The Casual Runner

2016 Hooters Half Marathon

Event: 2016 Hooters Half Marathon & 2 Person Team Relay
Event Date: March 6th, 2016

Event Location: Fort Myers, Florida

Why I Decided to Run This Race

I decided to visit my Grandma who lives right outside of Fort Myers, but I seem to have developed a problem that I can no longer go on vacations without feeling the need to run on them. So, as soon as this trip was booked, I instantly began researching races nearby for that weekend and stumbled across the Hooters Half Marathon, which was only 30 minutes away from her house.  Mike was also joining me on this vacation – er, now a runcation! – and it was easy to convince him to join me at the race when I said there was free beer and wings at the finish line.  I like to believe those two things are what convinced him to run this race, but I’m guessing that, based on the event’s sponsor and theme, he had other factors persuading his decision 😉

Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race

After running runDisney’s Goofy Challenge (consisting of the Walt Disney World Marathon and the Walt Disney World Half Marathon) in January I made it my goal for 2016 to run 1,000 miles for the year.  That being said I had done a pretty good job of running on a consistent basis throughout January and February, so I felt that I was very well trained for this race.

The Race Expo

Unfortunately we were unable to attend packet pick up for this race due to living out of state (and a very necessary stop en route at Walt Disney World to check out the Eggstravaganza).  This race was very accommodating about picking up packets before the start of the race.  We arrived at the race about 45 minutes prior to it starting and had no trouble at all picking up our packets. It was quick and easy, every runner’s race day dream.

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Swag Review

We were given short sleeve blue tech shirts for this race.  They were very simple on the front with the event logo in the upper corner of the shirt.  The back of the shirts were filled with standard race sponsor advertisements.

We were also given blue over-the-shoulder drawstring bags with the race logo on them.  These were by far the best swag from the race.  The bags had local advertisements and coupons in them (including a 20% coupon off at Hooters).  They also had 13.1 Hooters Car Magnets in them which are always nice freebies.  (You should see my fridge!)

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Not a bad little swag assortment for a smaller race.

The Gear

I am one who likes to wear costumes for races that go with the theming of the race.  For this race it made perfect sense to me that I would wear a Hooters tank top that I already owned.  I paired that with my favorite pair of black compression shorts.

My feet were dressed in my Swiftwick running socks and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 running shoes.  If you recall from the WDW Marathon, I had major issues with bra chaffing – I wore a new Victoria Secret Incredible bra (the same style I always use) but this time I lined KT tape along the base of the bra.  Other accessories for the race included: my Garmin GPS running watch, my 2015 Wine and Dine Sweaty Band, running belt, Salted Caramel GUs, iPhone with headphones, and Sqoosh wrist bands.  I also had decided to carry a water bottle with me for this race since it would be warmer out than what I was used to.

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The Pre-Race

It was a bit cool to stand outside and wait for the start that morning in a tank top.  Mike and I hung out in the car until about ten minutes till the start time, during this time our friend Jill met up with us.  On our way to walking to the start line (which we did not realize until we got out of the car that it was not the same place as the finish line or packet pickup) we stopped at the restrooms.

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There was only one line for about 20 port-a-pots that were arranged in a U shape.  The line was not functioning well because no one realized that there was no one in the back port-a-pots, had we known that it was going to be such a cluster to use the bathroom we would have gotten out of the car sooner.

We made our way to the start line rather quickly, as in we got a prerace warm up that we had not intended.  The start line was about a quarter mile down the road from the finish line.  Once again we would have allotted more time if we had realized this, maybe I should have looked at course map prior to running this race.

Along the Course

I’m going to be quite honest, it’s going to be very hard for me to explain this course for two reasons: (1) I’m not familiar with area; and (2) it was a boring course.

The first seven miles of the course were spent weaving in and out of neighborhoods. A quick note on this. The worst part about this course was the complete lack of bathroom stops for the first half of the race. Running through neighborhoods does not exactly allow you many built-in bathroom stops, and the event did not provide them. We saw several runners attempting to use port a potties left at construction sites (which I am guessing were none to pleasant), and even saw two men stop to pee on (literally ON) a chiropractor’s office. Not sure why they didn’t go into the adjacent trees, maybe they have a thing against chiropractors? Regardless, a few well-placed port a potties would have been much appreciated especially given the distance of this race.

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I have been working hard this year to try to continuously run as opposed to run/walking.  My goal for this race was to be able to run 3.5 miles before I needed a walk break because I knew I was trained up to running continuously for 3 miles.  Also the more I could continuously run, the longer I would be able to run with Mike.

