The Casual Runner

Emerald City Half Marathon

Event: 2015 Emerald City Half & Quarter Marathon     
Event Date: August 23, 2015
Event Location: Dublin, Ohio

Why I decided to run this race

This race was an opportunity to further two of my New Years’ Runsolutions.  First, this was half marathon number four for 2015, placing me one step closer to completing six in the year.  Second, it was the culmination of my goal of inspiring a new Casual Runner to take the hobby up.  My brother has been running for quite some time now (you can read his First Mile piece here) and the Emerald City Half was going to be his first half marathon.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

Not too much to do to get prepared for this race that hasn’t been done already, as I ran the Goodyear Half Marathon the previous weekend.  Therefore, the eight day gap between races was spent recovering from Akron with 1 or 2 limited runs.

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Runners and pacers ready to take on the 2015 Dublin Half & Quarter Marathons.

Driving to the race the day of was not an option because it was scheduled to start at 7a.m.  Counting backwards, I probably would have needed to leave my house at 3 in the morning to make the race, and while I love running, I don’t love it that much!

Instead, my brother and I went down the night before, and it made all the difference.  We stayed five minutes away from the starting chute, which meant that we could sleep in (relatively speaking) and still make it to the race with plenty of time to complete our pre-race rituals.

The gear

Race day had a perfect forecast, so I had no reason to deviate from my typical gear of Team Casual Runner tech shirt, shorts, arm band for my Nike run app, iPod nano, and Waveborn Zuma shades.

The race Expo / Swag review

The race organizers did not have a full Expo.  Instead, runners could pick their bibs up at Fleet Feet Sports Columbus.  Conveniently, packet pickup was allowed for the four days preceding the race.  This is always a big plus when race organizers make packet pickup easier for out of town runners (either by allowing day of pickup or offering multiple days of pickup) because it provides more options for runners who are “running on a budget” and don’t want to take off work/book a hotel at the destination the day before.

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The participant’s shirt.

Curiously, this race had almost no race swag to speak of.  Aside from the bib and some safety pins, I received a blue tech shirt and a plastic bag to for gear check.  It would have been nice to have something else as part of the swag pickup; even something as simple as some flyers for other upcoming races would have given the runners something else to work towards.

The pre-race

The start/finish line was located near the Dublin Methodist Hospital.  A nearby shopping plaza provided runners with ample parking space, and a Krogers allowed runners to get in their final cup of coffee and accompanying trip to the restroom pre-race.

My brother and I arrived at the starting corral with plenty of time to spare before the gun went off. As this was his first race, I used the time to teach him the ins and outs of the race-day experience, such as the bag check and finding the proper pace group to run with (for more advice on what to expect the day of your first race, check out our Team’s advice ).  With about five minutes to spare, we said our final good lucks to one another and separated to our respective spots in the starting corral.

Along the course

The half marathon course was, roughly, divided into two distinct zones.  The first 5 and a half miles and the final 2.5 miles or so were through the neighborhoods and state routes of Dublin.  As the course is laid out, the course has a quasi- there-and-back stretch along a state route that doubles as both the first and last two miles of the course (albeit in opposite directions).  This is not the most exciting for running, but does have the advantage of being flat (i.e. fast!).  The approximately two miles through a neighborhood development offers more “sightseeing” (inasmuch as a country club and houses are sightseeing), slightly more inclines/moguls, and turns in the road.

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This quality event draws a solid crowd, eager to take on the course.

The other zone of this course is the approximately five miles through Glacier Ridge Metro Park.  In contrast to the neighborhood zone, the portion of the course through the Metro Park was more eventful.  This portion of the course was along a paved bike trail that featured more serpentines than the neighborhood and street portions of the course.  For scenery, the park itself is mostly untouched grasslands and woods.  If I had to pick a race icon, I would cite the Metro Park: the natural scenery offered green panoramic views along the gentle inclines.

