As an ambassador of the 2016 Publix Savannah Womens Half Marathon & 5k race, it was an honor to be hosted for the weekend which included Half Marathon race entry for myself. This is my favorite half ever for many reasons, keep reading and you will know why. I had planned to come back for a second year as another “girl’s weekend” which it still did but ended up being a family fun run also. Race weekend was the beginning of our spring break and after much debate back and forth with the husband about spring break plans, we decided to run as a family to kick off our break. My husband and 9 year old daughter registered to run the 5k – which was awesome as we could run the first two miles of the race as a family before I split off to run with my girl friends who came down again this year from Minnesota. Here is my 2016 Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon & 5k Recap – warning there are photos, lots of them and well the humidity didn’t help my camera.
Its amazing how different the weather in the South can be in the spring – last year’s inaugural race was cold and clear not so much the case this year. As we drove to Savannah from the ATL area on Friday, we drove through some serious rain storms – oh and the race conditions called for storms too. I asked my 9 year old if it was raining if she would run in rain even if pouring and her answer was a resounding YES as this was her first 5k after Girls on the Run program last fall.
We made it to the DeSoto Hilton for the expo just as it started to POUR. We picked up our race swag and walked around the exhibitors. I LOVED this year’s participant bag from New Balance which they offer instead of a race shirt – they came in SO handy in our spring break travels. Everyone who runs the 5k AND the half gets the same bag by the way Publix handed out water bottles and towels. SCORE!
The New Balance Fashion Fitness expo is small to match the race, but provides everything you need. Official race clothing for purchase is all New Balance, a brand I have been wearing since my very first half marathon in 1999! The expo showcases a few local vendors as well – LOVE the Nourish Bath products and The Salt Table has the absolute best spices and turned me on to Himalayan sea salt last year. Oh and the local running store Fleet Feet is there too for your last minute needs – I picked up some honeystingers. I saw my friends Anne and Kristin (A & K) from Minnesota and we made our meet up plans for the morning to do the race together. A & K ran it last year and loved it so much they came back for another girls weekend. After a carb load of some Pizza, put out race attire and gear, did a “stop the rain dance” and went to bed.
The morning brought us no rain – I can’t tell you how happy that made me. The ground was wet from the soaking the evening before. Met A & K and started the walk from the short walk from DeSoto Hilton to the start. We left the hotel around 7:10, race started at 7:30. On the walk I saw fellow Ambassador Claudia from The Trendy Smoothie who I was hoping to meet this year and got to snap a photo of us. I love her as she is one of the most positive social media people out there. Claudia was a pace leader for the 2:30 Half Finish Pace Group, one of the many that you can run with for free during the race to stay on your pace.
A&K dropped off their bags at bag check very quickly, and we found our spot in the starting corral. The race weekend number of participants is around 2500, so not a huge race. The Half and 5K all start the race together and run the first two miles the same course. Knowing I just wanted to finish with my friends and take it easy due to this ankle issue that has been bothering me, we started back with the 3:15 projected finish. I LOVED being with my friends and family too!
Off we went and I enjoyed so much watching my daughter having fun and doing intervals with us. Kudos to my husband who is not into running at all and enjoyed being with us and encouraging our daughter.
For those familiar with the Rock N Roll series, this is a completely different race course in case you wondered. While the beginning of the race was a little crowded, it seemed to spread out fairly quickly, much quicker than I remember it happening last year.
It was extremely humid and my friend K has asthma and she had to pull out her inhaler when she had trouble breathing. I will be honest, I was worried about here, I told her if she wanted to finish I would hang with her no matter what and that I didn’t expect a fast race so lets just enjoy the course and finish the race. Last year I had some leg cramps at the end of the race and K had jacked up her knee, so it wasn’t the finished we wanted and this year we just wanted to finish with zero issues. We told A if she wanted to go ahead of us at any point to go for it. K later told me that she was worried as she didn’t know at two mile split when the 5k people head off in another direction from the half people if she would be able to finish AND that she was so glad we had each other.
Off went my husband and daughter and A&K and I just chatted as we did our intervals. After a while K seemed to be doing better thank goodness and we started to have fun, the humidity seemed to have dropped just a tad.
We were at mile 4ish when we saw the winner heading back towards the finish – she had completed around 9.5 miles. I didn’t get a photo as she was on the other side of Guckenheimer Park – a circular park one of the many you pass on the race route which includes 12 of Savannah’s historic squares. This race has a few out and backs which makes it fun to see the faster runners and other faster friends during the race. We cheered for her and the runner in 2nd place, yelled back as she was booking “I am not in first place!” – we were cheering for everyone, not just the winner!
Around this time we were in the Washington Park neighborhood which is GORGEOUS. The homes are beautiful and while we missed the azaleas this year, there was still plenty of greenery and flowers around some beautiful homes. As we made our way towards Dauphin Park we started to encounter some of the shorter out and turnarounds – there are a total of 7 on the race course. I saw Claudia and her pace group on this stretch as she was coming back from the park and gave her a shoutout – cuz I do that.
