The Casual Runner

2016 Cedar Point Half Marathon

Event: 2016 Run and Ride Cedar Point Half Marathon 
Event Date: June 11, 2016
Event Location: Sandusky, Ohio

If you love Cedar Point, check out our panel’s ranking of all of the great roller coasters
AND our review of the Great Wolf Lodge!

Why I decided to run this race

I ran the inaugural Run and Ride race in 2014, and then Candace convinced me to Run and Ride again in 2015.  We had such a great time both during the race and at Cedar Point that there was no doubt that we would be running and riding again in 2016. PLUS, Cedar Point announced Valravn, the world’s tallest and fastest drop coaster, so yeah, we were running.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

Our great friends, Tim and Tracy, drove in from Chicago to meet us for this race weekend. We left early Friday morning (on way too little sleep) and went straight to packet pickup before spending all day in the amusement park, and I mean ALL day.  The lines on Friday were super reasonable and we rode pretty much everything we could, so much so that I think I broke myself. After riding Gatekeeper, Raptor, and Millennium Force in rapid succession, I made the mistake of agreeing to sneak in a ride on Maverick right before park close. I don’t think I have ever been so sick on a ride in my life (well, maybe on Star Tours, but who is counting?). Exhausted, we went straight back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Learning from my mistake, following the 5K, we decided to make Saturday a much lighter day. We hit several coasters early before the lines grew too big, and then spent most of the day at the hotel pool and the beach. We grabbed a few more coasters in the evening before calling it a night. Just remember, while the Cedar Point roller coasters are tantalizing, you still have to pace yourself to run the race itself.

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The race Expo

This event does not have an expo, but it is more than just packet pickup, so let’s call it “packet pickup plus!” It is held in a ballroom of a nearby hotel. It is easy to find and conveniently located so you can grab your park tickets and go straight to the park, which you should do. Just make sure you grab all of your swag, because….

Swag review

Run and Ride received an inaugural Golden Runner Award for their swag game, and there was nothing to suggest that they are resting on their laurels.

Here is what you get with your half marathon entry: 3 day admission to Cedar Point (yes, you read that correctly), free parking at Cedar Point, a tech event T-shirt (which was short sleeve! yes!), and a selection of discount coupons to be used in the park on food, and merch. But wait, there’s more! Like in past events, runners also received an event car magnet AND a Buff. But wait, there is still more! This year they added custom event arm sleeves. Talk about strong swag game!
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The gear

It was going to be slightly cooler than it was for the 5K the day before. I selected my Team Casual Runner singlet, my Sweatvac running hat, Spibelt, iPhone 5S, Head running shorts, Adidas Climalite Compression Shorts, Steigen running socks, and New Balance XC700v3 Spikeless running shoes. I was happy with my selection as the gear all worked out well for teh race day conditions.

The pre-race

Our hotel was on the mainland just off the causeway, which means it took us less than 10 minutes to drive to the starting area and get parked. This meant a few extra minutes of sleep. Unfortunately, when we awoke, it was to the news of the horrific Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando. It was a jarring reminder that, although running and racing are welcome escapes from the real world, they are just momentary ones.

When we arrived the DJ was already cranking the tunes and getting the crowd going. They provided a good number of port a potties as the lines were reasonable, allowing us ample time to grab a quick picture with Snoopy, because, you can never have too many of those!

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Along the course

Our group of 4 had a vague race plan for the day. We would all hang together for a while and then just see how the race unfolded. I had no real desire to PR given how lackluster my training has been lately, so I did not mind taking it out at a slower pace than I normally would.

The start of the race is identical to the 5K. We began in a mass start, which is manageable given the size of the field and the open space available in the parking lots for runners to spread out. We continued to the far side of the parking lot to make our way along the eastern shore of Lake Erie, before heading into the park,. Unexpected Magic. We just happened to cross under Gatekeeper as one of the coaster trains dove right at us – the timing could not have been any more perfect and it elicited an audible response from all of the runners around us.

Making our way into Cedar Point and towards the Midway, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. This, after all, is the highlight of this course.  Just like in the 5K, we made our way past Max-Air and the various Snoopy attractions, then returned to the Midway and the first water stop before heading deeper into the park.

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The course designers do a great job of maximizing in-park time as you really do get up close and personal with many of the park’s great roller coasters.  At this point all 4 of us were hanging together, and Candace met up with a friend that she met at last year’s race.  As we approached Millennium Force, we decided to call a bathroom stop. TMI Alert! Sometimes, even if you think you did everything right with your pre-race diet planning, things happen. This was not my morning as I experienced uncomfortable G.I. distress. Perhaps it was too much fried food, which is pretty much all Cedar Point has these days, but I just couldn’t seem to get passed it. So, I had to adopt our old mantra: Accept. Adjust. Advance. 

