This race is one of many put on by the running store, 1st Place Sports. We’ve concluded that 1st Place must be so much more than just a store. There was obvious camaraderie, enthusiasm, training, and talent among the Jacksonvillians populating the race, and that must come from the 1st Place community. While we love living in Charleston, we’ll admit to wishing we were part of this fast, friendly crowd in Jacksonville.
Packet pickup was held at the various 1st Place Sports stores across the Jacksonville area. Upon registration, runners chose which location at which to pick up their race packets. As we were were staying near the race start and finish, we chose the San Marco store which was a mere five minutes from Jacksonville Landing.
Packet pickup was a breeze, and it allowed us to browse the store’s merchandise. Of only a minor inconvenience was that the store had run out of one of our shirt sizes, requiring us to make an exchange race morning. While this was (again) a minor inconvenience, one of us was super happy to see a mountain of shirts still available race morning and leave with the correct size.
While the race website recommended runners stay at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, we stayed just slightly closer at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel. We literally walked out one entrance of our hotel and into the race finish line. What made our accommodations even more enjoyable: the room rate for our king bed was only $122 pre-paid.
Places to Eat
For those of you staying at Jacksonville Landing, try not to eat dinner in the area. The pickings were slim. Instead, if you pick up your packet at the race’s San Marco store, there are plenty of tasty options in the area, as well as stops on the Jax Ale Trail. One of us enjoyed two cold beers at Aardwolf Brewery. While there, our bartender recommended eating at any of these four restaurants: V Pizza, Taverna, Bistro X, or the Bearded Pig. We enjoyed lunch post-race at V Pizza, figuring we’d burned enough calories to enjoy a few slices of pie.
The course began at Jacksonville Landing, overlooking the St. Johns River. If runners couldn’t see the two inflatable arches (and we don’t know why they wouldn’t) there was plenty of music playing to lure a runner to the start.
After a shout from a race organizer declared “Ready, set, go!” runners basically headed towards N. Liberty Drive, a shady tree lined street. Running along this one street gives you a sense of how Jacksonville has evolved and changed in the last 100 years. You’ll see a plethora of once grand homes falling into disrepair, many still inhabited by individuals who are now watching the neighborhood’s revitalization. Most heartening are the many homes recently renovated, or those in the renovation process. The race course along North Liberty may look very different in five years.
What likely won’t change much are miles 4-10 of the course, which took runners through the looping roads in and around Evergreen Cemetery. In over 50 half marathons, this was the first that took us through a cemetery, and we both found it to be relaxing, in exactly the way you want a half marathon course to be. While the inhabitants didn’t come out to cheer (sorry, couldn’t resist) the paths were wide, the trees were shady, and the scenery was beautiful.
Leaving the cemetery put us back on North Liberty, heading back to Jacksonville Landing on that same route on which we began.
The post-race party was a modest affair consisting of the standard post-race foods: bagels and bananas. Beer drinkers, may rejoice however. Cans of Coors Light and Bud Light were available in abundance.
Awards for this race were impressive: giant, custom-framed photos with certificates were given to both overall and age group finishers. The generous awards combined with the carefully curated, post-race music playlist made for a more festive atmosphere than one would expect from bagels and bananas. This just goes to show you, a race is so often more than just the sum of its parts.
This was the second 1st Place Sports event we’ve run, and we enjoyed both immensely. Although we can’t be a regular part of the 1st Place Sports community, we’re glad the company hosts so many races each year. This means plenty of opportunities to rub elbows with the Jacksonville runners.
- If there’s a race where you’re going to be ok with forgetting your sunglasses, this one can be it. One of us forgot his, and didn’t regret it. The other one remembered hers, but the glasses spent most of the race on top of her head.
- If you need spectators, bring your own. The cemetery is obviously quiet, however the road leading you from Jacksonville Landing to Evergreen Cemetery was also quiet. The police manning each intersection far outnumbered the spectators, as did the volunteers manning water stations.
- If you are a back-of-the-packer, beware. We went back out to the finish line three hours after the race start, and organizers had already disassembled some tents. Waters were scarce at this point, as were bananas and bagels.
For more information about the Run 13.1 Half Marathon visit: http://www.1stplacesports.com/run13point1.html