Event: Run & Ride Half Marathon at Cedar Point
Event Date: June 14, 2015
Event Location: Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio (America’s Roller Coast!)
We have a YouTube video for this event that you can watch now!
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Why I Decided to Run This Race
Having grown up in Northern Ohio, I know the pride my home state takes in hosting the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. As a kid I never missed an opportunity to visit the greatest collection of roller coasters on Earth. Now that I can combine roller coasters AND a half marathon in one runcation, I jumped on it.
Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race
The plan was to meet a group of friends up in Cedar Point sometime early on Saturday, however, I had some car trouble on the way (NOT fun, and probably will NOT be cheap to fix). This put me several hours behind, but my friends managed to get by somehow without me, hitting all of the roller coaster highlights (lucky them!) while I slowly made my way to Sandusky.
It is Ohio in June, I knew it was going to be warm without even looking at the forecast (a little plug for Lake Erie island tourism :-). So I made sure to start my hydration regimen on Friday to give myself a solid 48+ hours head start before the race. And it would turn out that I really needed it.
Additionally, while I generally stick to a low carb diet, in the 2 days leading up to a long race, it is on! I love carb loading and enjoy it while I can, because I know that as soon as the race is over I will not even be able to look at another carb.
The Race Expo
This race does not hold an expo, but rather a simple bib pickup that was fast and efficient that allows you to maximize your time in the park. The staff was friendly, we were in and out quickly, and off in search of more carbs. But first, lets discuss swag…
In addition to the event entry, this is what your half marathon fee gets you:
– A long-sleeve tech shirt;
– A Run and Ride branded Buff (If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you know how much Team Casual Runner LOVES Survivor, so this swag was squarely in our wheelhouse!);
– Admission to Cedar Point for the event weekend, beginning on Friday after 5pm and continuing all day Saturday and Sunday – now that is a lot of roller coaster time;
– Free parking at Cedar Point the morning of the race; and
– Free early entry to Cedar Point (1 hour earlier than public admission, this is a perk usually reserved for hotel guests).
Everyone still with us? I didn’t want anyone getting lost in all that swag, and it is a lot of quality swag. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the selection, the organizers really packed a lot of perks into the race entry.
I went all traditional with my race kit. Reebok tank top, Hind running shorts, Adidias Climalite compression shorts, C9 sweatbands, Sweatvac running hat, Saucony Virrata running shoes, my IPhone 5s, and Yurbud Triathlon Series headphones. Additionally, this would be my first race that I ran with a Soleus GPS Pulse Watch. I also made sure to use plenty of BodyGlide, as, given the heat, humidity, and two days of walking round Cedar Point, I did not want to have any unfortunate…um…results.
The Peanuts characters are the main non-roller coaster attraction at Cedar Point, and Snoopy was available for pre-race pictures, so of course we had to stop.
We did not see too many costumed runners, which made me appreciate those who did run in costume that much more. One group coordinated their costumes as the Peanuts gang, and another runner went full on commitment dressed as Iron Man. He had a full length spandex costume and a full face plastic mask. I give him credit, it was warm but he remained committed to the costume as, when I saw him in mile 10, he was still wearing the full costume and mask. Speaking of the heat…
We knew it was going to be a warm one. The thermometer read 72 degrees for the start of the race, but that did not tell the whole story, as the humidity soared off the charts. We would be hoping for breezes throughout the run and, at times, Lake Erie provided for us.
We left our hotel and were in the parking lot in a matter of minutes as traffic was nonexistent prior to the race. It was a short walk to the start area. They had music playing and called for the runners to move to the north side of the starting line. However, once we got there, we could not understand any of the announcements due to the speaker locations and positions. This meant that, when they were updating us on how much longer we had until the start, we did not know, and were taken aback when the race itself did start. We just followed the crowd and we were off!
Along the Course
The course started out in the massive Cedar Point parking lot and made its way to the eastern shoreline, where it was HOT. Unfortunately there was not any breeze as we made our way towards the entrance underneath the Gate Keeper roller coaster. Inside the park itself is clearly the highlight of this race as runners made their way under, through, and around the massive collection of roller coasters. Plus, it is just fun running in the otherwise-empty park.
Race icons galore. Snoopy and Sally greeted us at the only character stop on the course. This was a nice addition and I’d like to see more of these at future races. We made our way to the back of the park past the Corkscrew, Top Thrill Dragster, Magnum, Gemini, and Mean Streak, and then turned south towards Millennium Force, and Rougarou (yes, I am roller coaster geeking out here) before making our way back out towards the Midway where we exited the park through the main gates.
TMI Alert. My race plan is to have a large carb meal for lunch the day before a morning race, and follow that with lighter snacks for dinner and breakfast. The night before this race my friends wanted to go out for pasta and I gladly went along…and then overdid it. I ate too much, too late in the day, and this led me to experience some moderate GI distress that compelled me to stop in the bathrooms by the main gate. Up until this point I was crushing my 5k PR pace, but having to stop threw me off and I never recovered. Also, I needed to stop and use the restrooms again on the mainland portion of the course, but there were no bathrooms to be had, so I had to, well hold it, which also negatively impacted my pacing. Needless to say, I need to plan my meal schedules better for future races.