There were some huge puddles in the park which totally affected my time…I KID, and a dog who seemed confused by the race, but he was so cute. A had decided to go for it and left K and I, which was fine. Loved seeing the Girls on the Run DJ and water stop…bummed my little Girl on the Run missed it so I took a picture.
The field REALLY spreads out and for us back of the packers, there is tons of room to enjoy that beautiful spanish moss! If its a sunny day, much of this course is shaded as we are running through neighborhoods and parks.
Our favorite water stop two years in a row that you hit twice, had the most amazing upbeat kids and some awesome tunes.
K & I were having so much fun taking it at an easy pace and enjoying the homes…. while not a ton of spectators, we did encounter some amazing cheerleaders and our favorite had a sign that said “COMPLETE NOT COMPETE”. We were not in it to win it, and while we wished we had been faster, we decided to do our intervals slow and conservative so we would finish with a smile. We were slow, but man we enjoyed the race to the fullest.
As we approached the historic district again, we talked about how gorgeous the squares are and that you really can’t capture images to do them justice. Kudos to the city of Savannah and citizens for restoring all those homes and parks. FYI, it is the largest historical district in the US, so it is a long huge feast for the eyes.
A funny moment after we began our last square approach to the park, a motorcycle cop came up behind us. Thinking we would be asked to get off the road since our time was not the fastest and assuming it was the “sag wagon warning”, we looked at each other and said… “Oh heck no, we do NOT get told to get off the course” and we started running….yep unlike last year when I had bag leg cramps, I had juice left in me to RUN, not jog and approach that gorgeous fountain in Forsyth Park that serves as the finish – smiling and laughing.
K and I finished together and there was A waiting for us! I had told the family go back to the hotel room since I thought it might be raining that I would be coming back after I finished.
Got my Medal, my free Mimosa and headed back to see the family at the room. Our time was 3:39 yet even after we stopped, had pictures, picked up gear drank a mimosa – or two and headed back to hotel, there were still people on the course coming in. What a GREAT race that the volunteers wait for everyone!
There was a VIP Tent located in the park at the after race party for those who subscribed to Savannah Magazine at the expo OR paid $15 which included a massage and food and drinks after the race. An amazing band called “Nickel Bag of Fun” was rocking at the park – they were awesome.
Thanks again to all the volunteers who stood out for so long in the rain at times to cheer, keep us nourished, and give us our bling. While I missed seeing my daughter finish, thanks to the race photos I got to see her determination and proud daddy smiles as they crossed the 5k finish line! She loves her bling, bag and as you can see her official race water bottle, thanks Publix! She was SO proud to show me her medal in the hotel room.
Race Pros: I love this race so much easy to list: Its not too big crowd wise, its a flat course, runs through historic district and neighborhoods and the scenery is gorgeous! I have done it both as a girls race weekend which was so much fun AND as a family affair equally fun. Savannah is an amazing town to visit, there is so much to do and its walkable. After the race, we toured River Street, shopped and did a ghost tour the night after the race to help stretch out our legs. It was truly the perfect way to begin spring break. I had planned to get up for free yoga on the square which is a race event, but it didn’t happen – I swear my alarm didn’t go off!
Want some race cons? Well I have heard people complain about the turnarounds. As Forrest Gump says, “and that is all I have to say about that.”
PS: Thanks dear husband for this route from Bay to River Street, treacherous steep historic staircase even before your finished 13.1 – but hey I did them no sweat. AND between our shopping, dining and ghost touring, we logged another 7 miles that day, no biggie!
I am so glad I got to share this race with both my friends and my family. While not my fastest race, I was glad to be there for K and glad she was there for me. I met A 18 years ago when we hung out with our church singles group. I love this race reconnected us last year! We had a blast.
Next year’s race is April 8, 2017 which ATL peeps, falls at the END of our spring break. The races are on Saturday so it would make and AWESOME finish to your family’s spring break plans – hey Savannah & Tybee Island – what better place to relax?
As a women’s centered race this also makes for the best girls trip ever. Shops, restaurants, history – my race partner from 2016 as super sad she did could make it back.
HEY REGISTRATION for 2017 Opened today! Sign up here for your Publix Savannah Women’s Half for only $50 through May 31st! The 5k is only $25 through October 19th. Whether with the girlfriends, with your daughter, with your mom, with the whole family, a back of the pack turtle or speedy runner – trust me, you will LOVE this race weekend! Its flat, well run and gorgeous.
Who is planning on going next year? Tell them I sent ya!
Disclosure: As an ambassador I received race entry for the half and race accommodations. My family’s bibs were purchased by us. Some of the sponsors were kind enough to give ambassadors some goodies in thanks for race promotion. All opinions stated are 100% my own.
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