The St. Augustine Half marathon was actually part of a weekend of running events which included a 5k and 10k on Saturday, and then the half on Sunday. As a result, the race expo began on Friday at noon and continued through Saturday, closing at 5 pm. The expo was held at Francis Field, which was a parking garage away from the city's visitor center. We were too cheap to pay $12 to park in the garage, so we found a spot nearby that allowed us to park for free. We arrived at the expo about thirty minutes before closing time, where it looked a bit like a ghost town. Needless to say, there was no wait to pick up our bibs and unisex tech shirts, which were both handed to us in bright yellow reusable shopping bags. Two vendors were left at the expo, one selling running shoes and a few other running supplies, the other selling beet recovery juice. We snapped a few photos of the finish area and inquired about parking for race day (which was free in the garage as long as runners arrived before 7 am). Francis Field was a brilliant spot for both the expo and the race finish as there was ample parking for all race participants (thanks to the visitor center garage) and it was in close proximity to downtown St. Augustine. After leaving, we took a little while to walk around downtown. If you've never been to St. Augustine before, take a day or two to enjoy all the oldest city in America has to offer.
For those that couldn't make it to Saturday's race expo, packet pickup was available on race morning.
Accommodations were available all over St. Augustine, and even weeks before the race there were still reasonably priced rooms available within two miles of the race start and finish. Anyone booking early may have been able score a coveted room at the Best Western Bayfront Inn, which was mere steps from the start and a few blocks from the race's finish.
We stayed at a Sleep Inn located about a mile from the race start on Anastasia Ave., just over the Bridge of Lions. As it was right on the half marathon course, we passed it twice on our run. We drove in on race morning and encountered no traffic on our way to the parking garage.
Also available weeks before the race were a Days Inn and Holiday Inn on North Ponce de Leon Ave. Both would have also been convenient places to stay.
Dining options were practically limitless. Anyone staying downtown could have dined at one of the local restaurants, with no need to drive anywhere. We had to drive to a nearby Marshall's for an emergency armband and found a Carraba's located just next store. Shopping and chain dining options were plentiful in this area.
We had heard horror stories from friends who ran this race the year before of the two bridges along the course. Runners take note, there is nothing to worry about. If you live where there are hills, these bridges will be no problem. If you live like us in the Land of No Hills, as long as you are running some inclines (we run our local bridges) you will be fine. One bridge is barely even a hill!
When runners weren't running one of the two bridges, the course was entirely flat. After the turnaround point, runners were directed through Anastasia State Park and past the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. The start and the finish in historic downtown St. Augustine were the most picturesque, and watching the sunrise at the start of the race made for some great photos.
The course made it easy for spectators to drive to multiple spots where they could cheer on friends and family members. As a result, a handful of individuals could be found at most major intersections, and most were holding funny signs. I passed one man holding a sign that said, "I'm cheering for two hot blondes" at least three times, so he was getting around (pun intended).
Aid stations were located approximately every mile or two and offered water and Gatorade. Volunteers were friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic. There was little chance of anyone getting lost due to the clearly marked course and vocal volunteers.
Runners finished under an archway reminiscent of St. Augustine's Castillo de San Marcos. An announcer, who had enough talent to be a New York City DJ, was entertaining those crossing the finish line and those already done. Volunteers draped the biggest finisher medals I've ever received around our necks and from there we proceeded onward to enjoy the post race offerings. The Columbia Restaurant, the race's main sponsor, provided post-race food and Michelob Ultra offered a beer to each finisher. There were port-o-lets and port-o-sinks available at Francis Field, as well, though we never saw a long line at any of these, either pre or post race.
Though neither of us had earned any awards, we stuck around for the awards ceremony and were glad we did. The St. Augustine Half Marathon presents all the typical awards, but also has a neat tradition. The oldest male and female finishers are given the honor of drinking water from Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth.
For any marathoner in the southeast, add this race to your bucket list. It was the second race we'd been a part of in two days that was impeccably organized, had skilled volunteers, and was just a great event to be a part of.
Tips for a Successful St. Augustine Half Marathon
- Register early. This race is capped and will sell out.
- Run some hills before the race so you can feel comfortable on the out and back trip over two of St. Augustine's bridges.
- Wear sunglasses and/or a visor. On a clear day you will be running into the rising sun for a good portion of the race.