If there is a more welcoming city to runners than Savannah, GA, we haven’t been there yet. The city’s hospitality, combined with the experience that is Rock n Roll provides a running and travel experience that is not to be missed.
The race expo was held at the Savannah International Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, a short ferry ride across the river from Savannah. For those driving in from I-95 North, Hutchinson Island will be a stop on your way in before you arrive downtown. Because the half marathon is held on a Saturday, the expo ends on Friday at 8 pm. It was recommended locals attend the expo on Thursday to avoid crowds, however we didn’t wait in a single line on Friday at 7pm… and the parking lot was still packed with cars that late in the day.
Rock n Roll’s usual expo setup directed runners first to bib pickup, then to shirt pickup (women running Rock n Roll races, be sure to order your women’s size shirt one size bigger than what you would normally get). Upon exiting packet pickup, runners pass through the official Rock n Roll merchandise shop before entering the rest of the expo. The usual attendees were there: Power Bar, Toyota, GEICO, Brooks, Glukos, representatives from other races, and more.
Hotel costs in Savannah are on the higher side, so be prepared to have a long drive before the race begins or spend a few extra dollars for the convenience of a local hotel room. Runners can stay on Tybee Island in a house for about the same cost as a hotel room downtown. Be aware: this will require waking up way earlier and fighting the port-o-let lines prior to race start.
The Hyatt Regency downtown is literally right on the starting line, and its lobby is so big that runners congregate inside before the race begins. Bathroom lines were lengthy here, as well. Runners who purchased Rock n Roll’s VIP package had access to their own restrooms and a breakfast in the Hyatt, and didn’t have to fight the lines that non-VIP runners did.
We stayed at the Springhill Suites on Montgomery Street, which was located approximately one mile from both the start and the finish. While not as convenient as the Hyatt, our room was spacious and modern, and like everyone else in Savannah, staff was friendly and welcoming.
Four years ago when running with a larger party of people, we rented a home right on Forsyth Park, site of the race finish and only one mile from the start. It was a luxury to walk across the street, change out of sweaty clothes, and return to Forsyth Park for the post-race festivities. Utilize AirBnB or VRBO to find a rental like this.
Places to Eat
Dining options are limitless in Savannah. Runners can eat anywhere from Jimmy Johns or Your Pie to Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons. For runners staying at the Hyatt, you’ll be satisfied with the offerings of the Riverwalk area. The City Market area also offers tons of dining options, many who offered pre-race pasta specials the night before the race. Foodies, you may want to do your research. Local legends like Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room will appeal to runners looking for the highest quality meal.
One thing we remembered so well from our first trip to Rock n Roll Savannah in 2012 was the fan support along the course. Savannah is a mid-size city, and the nature of the course makes it easy for fans to spot their runners at multiple points along the half marathon route.
The race begins on Bay Street, and though the first four miles of the race won’t knock your socks off, you will be impressed by the locals who have risen early to cheer runners on. At about mile 5 runners enter downtown’s most beautiful sections and the amount of fan support increases. You’ll pass through many of Savannah’s famed squares and be awed by views of Savannah’s antebellum architecture. This course has something to see at every mile, and someone to cheer runners on at every block.
The race ends at beautiful Forsyth Park, possibly the best place for a big post-race party. After being draped with finisher medals and posing for race photos, runners have the option of loading up on post-race goodies like Gatorade, Power Bars, Cheez-Its, chocolate milk, and the usual fare of bananas and fruit cups.
Old Crow Medicine Show provided lively entertainment from the park’s main stage while runners lounged in the grass, post-race. This year we missed having lodging near the finish as the post-race port-o-let lines were long. Again, runners with the VIP package had their own restrooms (port-o-lets) and changing tents, in addition to their own beer and cocktails.
If you’ve never been to Forsyth Park before (or even if you have) you’ll enjoy just walking around and taking in the sights. The Forsyth Park Fountain (which turns green for Savannah’s famed St. Patrick’s Day celebration) is a great place for a photo op (or two or ten).
While Savannah Rock n Roll will always have a special place in our hearts because it was our first half marathon, there’s no denying that its a fantastic race. The course is beautiful, the city is welcoming, and Rock n Roll provides runners with a fantastic running experience.
- If possible, splurge and stay at a hotel near the starting line. Being able to use your own bathroom, walk out the door and into your corral is well worth the money. We stayed one mile from the start and finish, while friends stayed at the Hyatt, located right at the starting line. We had other friends who stayed on Tybee Island. They left Tybee at 4:30 am in order to ensure they could find parking and arrive at the race start on time.
- Be prepared for Southern hospitality at its finest. Everywhere we went, we were congratulated by other runners, Savannah residents, hospitality workers, and more.
- Stay a few days, enjoy the city and its surrounding area. There are plenty of tours to take, sites to see, and restaurants to enjoy.