Decker Challenge: a Hill of a Race

At the bottom of a really tough hill, looking up, you may question why you run. That point may also come halfway up, as your muscles scream for mercy. But the reason people do it is because of the feeling of finally making it to the top. The pain subsides, you can see for miles and you realize the downhill is going to feel incredible.

Apparently, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon is known for some punishing hills.

You may be surprised to know that after running the third race in the Distance Challenge series, I can confidently say it’s one of the first races you should try in Austin.

Don’t let the hills intimidate you – the race was truly designed by and for runners of all levels.

Here’s why:

  • There were reasonable hills. Everyone gets to the point where the same routes become too familiar and they want more of a challenge out of running. The course was a reasonable challenge, because only a couple of hills were really that steep. The course didn’t have steep, short hills back-to-back, so it felt much easier to pace yourself.
    • I ran a 5K in under 30 minutes – a personal record for me regardless of the race – so a PR is possible.
  • The course doesn’t get too packed. There are only about 1,000 runners in the field. The start line is always a little packed, but the crowd spreads out a little bit after about half a mile or so.
  • The post-race party was easy to navigate. The wait is 10 minutes for a free massage, there was no line for the photo backdrop and there were plenty of snacks. It was awesome!
  • There were a good amount of water stations, with Nuun at each station and porta potties spaced throughout each water stop. The race was in such a remote area that you could end up in a hairy situation if they didn’t space them out well. Race management thought that one through well.
  • High-energy volunteers made the crowd support possible.  There were some really spirited groups that came out to cheer runners on. Note: if you’re looking for a race that has a really big-city feel with big crowds, this may not be it.

The perfect weather, combined with the just-challenging-enough course, minus the irritations of much larger courses, make this one tough to beat.

As you may have seen on Instagram, I’ve been checking off all the boxes as part of the Austin Distance Challenge this year. If you’re not familiar with the Distance Challenge, it’s a race series through the Austin Runners Club to encourage local runners to tackle long distance races on a regular basis.

So far, the Distance Challenge has encouraged me to try several new races, which has been a good change of pace. Check out my recap from the Run for the Water 10-miler – a much more difficult race if you’re looking for an even bigger challenge.

What races are you looking forward to this winter?

Next stop for me is the 3M Half Marathon, and I can’t wait!

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