As you know, Sunday I ran the Mo’ Cowbell half-marathon for the first time. This is my review of the race events.
The Expo/Packet Pickup
One thing that was nice was the virtual race bags so you didn’t have to deal with ALL the extra flyers. You simply sorted through the information and if there was something that struck your fancy, you saved it. And there were a few things in there that interested me, and I thought that there was a nice variety to the offers.
The actual expo itself wasn’t the greatest at the layout. I went about an hour before it ended and there were a few booths of vendors who had already left for the day it appeared. Then the selection of vendors wasn’t really the greatest. Which keep in mind this is a local race put on by a community, so it isn’t going to have the draw that a Competitor or RAM Racing event will have for vendors. But I felt like there were only a couple of vendors there that I would actually have liked to visit with, and of those couple, one had already left.
The layout was not very exciting to me. It really only frustrated me and made me feel crowded at a few points. First you walked in a got a race bag from a (not very enthusiastic) volunteer. Then you headed over to the bib pick up. They were all pretty friendly and seemed happy to be there. Then you had to walk through all the vendors in a crowded hallway to get to the stairs, which you had to go up to get your shirt. If you followed the signs you then had to weave through racks of merchandise from a running store to get to the t-shirt table. After you got your shirt, you then had to go down the steps and walk through a few more crowded spots to pickup a sticker, your cowbell, and some extra race information.
*I understand that the point is to get you to see all the booths that vendors have set up, but if I had been in a hurry I would have probably just gotten my bib and left everything else behind because it was a little excessive to have to wander around to several different places to pick things up.*
I also know that they had to change spaces I believe a little last-minute, so I will cut them a little bit of a break.
There were several emails that were sent out, but I still had to visit the website several times to get all the information I needed for the race and packet pickup. I felt like pre-race communications could have been a little more organized.
All in all the expo was decent, for a relatively small, local race. I would rate it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. (1=worst 10=best)
One thing I liked in the pre-race information was the parking info. They did let you know all the available places to park and the place where you shouldn’t park because you would get towed. So that was a plus. And there was plenty of FREE parking within walking distance of the start line. I was able to park on the street and felt plenty safe to leave my car and not have to worry about vandalism.
The start area was clearly marked and had plenty of pace signs up. I never did see any actual pace group leaders, so I don’t know if they actually had any. The race started a few minutes late, but not by much.
The course started in St. Charles and headed out through the Frenchtown area before turning to the river bottoms. Running through Frenchtown was nice and you only encountered a hill in the first mile. After that the course was fairly flat. View-wise, the course did lend several nice views over the fields, but for the most part it wasn’t very exciting. There were very few houses, and it was mostly fields and any businesses were closed until you reach mile 5, which went through a small pumpkin patch/farm type area known as the high-five zone. There were still some folks there when I went through and they had a band which was nice. If I recall correctly it is the only part of the half-marathon that is not ran on a paved surface (with the except of two bridge crossings).
Miles 7-8 are in the New Town area. This is where there are two bridge crossings. These bridges aren’t paved, although there are concrete sidewalks on both sides. The bridges are a grated metal material, which can seem a little sketchy, if you decide to run across them. Once in New Town, the scenery picks up a bit because there are lots of houses and little shops to see. Think Mayberry/French Quarter/San Antonio River Walk. I was a little disappointed at the lack of crowd support running through this particular area, considering it is residential, but at this is no fault of the race organizers. This was the only part of the course that was “twisty” and it felt a little like you were changing directions every 10 feet (not a reality, but that is what it felt like). This is also where the had a medical station, as well as a Gu station.
Once out of New Town, you continued on through the backside of some residential areas, and entered the only real hill part of the course. Miles 11 & 12 had some incline to them, but they weren’t too bad. These miles also put you out onto a service road, which was a little bland.
Honestly, the big “downhill” section was almost murderous feeling on my legs, especially since it came at the near end of the race. It was a little on the steep side, and definitely required some much-needed control to go down safely. Here is where the half also split from the full marathon and they continued onto the Katy Trail to finish their miles.
You finish up the race going through Frenchtown again, and then making a turn to head back through St. Charles. Shortly before the finish the full marathoners join back up with the half runners and the stretch to the finish is pretty straight. There was a very nice crowd involvement around the finish area.
I would give the course a 9 out 10. It seems simple, and could be an easy PR, but does throw a few challenges your way mentally.
The Finish/Post Race Area
Immediately after the finish, you receive your finisher’s medal and then there were giant tubs with bottled water in them. There were several places to get food, including a food truck, as well as beer and other refreshments. There were places to get massage and post-race stretching as well. I didn’t go through the finisher’s area so I can’t comment too much on it.
All in all I thought this was a pretty excellent race. I thought the cost of the race was pretty decent compared to what you got (I believe early registration was $60). I enjoyed the course even though it totally kicked my ass, and I thought for the most part the volunteers and everyone did a very good job.
A few things of note:
- Towards the end of the race the final aid station for the half was deserted. It had cups of water and Gatorade set out, but it was also supposed to be a medical station and there were still participants out on the course. This is NOT really excusable in my opinion, because someone could have really needed medical aid, and there was no one there to help them.
- Several of the course marshalls were teenagers who didn’t seem all that thrilled with being there. I understand it’s a volunteer position, but if you are going to volunteer, you need to keep a positive attitude and actually do what task you’ve been assigned.
- A ton of the other runners were beyond encouraging. At one point, you pass by the faster runners on their way back from New Town. So many of them were telling me good job and keep it going. It was fantastic, and it helped to show what kind of community the area runners have.
I would rate this race 8 out of 10. I definitely plan on coming back next year and running the half-marathon again!