I was easily able to distract myself from the course during this time because I was so focused on my running and pace, plus I had someone to talk to.  Instead of stopping to walk at 3.5 miles I was able to make it to mile 5 before I needed my first walk interval! At this point I bid goodbye to Mike as he would continue to run.  I soon realized I was on pace to PR, so I quickly decided to make my walk intervals as short as possible.  I went with a 6 minute run to 30 second walk interval, which I found to be working great for me!

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Race Icon. After we passed the halfway part of the course, which I only know that it was half way because it is where the relay teams were switching off, it was time to make our way to the Edison Bridge. The course was entirely flat up until this point so the idea of having the uphill climb of the bridge not once, but twice due to the down and back course layout, sounded miserable. As I started my climb up the bridge at mile 7 I found myself not even caring about the run because the view was spectacular! Hands down the best part of this race was the down and back on the bridge.  Yes in a matter of minutes I went from grumpy to ecstatic.  Not too often can someone say they got their second wind at mile 9 during a half marathon, but I definitely did!

Now it was time to make our way back to the Hooters where all the fun began.  Remember that runner’s high I had found at mile 9?? Well, it was gone by mile 10.  At this point we remained on the same street for a mile and I was bored. My run/walk intervals began to suffer by this point. I found it a struggle to only walk for a minute at a time.  There was no course support, no entertainment, no water stations, no nothing.  Shortly after passing the mile 10 marker we turned onto a side street then onto Broadway, which is where we would be until we hit the parking lot of the mall adjacent to Hooters.  Fortunately, shortly after mile 11, Mike and I had caught back up to each other (thanks to him having stopped for a much needed and long overdo bathroom stop) and we stayed together the rest of the race. He even joined me in my run/walk intervals which by this point were three minutes running to one minute walking.

I should add one quick additional note about the course. The course involved a lot of turns and was not well-marked at all. This means that, if you lost contact with the field (and it was not that large of a race), you were at risk of losing your way.  We spoke with one fellow runner who, along with a small group of other runners, was given wrong on-course directions by a volunteer and ended up missing the Edison Bridge section entirely, thus turning their 13.1 mile race into a 10 mile race.

After weaving through the back entrance of the parking lot for about a quarter of a mile, Hooters was finally in site along with a few people out there cheering people on. It was a nice straight chute to the finish where beer and wings awaited us!

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The SMOpinion

Both the finishers of the half marathon and the team relay received the same finisher medal. The medal is an owl with a blue lanyard that has the event logo and says “Half Marathon 2016.” It was a nice size medal for a half marathon, however I wish the medal actually said the race information on it instead of it just being on the lanyard (which is admittedly a nice lanyard).

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The same SMO was awarded to finishers of both the half marathon and team relay.

The Post-Race Experience

The after party for this race, in my opinion, was the best part about this race.  The race finished in the Hooters parking lot.  Upon crossing the finish line volunteers draped cooling towels around our necks before we received our medals. They felt sooooo good.

There was so much going on at the post-race party I’m sure I missed out on a few things.  There were wings and beer galore for the race finishers to enjoy.  I assumed there would be a limit to how many wings or glasses of beer you received, but I was mistaken.  Unfortunately driving a half hour and gluten intolerance put a damper my being able to enjoy the beer, but the wings were greatly enjoyed!

There was a band playing with a few people partaking in dancing and sunglasses being passed out (which unfortunately I was not able to find the person passing them out).  There was also another food booth with bagels, cookies, and water bottles.  A first aide tent was set up as well.  There were multiple booths set up in the post-race area; however I did not feel the need to peruse as I was ready to head back to my grandmas after enjoying the wings to relax by the swimming pool.

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Playlist Peak

I had made a playlist for my training runs the past couple of months and really had been enjoying it, so I decided to go with that for the race. Rachel Platten has been the highlight of this playlist with Fight Song and Stand by You, these two songs are great for running! My absolute favorite song to pop up on this playlist (which may have appeared twice) is none other than Carly Rae Jepsen’s Everywhere You Look.  Yup that’s right, I’m a Full House fanatic!

Looking Back Now

Would I run this race again? I do not see myself going out of my way to run this race again. That being said, if I happened to be in the area at this time of year again and my friend Jill (who lives in the area) wanted to run it with me, my answer would be, “yes.” I just hope they add a few more bathrooms to the course, you know, for the sake of the chiropractors.

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