Because it fit into our schedules, and because we hadn’t run Hilton Head before, we registered for the Hilton Head Half Marathon. The biggest delight of the weekend was Hilton Head’s numerous paved paths, making it the friendliest city for walkers, bikers, and runners that we’ve ever seen. We’d go back, not just for the race, but to take advantage of these many paths for a weekend when a long marathon training run is necessary.
Packet pickup was held at the site of the race’s host hotel: the Sonesta resort. At pickup, runners were given a bag with their bib and some advertisements then sent to another table to pick up shirts. This year’s long-sleeved, gender-specific technical shirt was a fun shade of green that one doesn’t usually find in race shirts. Female runners were automatically given female shirts (during online registration there was no option to check which gender shirt one preferred.) The race allowed runners to trade one size shirt for another at packet pickup, with one exception: anyone wanting a women’s large had to wait until race morning. Packet pickup also had opportunities for runners to check maps of the marathon, half marathon, and 8K courses, verify that bibs were in working order for chip timing, and visit the small booth of a local running store.
While the Sonesta resort was the race’s official host hotel, it was still a short drive to Jarvis Creek Park, site of the race start. Any runner wanting to stay within walking distance to the starting line should book the Ramada Inn at 200 Museum Street. The Ramada was clean and our room had new floors, but even more importantly was only a half mile from the start. Runners looking for higher end accommodations will prefer the Sonesta.
Places to Eat
Anyone that chooses to stay at the Ramada won’t have to go far to carb load. An Italian restaurant, Il Carpaccio, is located in the same complex at the hotel. Not realizing this, we left packet pickup and ate at the Hilton Head Carrabba’s, just between the Sonesta and the Ramada. There are at least a dozen other Italian restaurants in Hilton Head, in addition to countless other places to eat. Runners won’t go hungry here.
The marathon, half marathon, and 8K all started at 8 am from Jarvis Creek Park. After a few little out and back turn-arounds, runners were lead to the Cross Island Parkway, the road where half marathoners did the bulk of their running. Even after running over forty half marathons each, neither of us had ever run through a toll booth on a race course. Hilton Head was the first. After passing under the booth runners made their way up the race’s one hill: a bridge spanning the Harbor River. The top of the bridge afforded runners their most magnificent view of the race. Since the race was essentially an out-and-back, runners actually saw this view twice as they crossed the bridge both times.
The course was largely flat with some small inclines here and there. Climbing the bridge twice was the only real incline, and even this wasn’t anything for a runner to lose sleep over. The bridge added some interest to a course that was run mostly on an unremarkable parkway.
Spectators were concentrated mainly in Jarvis Creek Park, the race’s start and finish. The 13.1 miles of the course was populated by a small army of enthusiastic high school students and retirees who directed runners at turns and passed out water and Gatorade at aid stations. The final turn of the race directed runners off the Cross Island Parkway and back into Jarvis Creek Park where we raced around the park’s 11 acre lake towards the finish line.
The post-race party was held in Jarvis Creek Park, where there were picnic pavilions, a view of the lake, live bands, free Natalie’s juices, Papa Johns pizza, Stacks french toast cupcakes, and a large assortment of fruits from race sponsor, Publix. Runners 21 or older had the option to purchase three beer tickets for $12 at packet pickup, entitling them to choose from an assortment of craft beers at the post-race party. Beers could also be purchased the day of the post-race party for the increased price of $5 a beer.
The half marathon awards ceremony was held at 11 am, three hours after the race start. The top three overall winners were recognized first, followed by the top Masters and Grand Masters, and concluding with awarding the top three finishers in each five year age group.
If you are a South Carolinian runner, there is no reason not to head out to Hilton Head to run this race. The event was well organized and the start and finish location allowed for an enjoyable pre and post-run experience.
Tips for Running a Successful Hilton Head Half Marathon
- If being close to the start is appealing to you, stay at the Ramada. It’s a quick walk and easy on the wallet.
- Do what you need to do to prepare yourself for the race’s two hills: a bridge you will run twice. The bridge is less that one mile in span, so intense hill training isn’t necessary.
For more information visit http://www.bearfootsports.com/Hilton_Head_Half_marathon.htm