When I found out we’d be moving to Austin, I wanted to jump in and experience the city, so I quickly signed up for the Austin Half Marathon! This time last year, I was knee-deep in marathon training. After finishing the marathon in April, I decided to focus on half marathons for awhile. My fall race was (sadly) cancelled. After running a “virtual race” to earn my medal, I wanted to keep working to get better, so when I finally got to run a real race again, the victory was that much sweeter.
I trained hoping to a.) improve my overall time and b.) stick with a schedule more consistently. When the Austin Half Marathon weekend rolled around, I felt more confident and prepared.
Pre-race (jitters and all)
From signing up to packet pickup, the pre-race process was a breeze and well organized. The race admission fee was not extremely steep, considering it is a large race in the city. I also saw consistent updates and emails on social media in the month/weeks leading up to the event.
One aspect that drew me to the Austin Half was that they had a large expo. The expo took place at the Palmer Events Center on both a Friday and Saturday, which was accommodating for runners that were traveling and Austin residents. Paid parking is available, but the line to get in is quite long – you’ll get there faster by parking elsewhere and walking.
The expo was expansive, with a variety of vendors and local running companies. When I went, there was a Q&A session taking place with the race ambassadors, and several other presentations were scheduled for the day (including live music). It was even dog-friendly! If I had known that, I totally would have brought my beloved pooch.
Checking in was a simple, efficient process. The swag was also surprisingly good – a nice tech shirt and drawstring backpack that I think I will actually use (marathoners were gifted an even sweeter one-shoulder bag). Then, thanks to a handy pamphlet, parking and finding the start line the next day were a piece of cake.
After taking my place at the start line in the appropriate corral, the gun went off promptly at 7 a.m. for both races. The corrals were not strict; we were instructed to gather ’round the appropriate marathon pacer, and everyone gradually funneled through the starting line into the course. The start line was crowded, but all the participants were evenly dispersed into the course, making navigation
The 13.1-mile course was basically uphill or downhill at any moment – steady incline for the first 3 miles, then a steady downhill for 3 more… some flat-ish miles and then rolling hills to finish off the race. The hills at the end aren’t nearly as long – pretty short in fact – but boy, are they steep! I advise training on hills (especially if you’re coming from somewhere like Houston). The positive for me was that I didn’t face the knee aggravation that sometimes follows me on flatter surfaces. The final hills were a challenge, but there was a crowd to keep me going. Below, I’m breezing through the downhill halfway point.
My favorite part of the half marathon was the energy! The scenery was the epitome of “Keep Austin Weird.” And there were random bands on the sides of the course playing music – after all, Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. There was no shortage of spectators, either, and the pamphlet from my packet even pointed out where spectators could spot runners at multiple points. Seeing my husband a couple of times was a nice surprise (usually he sees me off at the start line and catches me at the finish).
My one complaint was there were not nearly enough porta potties. I’ve been to races with far more on the course… and I had to result to drastic measures as a result of my over-hydration (oops).
I ambitiously hoped to clock in at under 2:20 if everything went perfectly, but, alas, it didn’t. My secondary goal was to finish under 2:24 (sub-11 minute miles) and to push myself through the water stations/not walk too long. I’m proud that I did accomplish both of those goals, despite my 5 minute detour. I crossed the finish in 2:21:59 – shaving almost 10 minutes off my PR (personal record) of 2:31:34! So, yeah, it’s possible to do well on a challenging course, and hard work still pays off, even if race day doesn’t go as planned. The finish line was totally surreal; it was very professional (and it made me feel as if I was crossing the finish of a much larger race… but maybe that’s because one of the marathon winners crossed at the same time I did, haha!).
Post Race Party
There really wasn’t much of a post-race party. You can bring a water bottle to fill up, or you can drink water from little sippy cups. Supposedly, this effort reduces waste – typical of Austin – but I found it inconvenient. They have runner food (mini bagels, chips, bananas, etc.). You can have your photo taken, but you’ll have to pay for the proof later if you want a copy. Then, it’s time to venture outside of a designated runner area to meet your people. I found the PR gong in one of the few vendor booths, and there is a food truck area where you can pay for food, but that’s really about it. Nothing too special… My husband and our friends high tailed it to our favorite pancake spot, Kerbey Lane, and that was that.
(Me and my friend Andrea, pre-pancakes!)
Overall, the Austin Half Marathon provides a tour of the sights that make Austin uniquely Austin. It would be a fun race to travel for, and if you’re up for the hills, I’d recommend it!
Cheers to setting new records in a new city!