Sunday, October 24, 2010
Race Review: Soaring Wings Half Marathon
Location: Conway, Arkansas
Date: 23 Oct 2010
Race Packet Pickups: There were 3 race packet pick-ups - on a Thursday and Friday at a local running supply shop and on the morning of the race itself. I went and picked up my packet on Friday. It was effortless. You sign next to your name. They wrote your bib number and shirt size down. You go to the shirt people and they gave you your shirt, and down to the disposable chip person who grabbed your chip. She has a pair of shoes up and showed you how to put your timing chip on.
Race Morning: Apart from a little confusion about the corrals, there was nothing major. They can definitely have a clearly marked sign/pace for each corral, so people will know where to go. After the first "elite" group started, there was a 2-minute wait before the next group started. I thought it was good. We started with a prayer. I am no a Christian but this race benefits a Christian ranch (Soaring Wings) for orphans and abused children, so I thought it was appropriate. Then, a lady sang the Star-Spangled Banner and it was really good. I had a little goosebumps on my arms. I am not an American but man, at that point, I thought, "You Americans need to be proud of your country!"
The Course: It was made up of 2 loops - a smaller loop which leads you back to the start and a bigger loop. You run around a beautiful golf course and the residential area of that golf course. Pretty pretty houses. I enjoy driving around pretty neighborhood to look at their lawns and stuff. So, if you enjoy houses with awesome curb appeal, you may actually love this.
Prepare for rolling hills. Yes. There were lots of rolling hills. Not exactly difficult. Not steep. No, those hills don't slap right at your face. They were more of a gentle, sometimes long, hills.
The Volunteers: It was great. There were drinks stations at approximately every 1.5 miles - usually before a hill. There were a lot of kids working the drinks station. And they were on top of their game! Then there were kids with adults at some intersections and giving "hi-fives." It was great seeing all the kiddos out there working and supporting the runners. It makes me persevere because I can't let those kids down. There was a Gu station with all flavors you can imagine at Mile #6. The volunteers (kids and adults) were shouting out what they have in their hands. "Gatorade here, water up front" "Gu up front" There was no confusion. I knew exactly where I had to go to get what I needed. At Mile 9 or 10, there were gummi bears. I love gummi bears.
The Spectators: Grandfathers and grandmothers were sitting outside in their front lawns watching, and making lots of noise with their spatulas and pots. Parents brought their kids out and were cheering. The kids stood in line and clapped and cheered and gave hi-fives to runners. A few families were blasting their car stereos with upbeat music. They brought along motivational signs. They made happy jokes about running. They have their kids doing those fantastic gymnastic moves like continuous back flips and what-not in their front lawns. They screamed and shouted and cheered. There was no lack of support. Small town support is genuine and sweet.
The End: The announcers (I believed there were two) were calling out runners' names and towns they are from as the runners crossed the finished lines. Then there were more volunteers and kids handing out medals to the finishers. There were oranges, bananas, water, Gatorades, pizza and I believe hot dogs. There were plenty of food. I didn't grab any but water and a wedge of orange. And then I left. :)
Accommodations: I booked a room at a local Microtel. It is a no frills motel kinda thing and it was adequate. I didn't pay a lot for it, probably $50 a night before tax. It was under 10 minutes to the race venue. It has a McAllister right next to the motel. A Wal-mart behind it. Easily accessible to the interstate. I felt safe. It was clean. It has breakfast when I was down at the lobby at about 6:30 a.m., so I grabbed a muffin for after the race. The check out time was noon, so I had time to finish my run and return to the room to take a shower.
Will I Do This Again: Yes I will. I will do this again.