Once out of the park, we made our way past the starting line and along the western shore, where the wind gave us a wonderful reprieve from the heat and humidity. We ran south along the causeway towards the mainland, which I really enjoy as it gives you some great views of Lake Erie. Once on the mainland we turned right and made our way towards downtown Sandusky. There were a few locals who gathered to cheer us on from their front porches, but for the most part, there was not much crowd support.
This was not a particularly large event so the water stations did not need to be very elaborate to keep up with the demand, and I thought that the volunteers did a good job of keeping up with the pace. I was particularly appreciative of their efforts as they had to do double duty on the out-and-back portions of the course.
Speaking of which, we turned around in downtown and made our way along the same exact route back towards the causeway and into the parking lot for the finish just southwest of the park. I was running on fumes at this point, having spent way too much at the beginning. I pressed on and pushed towards the finish. I had a lot of kick at the end, which actually upset me because I found a reserve that I did not know I had and ended up wishing I had used it earlier to improve on my time, which was not the best.
Magical Moment. As I waited for my friends to finish, I witnessed a beautiful scene. Most races strongly discourage any non-runners from entering the course. However, at this event, after most of the runners had finished, organizers didn’t really enforce this rule. I saw a gentleman who looked to be in some discomfort, rumbling towards the finish, being led by what appeared to be his young daughter. The excitement and happiness on her face was magical, she captivated the crowd, and seemed to inspire the runner to finish. It was a great site to witness. He was not winning any prizes that day, but he won so much more.
The race medal is a nice roller coaster-themed design, and it is a very nice size and weight. Definitely good quality.
This race is a part of a series, and it appears that they are using the same medal for each stop in the series, and simply changing out the ribbon. While I prefer when series use unique medals for each stop, at least the ribbon is unique to this race. While was concerned that the clip would not hold the heavy medal while we rode the coasters, it did survive, though the medal did try to slip off my neck during a ride on Top Thrill Dragster, despite being safely tucked under my shirt!
The Post-Race Experience
By the time I finished the race my phone told me that the temperature had increased to 79 degrees, and the humidity was still taxing. Imagine how excited I was to see an abundant supply of refreshments at the finish line. No exaggeration, I immediately downed 3 bottles of water and grabbed two more, which I finished over the next 20 minutes while waiting for others to finish. Yes, despite all of my best efforts to hydrate before and during the race, I felt THAT dehydrated at the finish. Many thanks to the team who were there with friendly smiles making sure all of the runners had plenty of fluids at the finish. There was also an assortment of Powerade, chocolate milk, bagels, and bananas, but frankly, I could not even look at a carb when I finished.
I watched the awards ceremonies, collected the printout of my finish time (which was way higher than I wanted to it to be), and then we made our way back to the hotel to shower, grab some lunch, and then take a ride on some more of those awesome roller coasters.
I worked in a few new upbeat songs on this one, including Khe Sanh (from my days in Australia), Everything is Awesome (from the Lego Movie), and Wake Me Up by Avicii. These really helped me along during some tough later miles.
Looking Back Now
There is a lot to like about this event. If you like fast and flat courses, this may be the event for you. It takes place in a great location and you can easily make a weekend runcation out of it – though good luck getting your kids to cheer you on when they have early access to Cedar Point on race morning! This event gets bonus points for taking place at a time in the calendar where it is hard to find half marathons in this region.
This was a good event and the swag (including free park admission) certainly makes this an event worth considering. However, it is still a young event that has great potential for future growth. Thus, there are a few areas that can be improved upon. First, while running inside Cedar Point itself is the highlight of the event, runners do not spend too much time in the park. Last year the course covered more of the Midway, and this year’s course did not take advantage of extra “tags” such as heading back to the area by Maverick. Additionally, if organizers could find a way to take runners back in the Soak City Water Park, the hotels, and the beaches on the northern shore, it would be a well-received addition. This would also cut down on the amount of time spent on the mainland, which, frankly, is the least appealing part of the course.
Additionally, I was glad that I had the Soleus GPS Pulse Watch as there were no pace clocks on the course. If I did not have my own timer with me I would not have had any clue what my pace was. The inclusion of on-course clocks, especially in half marathon events and longer, is always appreciated.
Finally, there is not much crowd support and no entertainment once you leave the park. I know this is a newer race and would hope that, as it grows, so do these aspects.
Like I said, these are not reasons to stay away from this race, as it is a good running event with great swag, but these are merely some areas where this race has the potential to grow and improve into an even better destination event. Especially given its setting on America’s Roller Coast, this event has some serious potential to grow into a great event and, as Cedar Point’s roller coaster designers believe, the sky really is the limit! So let’s keep an eye on this event in future years and see if that full potential is realized.
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Neither Mike nor Casual Runner received any compensation for this review. The entry for the race reviewed herein was provided by the event organizer for purposes of this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.