Last Sunday, June 23, I ran in the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon in Fairfield CT. What follows are some of my thoughts about the race.
First, I was hoping that I would achieve a PR at this race - something that was not to be due mostly to the heat. Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am not exactly the fastest runner on the course - my best time to date for a half marathon in 2:42 - and I was not able to beat that in this race. But I get ahead of myself...
The town of Fairfield in CT is right on the Long Island Sound and boasts some beautiful beaches. It's only about a 45 minute drive from my house so it seemed like a natural choice for me to run. I registered for the race a few months back and, after using Google Earth to check out some of the course, I was really looking forward to it. I got up early and hit the road a little after 6:00, arriving at the venue about 7:00. From there we caught a bus to Jennings Beach where the race was to begin. While in line waiting for the bus I started chatting with a couple of other runners, talking about other races, etc. So, anyway, here are some of my thoughts...
Race day was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day without a cloud in the sky. The only issue, as I wrote earlier, it was HOT! The race time temperature was about 70°, getting up to the upper 80's by the end of the race. There was very little breeze, and the sun was out in force. This obviously effected my enjoyment of the race - as well as my time - but there's not much the organizers can do about the weather (except maybe start the race earlier? Just a thought...)
Organization: With the exception of a few minor quibbles, this is an exceptionally well organized race. It should be remembered that this is a community organized race manned by volunteers, as opposed to professional race organizers. So I would not be too critical of a few minor issues. On the plus side, the bib pickup was smooth (despite the fact that there were no opportunities for early pickup). There were plenty of volunteers helping out and ample facilities. I was a little concerned when I was not able to pick up my shirt before the race, but they had a booth set up to pick up shirts after the race so it was not an issue. The parking, as I mentioned above, was not close to the start but there were plenty of buses (albeit non-air conditioned school buses) to shuttle runners and their families. I did notice that there was some confusion around where people parked because some parked at the "old" train station while others parked at the "new" train station. This did not impact me personally though.
I do have a couple of suggestions. First, I would set up porta-potties in the parking lots to alleviate crowded facilities at the race start. Another minor quibble is that you have to walk through some sand to get to the start, and it is difficult to avoid getting sand in your shoes. This can be very irritating. Again, this was no issue for me but I did chat with a few folks who had to empty their shoes before the race.
Community support was one area where this race really shines! The community spirit and support was awesome! When you're like me and one of the folks that bring up the rear of the race you really appreciate all the folks that are still out there cheering you on. And at this race they were still there and not only cheering, but cheering enthusiastically. If anyone reading this is not a racer but rather a race supporter, let me just tell you how much your efforts are appreciated. You are the greatest! There were also several bands, again something that is much appreciated. There were also some terrific signs (including a little girl holding up a sign that read "WORST PARADE EVER" - an oldie but a goody). There were also a lot of folks helping out with the heat, including a couple of kids who were running a lemonade stand ("FREE TO RUNNERS"), folks manning the ample and well labeled water and Gatorade stands, and the kind folks who set up water sprinklers for us to run through. Very refreshing! The only (again minor) issue was that they ran out of cups at one of water stations. No big deal - that only happened at one of the stands. They also had Gu at the half way point but ran out before I got there - I bring my own fuel so again, for me, no big deal.
The course is another area where this race really shines. You start at Jennings Beach and run through the town. We were informed that some of the roads would be open to traffic, and I did see a few cars, but not many. The best part of the course came at about the half way point when we ran for about 2 miles on a road that ran next to the beach. That was definitely the highlight of the course. There were some hills on the course but it wasn't too bad. That said, I think my opinion of hilly courses may be skewed after my second race, The Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon. After running that race nothing seems hilly!
The post race activities were also well above average. There were lots of vendor tents set up on the beach as well as ample post-race food including fruit, garlic bread, yogurt and - best of all - free pizza for the runners! That was a very nice touch. I would have stayed to check out some of the vendor tents but it was just too hot and I wanted to get home.
The bling was, honestly, a bit hot and cold. The shirt was a very nice tech shirt - always much preferred of a cotton t-shirt - with the race logo. The medal, well I have to admit I'm not crazy about the design. It is also the race logo but I'm not sure it works on a medal. That said, it is a custom design (not just a generic medal with a logo slapped on it), which is nice. Still, I will proudly show off this medal to anyone interested (and even those who aren't).
So the big question is - would I run this race again? The answer is an enthusiastic yes. I most certainly will run it again and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a well-organized and run half marathon.
|Hot but happy|