This was the 31st Annual Distance Classic Half Marathon held in Jacksonville Florida. It is a long running tradition for this Thanksgiving Day race, which has been sponsored by different groups. Currently it is Subaru and 1st Place Sports. There is a half marathon as well as a 6k. (I have yet to figure out why it is 6 and not 5k)
This is a very simple type of race, as most 1st Place Sports races are. There is no glitz or glam about their races. But then again, the registration prices reflect that as well. I took advantage of their 'test drive a Subaru' deal and got in the half for only $15!! You really cant complain about that! Unfortunately that is one of the only few things I cant complain about for this race.
So doing the Subaru test drive (which was a very simple and painless process, as long as you don't mind follow endless emails and phone calls asking you to buy a new car), I was forced to register by a tiny piece of paper and was told to drop it off at 1st Place Sports. I headed right over to the running shop, paper in hand, and the non customer service oriented teenage punk at the register instructed me that 'all registrations HAD to be done online' and waved me over to a computer to start typing. So I start filling out my now Second Registration form. Almost finished I asked what promo code I used for the test drive, and he then proceeds to tell me they have to enter the registration form for the test drives, not me on the computer. SMH....3rd registration form is a charm right? ...we'll see...
There is a Facebook page for 1st Place Sports, but not so much hype or communication the weeks leading up to the race, since they are involved in so many other races and events around town. There was no email communication except the week of the race, which had very limited info (no bib info, and basically just directed you to see their website). I went online to check my confirmation and bib number and low and behold, my name is not there. By a quick response from Facebook (kudos) they advised my name was misspelled with 3 s's. Ok, simple human error I guess, but still it provided a mini panic attack.
PACKET PICK UP
Since 1st Place Sports has multiple locations across the large Jacksonville city, you have your choice of picking up your packet at any location, or race morning, you just put your selection on your registration form. I of course, choice Jax Beach because it is practically across the street from where I live. So I arrive and low and behold, was told it was at another location. Seriously? So I got to leave empty handed and had to rework my evening/morning plans to make sure I arrived with extra time to spare on waiting in line in the cold in the morning. Not a happy camper.
The only instructions for parking was the shopping center of Pickwick Plaza. Unfortunately, once the navigation system got me there, I realized that lot was actually the starting area and there was no parking. Already in the left turning lane into that center, I realized most people were parking across the street at another shopping center. Unfortunately no one was directing anyone, not even the 2 cops standing partially in the intersection. The turning lanes were backing up, and there was no way I would be able to get across the street easily. After a few loops around the only small lot on that side of the street, I finally decided to jump the curb and park in a small patch of grass and squeeze under a tree, which I scratched the hood of my car to fit into.
Luckily I got to the packet pick up line with only about 5 people ahead of me. Unfortunately there were about 8 boxes of bibs with only 2 people working them, and it seemed everyones numbers were in the same box! What should have taken about 5 minutes took over 20 min. I grabbed my bag and headed back to the car to warm up and put on my bib, except they didn't put the pins in the bag!
So back into the cold I go. Oh hell no, im not standing in what is now a 30 person deep line. I warn everyone in line to ask for pins, and skipped to the front to grab what I needed. What was included in the packet bag?....last seasons local magazine (yep, advertising races and events that already passed) and a handful of flyers.
So now I am fully dressed, bibbed up, selfie taken, I put on my Shuffle and try to test it out (since Ive had issues the past several races) and of course it doesn't work. ARGH! Its ok, I really am used to running without music. But the question was, could I PR without music?? (The weather was definitely PR weather ~50degrees).
I sucked it up, and back to the starting area to find the porta potties. Except, where the heck were they?? Finally I saw.... all FIVE of them!! WHAT?! Ok, whew, no, theres a sign that says more this way. But wait?...Why would they put all 50 of them right BEHIND the shopping center in such an incredibly small space between the building the porta potties? There was absolutely no space to create lines. People were creating one unnecessary line to get to 50 porta potties, when all the ones in the middle were open!
Heading to the Starting Line, I search everywhere for my friends, but without luck. I put myself at the 9minute pace flag. Unfortunately there were no Pacers.