When we stopped, we told Candace to go on ahead, so it would take us a mile to find her again. During this time we made our way back to the Midway and exited the main entrance of the park into the parking lots. The course took us past the starting line where we were treated to the largest fan support of the entire race. Just beyond this, we saw the 10k event leader running towards the finish. We cheered him on, but he found a loose piece of asphalt and stumbled. Fortunately he was able to recover, but it was a scary moment.

It was now time to make our way out on the Causeway towards the mainland. This is where we rejoined Candace and we all ran together for a while, before Tim and Tracy picked up their pace a little bit.  The Causeway is a nice stretch of course as it offers scenic lake views on either side.

Once on the mainland, the course starts to drag, but I was only focused on one thing: finding another bathroom. Fortunately organizers stepped up their bathroom game this year and added more port a potties than in prior years (and no, you can never have too many). Even more fortunately, this would be the last time that I needed to stop as I would be good to go for the remainder of the race, thank goodness.

We made our way into downtown Sandusky, where we turned around and started heading back to the amusement park. At this point the course reversed the outbound track and put us back on the Causeway.  I was still with Candace, but decided it was time to empty the gas tank. We separated and I made my way at my own pace to the finish. I was glad I did as I had run a much more conservative of a race than I would have otherwise. But, I will say this: doing so allowed me to run with friends which made for an exceptionally enjoyable race experience. So, the trade-off was definitely worthwhile.

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There was a final water stop around the 12 mile mark and then once back in the parking lot, the finish line was in sight. At this point, I just pinned my ears back and left it all out on the course. No, it was not a PR, but it was definitely the most enjoyable of my 3 Cedar Point Run and Ride races.

Unexpected Magic Moment

There is a story that I need to share, so it bears a separate mention.

So, yeah, I made a rookie mistake. I don’t know why I keep doing this, but I forgot to pack Band-aids. Somewhere around miles 8-9, I remembered this because I started experiencing some nasty chaffing. I was nowhere near sporting Jersey #11…yet, but I was well on my way. I stopped at the next aid station and asked every volunteer if they had any Band-aids, tape, or anything that could help me out. Unfortunately, they did not, so I pushed on.

The situation only got worse and more uncomfortable. About a mile later I saw a police car (the officer was directing traffic for the race) and decided to stop, thinking that he surely had some sort of first aid kit in the squad car. When I stopped to ask fo rhelp, a race volunteer was standing next to him, and held out 2 Band-aids! He told me that, after I left the last aid station, he felt bad and looked around and found some Band-aids. He then walked further down the course (I had gone a loop around the lakefront) to wait for me when the loop returned so he could help me out.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by this volunteer’s commitment and dedication to helping out a runner. I was extremely appreciative and thanked him profusely. We as runners cannot thank volunteers enough for all they do to help these events go off safely, but this one truly went above and beyond. To the volunteer who went the extra mile for me on race day, I know I thanked you before, but I would like to thank you again, your efforts were greatly appreciated and your compassion means a lot to me. Thank you!

The SMOpinion

Oh Run and Ride, why do you tease me so? I had no intentions of running the 5K until you released your Peanuts Gang roller coaster medal series. But then you sucked us in! The largest of the medals was, appropriately enough, for the half marathon. It features Charlie Brown riding the largest roller coaster car. Its pretty cool. now that they raised the bar on these SMOs, I can’t wait to see what they do next year!
IMG_0216The post-race experience

Just like the 5K, The finish line had plenty of tasty treats: water, chocolate milk (why doesn’t EVERY race give out chocolate milk at teh finish???), Powerade, bagels, and bananas. And, of course, we still had the buy one get one free funnel cake coupon that we got in our race premiums to use, so we wasted no time showering and getting back to the park!

Playlist Peak

Before heading to Cedar Point for the weekend, Candace took me to see a touring production of The Lion King as my birthday present, so I worked a few Lion King songs into an old race playlist I had for the occasion. Don’t worry, I won’t sing for you, unless you really want me to….

Looking back now

So I have now run this race 3 times, which is usually the magic number where I start considering thinking about maybe not running a race again…however, or should I say HOWEVER, that may not be the case with this one. I know we keep saying it, but the race premiums and a weekend at the Roller Coaster Capital of the World are enough to entice me to come back. The continual improvements to, and growth in, this event that I witnessed over the past 3 summers gets me even more excited for what the event organizers will do in the future. Plus, I had the opportunity to speak at length with the race directors and they gave me some insight into where they want to take this event in the future. Lets just say, if they can implement their vision, this race is going to have me coming back year after year.

Check out all of our coverage of the Run and Ride Race Series Events. Plus, if you still want to run one of the remaining 2015 Run and Ride events, you can save money on your race registrations with our special discount code!

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