surrounding Clearwater Beach, FL area, held by Florida Road Races.
I drove down from Jacksonville and stayed with friends in Clearwater, about 20 minutes from the Start. It was a gorgeous mild and sunny afternoon, so we had lunch on the patio on the water, and had a visit with Santa! After a cold, but gorgeous sunset, we had a relaxing evening at the house. Unfortunately I spent the night tossing and turning and woke up feeling I barely slept.
This festive race is held on the barrier island of Madeira Beach and runs through Remington Shores, Indian Shores, with a huge part along the Pinellas Trail, a very straight, paved pedestrian trail that basically runs between the backs of peoples houses and some woods. This is an A to B course, starting at City Hall and finishing at Taylor Park where you do have a little bit off the pavement. It is a flat course with one small bridge over the water and 2 small overpasses on the Trail.
The first few miles are just a block from the ocean, but there is very limited views of the water between all the tall condo buildings.
Being an Out of Towner, parking was a little bit confusing and stressful. We asked several people questions for clarification, but still went to bed the night before a little worried. The website advised there were 2 public lots to park, which we checked out the day before. Both were not large enough to hold all the runners. The other option was provided in an email to park at the Finish and car pool to start, or call pool all together. Of course, being an out of Towner and not knowing locals, this was not a choice. At packet pick up we addressed out concerns, but the volunteers were from out of town as well and had no answer. We were warned in previous communications NOT to park at Winn Dixie (at the start line) as you would be towed. At packet pick up, we were told they 'may' let us, to follow Facebook for this to be addressed. It never was. Final response race morning was it was 'at your own risk.' Under FAQs we were told you could park at the library and softball field. We never found a softball field and the library lot was ridiculously tiny, so we passed it up and headed out extra early for the public paid lot.
Later, after paying for our paid spot, we learned people were parking in grass all around the starting area, as well as Winn Dixie. There really needs to be more organization around the parking situation. We ended up having to pay $10 for the day, and still came back to the machine 'out of order' that we couldn't extend our time as we had lunch in the same area.
The Starting area was in front of City Hall and only a short walk from public parking. There were tons of portal potties, so only a short line. They had a bag check, but it was basically just leaving your bag next to a sign with your bib number range. It would be the same at the finish. Not as secure as I would have liked, but they warned us of that. So I can't complain.
They had a 'Walkers Start' which was about 30 minutes before the race. I still don't understand why they would start them before the runners. I'm not fast enough for a big impact, but the fast runners had to do some weaving.
They had a man and woman National Anthem duet which was unique. All the while a pelican was soaring overhead looking for fish in the intercoastal water next to us. It was very peaceful.
There was no order to lining up, just place yourself where ever. My group lined up together closer to the front and wished each other luck.
I really was going into this race feeling like a PR. I hadn't PRd all year and it was time. To top it off, I had found my first sharks tooth ever, and thought it would bring me good luck. I was motivated and excited being with a group of friends and dressed in costume! I pushed myself for the first 3 miles, as I wanted to see if I could perform the same as I did for the Thanksgiving half (under 30). However, my Santa hat had me completely overheated quickly (I suddenly thought it was raining even though the sky was clear, but realized it was huge sweat beads dripping from my hat!) I felt okay until about M7. After that point, I felt like I was giving it my all, but the time just wasn't reflecting. I was exhausted. I could no longer see my friends and I felt defeated that I wouldn't PR again. I tried to just enjoy the day. It really was a perfect running day, but it was a bit of a mental struggle. The rest of the group did Fantastic! They had some PRs which made for a great celebration!
The stations were properly stocked, but all I could remember is they said there would be Florida Oranges at the stations, yet I only found 1 or 2 towards the end.
It was a festive finish line with huge Christmas wreaths, and Santa giving out the awards. The food line was fully stocked with pasta and meatballs as well as all sorts of snacks like fig Newton, pretzels, twizzlers, muffins, cookies, chips, bagels, bananas. Unlimited Michelob Ultra was provided with practically no line.
Pink buses took you from the Finish back to Start. It was definitely a good 20+ minute drive between the two. We waited to almost the end of the event before heading to the shuttle and there was still a line waiting for what seemed to be only 2 or 3 buses. We would have been fine, but as we finally got on a bus, the driver backed us off as they were 'full'. We then were told only '2' more. We were a group of 5, so let others go. Then the driver yells out '4 more!' WAIT, WHAT?! To top it off, he added even 2 more after those 6! The drivers definitely need counter devices to prevent grumpy, cold, wet, runners!!
Nice gender specific shirt without ugly sponsor logos all over the back!
Big, heavy, festive medals that really sparkle in the sunlight! The race name is a bit small, but at least there isn't ugly sponsor names plastered all over it.
The Clearwater Beach area is gorgeous and running in NFL this time of year is perfect. This is a great location for an extended relaxing weekend. I would highly suggest this race and I wouldn't mind checking out another one of the Florida Road Races events.
I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I race a half a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon to donate 100% proceeds to breast cancer research and care. (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support. Www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson