Here it is: the last race report of 2015, even if it is now 2016. Out with the old and in with the new.
So. The Divas Half Marathon & 5K in St. Augustine Beach. This was my second year running: there are a lot of things to love about it, and some things that are less easy to love.
I was planning to run the 5K with a girlfriend from out of town, but at the last minute, she had to back out due to an emergency at home. We were both very disappointed, but things happen, and we will just have to make it up next year (either by her coming here to run this again, or me going down south to run something fun by her).
The festivities started on the Saturday prior to the race with the Health & Fitness Boutique for packet pickup and expo shopping. Last year, the expo was held at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, which was great, so long as the weather held: plenty of space for vendors and room to move around.
This time, the expo moved to the auditorium of a local elementary school. Granted, the day was rainy and raw, but the situation was awful. Parking was a mess (Mr PugRunner and to let me out and circle until I was finished), and the space was so crowded. It was hard getting back to packet pickup and it took ages to collect packets for myself and a friend (which is an adventure in and of itself, involving a signed waiver and a copy of said person’s photo ID). Navigating out of the crowds was difficult, and made it so that I didn’t even want to browse the limited vendors. A women’s themed race offers so many opportunities for great products, and it would be great to see the Divas organization capitalize on that in the future.
I got to bed early because race morning is early for this one.
Not only did I have to make the drive to St. Augustine Beach, but I had to be there in enough time to catch a shuttle. I parked at Flagler Hospital (the amphitheater was my other option, but people who parked there wouldn’t be able to leave until after the half marathon had started) and got to the race site at about 6:15.
It was pretty windy and a storm was blowing in. I met up with some of my friends, but we all had to huddle under the gazebo at the pier when a torrential downpour started up. Ugh. At least I was close to bag check, so I was able to get that out of the way, but it was awful being packed in so tightly.
Eventually an announcement was made, calling the 5K runners to the start line, so we had to leave the shelter.
Fortunately, at that point, the first bout of rain had passed, although the wind was still going strong. D, D and I took our mark. One of the D’s was going to run with her friend from another running group while the other D stayed with me. We did our last minute preparation and then we were off.
It was a perfectly fine race: the course is a big rectangle that leaves from the pier parking lot and heads into the surrounding neighborhood. There are no major turns or hard corners, nor are there many spectators. The race supplied one water stop at a point along the way, and I noticed there were no on-course photographers, which would have been nice. Once we got out of the opening scrum (I had to actually jump over someone who crossed the start line and then stopped for absolutely no reason), there were no crowds and just plenty of open road.
The last turn on to the beach road was rough, because of the headwind, which was rumored to be around 30 MPH. D got an extra little burst and pushed ahead and I just tried to keep pace. Right before the turn to the finish line, I got my boa and tiara, and then just cranked it in.
Not a PR, but my second fastest 5K. Also impressive (to me), was that I placed 77/1128 overall and 13/180 in my age group. It was a great way to end the year.
This year the finisher chute was set up much more efficiently.
After we crossed the finish line, we were able to get water and then get in line to collect our medal and pose for photos with the firefighters who were handing them out (thanks, guys!)
Then we could grab our champagne and move on for more photos and the post-race food and gear pickup.
I took one of the worst selfies of all-time, with my friend Mary Beth, who recognized me on the race course.
We spent some time posing on the beach.
And got to see my coworker (she came in third overall!)
The shuttle ride back to the car was a little less pleasant. We had to take a somewhat convoluted, roundabout route that took way longer than I would have thought necessary, especially when I just wanted to get in a nice shower.
While I do love running this event, and it has been good to me, there are a few things that need attention. The expo is the first thing that comes to mind. The area is definitely tricky in terms of space and parking availability, but I’m sure that will iron itself out over time. The other thing is while the race has a lot of rules for pickup (including no morning-of pickup) and parking and whatnot, there aren’t a lot of instruction on the actual race. One of the things I love about Divas is that it encourages tons of first-time runners. This is awesome and I love to see people falling for the sport and the community. However, it would be nice (and so much safer) if the organizers set up pace markers at the start so runners could seed themselves accordingly.
But those irritations are minor compared to the fun, the bling, the tiaras, the bubbles and the view.
This is such a fantastic event and a great way for new runners to dip their toes in the racing community. I’m not typically a “girly girl” but it’s fun to see all the pink and tutus (now included with your race registration). The price is way higher than I would usually pay for a 5K (I think I shelled out $45 with early registration and a discount code, and that fee went up into at least the $60s if not more by race day), but with the amenities, I find it worthwhile.
Do you have a Divas race in your area?
How was your last race of 2015?