The starting time was delayed a few minutes. The National Anthem was sang....well, played....with a mechanical error at the last verse. Everyone looked around for minute. All I could think was recently in the news at a Canadian hockey game, the same thing happened and the Canadians just sang out loud and finished it. So I started singing and the people around me did too. I don't think it was as moving. Oh well.
The course is good, im not going to lie about that. Its very pretty with huge mossy trees that overhang the street. We run practically next to the river most of the course through neighborhoods, but of course all the mansions block the view. I think we had one glimpse of the river the entire course. The 6k and half run together and then split off. Before we started, there was a warning about the opposite turns for each course. Im going to give it to them, there was a pretty tall sign right in the middle of the road that said 6k this way, half this way. However, there must have been AT LEAST 10 people that I saw do a turn around, even up to the next mile or 2 after the sign. And that was just in my pace. Obviously, they have had this happen in previous years if there was a warning at start. Obviously, that sign is still not working. Why not put signs on the SIDES of the street as well?? Why not put cones out that make the two separate lanes? Why not put chalk writing on the street, so when those looking down while running can see it too?? Why not have different courses or start times??
The hydration stations were well stocked and manned except for one at about M9. The course took you by this station twice. There were 2 tables on each side of the street, but there were only about 6 volunteers. There were no cups ready. Unfortunately this was also the gel station, but you didn't realize it unless you saw the box sitting there on the table. I believe it was a Poweraid gel. I have no idea what flavor it was, but I seriously asked the person next to me if they thought it tasted like tequila as well!
There were a good amount of spectators out, as the course takes you through neighborhoods. You were constantly being told Happy Thanksgiving which was fun, and some people were even dressed up.
I felt really strong the first few miles. I had planned to run the first 6 without stopping, but I actually ended up blazing through the first 3 a lot faster than expected. When I looked at my Garmin at M1 and it said 9:05, I knew I had to push it for the next 2miles to try to break 30min for the first time ever! I officially ran 28:53!! Im so ecstatic, except there wasnt a 5k mat to record it!! (they did have a 10k mat....weird to have 1 and not the other). My Garmin records every mile for me, so to record 3.1 (5k), I had to press the lap button to record it, then lap again at M4 to get me back on course recording every mile. Except somehow I ended up stopping the Garmin all together. I didn't realize this until after about 3 minutes or so. So the rest of the course my timing and distance was completely off and I was constantly doing calculations in my head (which ended up not being right). I did the run 3minutes, walk 30seconds from M4 until about M8, then I went down to 2min:30sec. Im not going to lie, pushing it for the first 3 miles really took it out of me. Around M10 or 11, I had calculated that there was no way I was going to PR, so I kinda gave up on the hopes and dropped to 1min:30sec. When all was said and done and calculated, I actually was only 12 seconds off from a PR!! I could really kick myself for giving up at the end. But im still happy for my 5k time!
I crossed the finish, grabbed my medal and water, and was looking for a beer. It was after all a day of celebration. I saw people with mimosas, I saw people with beer bottles. I did not however, see any table handing any of that out! I was told by someone, that since Subaru took over, they stopped serving alcohol! WHAT?! If I didn't have plans to go to the Petes street party, I would have really been disappointed. But I did, so I grabbed the banana, muffin, and crackers they were passing out and I hightailed it out of there!
We received a gender specific tech shirt, which finally had the first glimpse of the holiday spirit. However, it was this strange shade of grey, that is almost green in the light.Also, the screen print is one of the worst quality I have seen. There were several 'cuts' in the print, as well as 'bubble's.
The medal is one of the most disappointing I have seen. I guess because, again, Where's the Turkey?? One would think doing a Holiday race, there would be something involved on the medal with that Holiday. It really is a generic medal and has little to do with anything except the sponsor and race names.
There was a TON of free photos loaded on 1st Place Sports Facebook page. Which is a huge plus. However, there wasn't much organization of them, distinguishing between half and 6k.
There were also the usual overpriced photos for sale by Speedy Banana, organized by bib numbers on their website.
I am extremely disappointed all around with this race. Would I do it again? Probably not. I really signed up for this race for a little healthy Holiday spirit. However, there was very little to make it feel that way.
I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. On my journey, I race a half marathon a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon where 100% proceeds goes 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