Both zones were generally flat overall.  In fact, I would say that this is the flattest course I have run to date (to be fair, I have run some rather hilly courses, such as in the Green Cathedral and Hilloween Half Marathons.  Rather than incorporating a major hill feature into the course, the organizers instead ran the course through neighborhoods that had the occasional gradual incline and decline.  I would say the most challenging hill occurred during the Glacier Ridge Metro Park portion of that course, and that hill was more notable for its length rather than for being steep.  This, I think, is the real strength of this event.  Is it the most eventful course I have ever run?  No.  But, it is a course that is conducive to chasing your own personal rabbit.

The race had a fair amount of course support for a community half marathon.  Cheering sections were most noticeable in the first two miles of the race and the final half mile push.  When the course turned into a residential development around mile 3, some people had set up folding chairs to sit and watch the race and cheer as we passed by.  There was less “organic” course support for the stretches of the course through the Metro Park.  Perhaps anticipating that there may be less people along the trail, the race organizers appear to have placed the majority of their cheering volunteers along the Metro Park trails.  Special mention should go out to Olentangy Liberty, whose cheerleaders came out to pump up the runners at a couple of different points along the course.

The race organizers also did a good job of setting up appropriately spaced and well-designed water stations.  From start to finish, the course had nine total water stops, and the longest stretch between any two was not much more than 1.5 miles.  There were plenty of volunteers at each station—I never noticed a “logjam” happening at any station—providing both water and Gatorade.  And, the point where the quarter and half portions split off were well-marked and staffed with enough people to ensure runners went the right direction.

The SMOpinion

Both races had the same fantastic finisher’s medal.

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As always, to the finishers go the spoils…er…SMOs.

The SMO is a large round circle, colored Emerald, with the event name written on the front, and a cloth neckband that also includes the race name on it.  This is definitely one of my biggest SMO’s to date in terms of size (although tops is still the Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket 5K finisher’s ring/medal).  And I like the design: a simple round medal evocative of Olympic medals and a great color scheme that also happens to tie in to the race name.  A+ for sure!

The post-race experience

The race definitely offered one of the most elaborate post-race experiences I’ve had to date.  The Emerald City Half had the typical post-race fare of donning your medal and consuming excessive amounts of bananas and Gatorade in the finisher’s area.

What put the Emerald City Half over the top was the post-race party.  There was a Buffalo Wild Wings located in the plaza where the runners congregated before and after the race.  As a special treat for entry, the restaurant opened exclusively for the runners following the race.  There, runners were able to help themselves to some complimentary boneless wings—a great, if not intuitively so, post-race meal: protein heavy, with some light carbs.  Runners also had a ticket for one free custom cocktail.  I did not have much of it because I had to drive back from the race, but it was a mix of ice tea and alcohol that worked well with the summer weather.

Playlist Peak

I listened to the same jams that I did for my past couple of races.  And I am now convinced that my iPod is becoming self-aware, because yet again it somehow queued up great songs right when I needed them.  Don’t Stop Believing came on around the tenth mile (traditionally my most difficult mile of the race).  Worse, my brother reported experiencing similar good-timing; for him, he had Seven Nation Army come on just as he started feeling like fading.

Aside from personal music, the start/finish line area had speakers set up that you could hear for the first/last quarter to half mile.  Other than that, and the occasional cow bell, there was not a lot of on-course music or bands (like I experienced at the Goodyear Half Marathon in Akron).

Looking back now

For me, a lot of what made this race a worthwhile event was personal goals. I wanted to keep pace for running six half marathons in 2015, and I wanted a good race to introduce a new Casual Runner to the fact that, yes, running 13.1 miles can in fact be fun. In that regard, the Emerald City Half and Quarter Marathon delivered for me.

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Tony celebrating his first ever half marathon with a nice SMO for his effort.

The race is desirable for reasons beyond my idiosyncratic goals, however. I imagine that, to some extent, for Casual Runners who have an interest in “chasing the rabbit” and are motivated on some level by setting personal records or other self-challenges when they race, the Emerald City Half and Quarter Mile is the scratch for that itch.  Runners may not line up for the Emerald City Half for the on-course entertainment factor that is attendant with races put on by, for example, runDisney.  But a place that gives you a great shot at hitting a personal record, and providing a killer SMO and post-race experience to celebrate your achievement?  This event does, in spades.

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Neither Steve 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.

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