Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Platte River Half Marathon- A Review

Around this time last year, I was rehabbing through an injury. I had a tough time walking, let alone running. I kid you not; it felt like my world was coming to an end! Ben and I had been signed up to do the Platte River Half Marathon when this injury occurred and even though I knew I would likely not be able to finish, I wanted to start and see how far I could go. I made it to the aid station at mile eight. At the risk of sounding insanely dramatic, at the time, making the decision to not finish was one of the toughest, gut wrenching decisions to make. Go figure, I did get back to running shortly thereafter and thankfully, my world did not really come to an end and I did get back into running!
I do not get the chance to run much on the Platte River Trail and have only run on certain sections during this specific race. I knew where this mile 8 aid station was on the trail but sometimes these things don’t translate out of the race course. Recently, however, I was driving between PT home visits and realized that I was driving right past this spot. I had very bittersweet memories! I decided at this point that I needed to do the Platte River Half once again to run past that spot and reminisce. I convinced some friends to do it with me (Ben could not due to scheduling) and signed up right away.
The race was held on April 15th. Packet pick up was the Friday and Saturday prior to the race. In the past years, packet pick up was at a local Runners Roost. This year, packet pick up location was moved to Arapahoe Community College, just down the street from the start line. This new location felt like a trek relative to past years! That said, the new location did allow for sponsors to be present with booths at pick up. When I arrived (right as it opened), I felt like pick up was set up strangely. Racers ID’s were checked and they were given bibs and chips, and then sent to a table to get ties and pins. Then they were routed to a spot to get bags and shirts. I think it would have been handy to have the shirt in the beginning, but no bigs. It was nice to see who some of the sponsors were for the race, but I did not feel like spending money (and I really needed a haircut, which I was scheduled for that afternoon) so I left pretty quickly.
The bibs this year had racers first names on them, which is nice for anyone wanting to cheer on a specific runner. That said, they were made relatively cheaply and mine ripped three separate times. The shirts on the other hand were fantastic. Long-sleeve tech shirts made by Brooks were provided. The logo was an attractive logo and these shirts tend to be in my top favs of long sleeve race shirts!
The start time for the race was 9 am, but we planned to get to the race super early to get good parking. Lucky us, we were one of the first cars in and were able to park close to the start and the metro. Race day temp was pretty cool (it has been cool for 2 of the last 3 years I have done this race) and it made it difficult to decide for sure what to wear. For the first two miles, I swear it warmed up, but in the end, it ended up cooling and I was glad I wore what I did.

The start line was in downtown Littleton. Here, the organizers had plenty of porta-potties for the crowd. Bag drop was also conveniently located and it was a breeze to drop my bag in the truck. The race start had some awesome energy. Because it has become such a large race, the organizers decided to start it in waves this year, which made the start actually feel a little less chaotic. I did not have to worry nearly as much around weaving in and out of people. The first two miles were through down town Littleton and then racers were dumped onto the Platte River Trail. The one drawback of the entry location to the trail is that runners immediately go under a bridge and then have to cross a narrow wooden foot bridge over the water. I knew this was coming and was prepared, but running is always slowed to a walk here and can add some time to your overall run time.
The rest of the course is along the Platte River and enters and exits several cities. Because this race is held in early spring, the course is generally pretty course. That said, there is one section of the course that runs right near a dump and is not what I would call a picturesque location. The course eventually ends up on 8th Avenue and runners are greeted with an overpass in the last mile, which seems daunting. At any other time, this hill would seem like a cinch, but it’s placement seems just evil. After the overpass, racers drop down and finish on Mariposa St. This year, to celebrate the 10th year anniversary, finishers were awarded with a medal at the finish line. This was a nice surprise and a fun addition to my collection!

Aid stations along the course seemed well placed and well manned. The volunteers were very helpful and even cheered the runners on! Porta potties were also available along the course. I guess I should add to that the organizers did a great job having enough porta potties for the crowd on the course, and at start and finish.
After finishing, runners were directed to bag pick up, which was easy to find and then down around a corner, past several sponsors (with food) to the post race party. The food itself was fantastic and featured foods from Wahoos, Ted’s, Garbanzo, the Buckhorn Exchange, and several other local restaurants. I was a little disappointed to not see the Melting Pot at the race this year! The beer garden was sponsored by Michelob this year. It is always great to have beer after a race, but let’s face it, I am kind of a beer snob and preferred when this race was sponsored by a local brewery!

Because it was freezing and windy after the race, we did not sick around long. Upon exiting the post-race party area, racers were given passes to the Light Rail (metro) to get back to cars. The race organizers did such a fantastic job with location that runners did not have to walk much at all to get to and from the metro (the party is basically at the entrance and the parking lots are about 2 blocks from the exit).
Overall, I really did enjoy this race and would do it again. After doing it three times, one can assume I would say that, right? The one thing to note, as with any spring races, is the weather can be very unpredictable and colder than hoped for!

Would I do this race again? Clearly
Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely (I even had two friends run it with me this year!). I think it is a great first half marathon as well for new runners.

Would I change anything? I would bring The Melting Pot back as a sponsor. Let’s face it. Who does not love fruit with chocolate dipping sauce. I would also bring back a local brewery for the post-race part. Michelob is… well… Michelob.

Is it worth the value? The shirt, the food, the race support all make it worth the value
Overall race experience: Great

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