We registered for the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon a mere 48 hours before race day. In spite of our late entry into the race, we had a great experience and were not impacted by our delayed registration at all, thanks to the great organization on behalf of 1st Place Sports and all involved in this event. For anyone who is a frequent racer, or a Jacksonville local, we recommend being part of this experience.
1st Place Sports offered packet pick-up at various 1st Place Sports locations in the Jacksonville area on the Friday and Saturday before the race. Being such late registrants, we weren’t allowed to pick up our packets prior to race day, but this didn’t impact us at all as we couldn’t get to Jacksonville until too late on the night before the race. Instead, we arrived at the Bolles School (the location of the race start and race morning packet pick-up) at approximately 6:30, after a ten minute trek from the car to packet pick-up. Packets included a Brooks technical t-shirt, some advertisements for local Jacksonville races, and a serving size of lemonade mix. Female runners be warned: this race has given out Brooks technical shirts for the last two years, and women’s Brooks tech shirts run a size small. Inquire about the shirts, and if they are Brooks, order up from what you would normally get. Race organizers were very accommodating and were allowing runners to swap ill-fitting shirts for the correct size. Since we didn’t know Brooks tech shirts were being offered, I ordered my usual women’s medium. When it didn’t fit, volunteers took my bib number and told me race organizers would be ordering more larges as that size was all out.
Also of import to anyone registered for this race: the race website says that parking is limited and runners staying at the host hotel were encouraged to take the free shuttle to the race start. Having not stayed at the host hotel, this had us a little panicked. When we arrived at the Bolles School (a little late by most people’s standards), there was plenty of on-street parking a half mile or more from the race start. As long as you don’t mind walking (or running!), don’t worry about the parking situation. By 6:25 we were parked, and a brisk warm-up jog had us at packet pick-up inside the gym of the Bolles School less than ten minutes later. We didn’t have time to make it back to the car, so we took advantage of the bag check and stuffed our clothes inside the provided clear plastic bags, leaving them in the care of race volunteers until we finished running. Not having to rush back to the car gave us the ten minutes we needed to make a quick restroom stop, where lines moments before the race were short enough to still allow runners to arrive at the start on time.
The Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon took runners on a scenic tour of one area of suburban Jacksonville, with miles six through eight of the course being the most picturesque. Runners were treated to some views of the St. Johns River, and Spanish moss draped vistas of the houses along its bank. Most runners will be delighted by the scenery, even those who live in the Southeast and are accustomed to such scenery. All runners will likely appreciate the entirely flat course which is advertised as producing some fast times.
Aid stations were located approximately every two miles and offered Gatorade and water. The course was one of the most clearly marked we have ever run. Any time there was a turn, a sign with both an arrow and a direction (left, right, or straight) marked the way.
Fan support along the course was minimal, so anyone running this race will have to be content with the beautiful scenery. With that being said, the course ended on the track at the Bolles School, where there were plenty of people waiting to cheer on race finishers. Both our names were announced on the loudspeaker as we rounded the final curve of the track, which made us reminiscent of all those glorious state track meets we ran in high school. Runners crossed an impressive line which was an actual structure (not just an inflatable arch) topped with black and gold balloons. Volunteers were on hand passing out finisher medals, and just beyond them was the sustenance provided to runners courtesy of their registration fees.
Post-race, a variety of food and drinks were offered to runners. Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice was giving out free 8 oz. containers of their various fresh juices. Kiddie pools filled with ice contained plenty of bottled water for thirsty runners, and for anyone wanting a hot beverage, hot chocolate was also available. For food, runners could choose from hot lentil soup, the typical bananas and muffins, fruit cups and peanut butter crackers.
A few vendors also had booths set up on the turf inside the track. Runners had a chance to chat with representatives from Orange Theory Fitness, some local races, and a running club or two. We checked the official race merchandise booths for race shirts in a women’s large, but it appeared the race was truly out of this size and I would have to wait until the order came in.
Unable to find any live results posted at the finish line, we hung out for the awards ceremony to see if Justin had won an age group award. This was a fast field of runners, with an impressive number of men and women finishing under 1:30. Justin’s 1:26:22 was just enough to eke out a 3rd place finish in his age group, earning him a small plaque and some bragging rights.
The Jacksonville Half Marathon is an easy race to run, because of both the flat, scenic course, and the effectiveness with which the race was organized. Anyone in the area should add this race to their list of “must-runs” and enjoy a chance to burn off some post-holiday calories.
Tips for Running a Successful Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon
- Don’t worry about parking, there is plenty to be had on side streets.
- If you register late, arrive early on race morning to allow yourself time to pick up your packet, use the port-o-lets, drop any items off at your car, and arrive at the race start with plenty of time to get yourself together.
- Dress accordingly. Don’t let the late December race date fool you into thinking you need to dress warmly. It is very likely that shorts and a tank top will be ideal for Florida in the last week of December.