Funner Runner 2019 Race Review
Written By Brandi Gilbert, SWH Ambassador
After a day of work having severe jealousy of my friends already having ALL THE FUN in Savannah and an uneventful four hour drive from Atlanta to Savannah, I arrived to my home away from home for the weekend - DeSoto Savannah.
After months of excitement, it was time to head to Savannah for the 2019 Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon and 5K. I left work around 1:30 to beat rush hour traffic and arrived to Savannah around 6pm.
First stop in Savannah was the Fashion Fitness Expo to pickup my bib at Kehoe Iron Works at Trustees’ Garden.
Upon entering the expo, you first picked up your bib. There were stations set up and you simply gave the volunteer your name and they assigned you a bib (both 5K and half marathon was together). It was super easy and fast.
After getting your bib and participant duffel bag, you started to make your way into the expo area. Everyone has their own opinion on what gift they prefer, but I thought the duffel was a very unique gift and one that I will use often. Don't worry, if you had your heart set on a Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon backpack from 2018, they had surplus for sale.
The team at Publix greeted us with cheers and another great gift: an icepack and shaker bottle. That was pretty dang sweet! I had barely been in the expo and collected a ton of awesome swag already!
What I really loved about the expo is that the vendors were mostly local businesses. One of my favorite things to do on racecations is to shop local. Since I was familiar with Nourish, I knew I had to hit them up. They had an awesome expo specials on their shower steamers, bath fizzies, and shower gel. This was really a great opportunity to showcase some of Savannah's great local shops and businesses. I really much appreciate to see the Savannah Women's Half Marathon & 5K take that much pride into their local community and businesses.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Historic District which was also the official hotel for race weekend. The Hilton Garden Inn Historic District was absolutely beautiful! They are in the middle of a renovations in the hotel, but the room was great! Oh, and how about the view! The hotel sits just off River Street area of Savannah (just 2-3 minute walk to downtown), but there was still a lot of see, do, and eat right here.
It was a smaller expo, but the vibes were just awesome! Like I mentioned earlier, the local businesses supporting the race weekend were amazing and you could just feel the support for the ladies this weekend. Now it was time to head out and explore Savannah a bit before getting ready for 13.1 miles in the morning
The hotel was about a 15 minute (or less) walk to the race area, so Momma K and I didn't leave the room until about 6:30 and got to the race start/finish at Forsyth Park well around 6:45am.
Over the past few months, I have had the wonderful opportunity and pleasure to be a part of the 2018 Savannah Women's Half Marathon & 5K Ambassador team. About 2/3 of the ambassador team was able to come together for a quick picture and some nonsense before we separated to head to the corral and for Cecilia to sing the National Anthem...which is ROCKED!
It was a beautiful spring morning in Savannah, but you could feel the humidity in the air and knew that the temperature would soon be on the rise. Since I have ran so many chilly races the past few months, I was ok to have some warmer temps today.
I got to the corral just as they were really starting to fill up. There were entrances to the corral with different estimated paces/finish times on them to help you project where to line up. I honestly didn't know where I was going to line up. I positioned myself with an estimated finish time right around where I ran last year - I typically run pretty horribly on flat courses because I am used to hills and elevation changes along the way.
It got pretty crowded as we waited for the 7:30 start time. There were a lot of people waiting outside of the corral to get in once things moved forward, but it seemed to have moved pretty smoothly and organized still.
....and we were off! Honestly, when I saw how many people were in the corral, I was nervous about how the first part of the race would be. It wasn't bad at all! Things spread out very fast and it was pretty roomy on course almost the entire way.
The race course was one of the most beautiful and scenic race courses that I have ran! Almost the entire course is ran within the historic/downtown area. You circle many of the parks of Savannah as well as some absolutely beautiful residential areas.
There are a lot of running "squares" and "circles" around the parks which some people didn't enjoy, but it didn't bother me at all as there was always something to distract my brain somewhat. While we had a pretty much picture perfect day, but that didn't make me not appreciate the shade from the tree-lined course any less.
Side note: I absolutely LOVED the new addition to the course...CHARACTERS! I have to say Forrest Gump at Chippewa Square waiting for Lieutenant Dan was AMAZING! I always love a good character stop and these were so fun and totally unexpected.
Since I am a week post-Savage Race with some pretty gnarly bruises still covering my knees and other miscellaneous spots on my leg, it might be interesting running 13.1 miles on them today. I didn't go into today with expectations really - just finish and run with my heart.
The first few miles I was flying through the course..perhaps too fast, but I felt amazing. Things got a little warmer and humid feeling as the sun came up and by mile 5 or 6 I was really starting to feel the heat and honestly was not feeling well at all. I made a few stops at med tents/portos and monitored how I was feeling closely.
The beautiful course keeping me going, the awesome volunteers and spectators along the way, kept me going even when I wasn't feeling my best. A special shoutout to Carmen who has been following my journey for a while and found me on course! It was so great to meet her and chat it up a bit along the way! By the way, Carmen is also a streaker for the race and this was her 5th year running the Publix Savannah Women's 1/2 Marathon & 5K! What a rockstar!
Since we have had such a weird winter in Georgia and most of my long runs the past 5 months have been in cold (or at least cool weather), I was not used to the warmth and humidity at all. I slowed down my pace a bit as we hit Grayson Stadium around mile 7 because I knew that the heat was starting to take a toll on me - I could feel the salt forming on my face and my heart rate was getting a little high. I knew I needed to listen to my body and just let it be. I knew that I had to go at a slower pace the last few miles in order to FINISH safely. It is time to walk it in like a boss.
I made the best out of my ride on the struggle bus in those final miles. In the last 5K of the race, I ran into a few ladies that were running their first half marathons. We chatted it up a bit and they asked me about things like recovery and things to see/do in Savannah. There is not much more that I enjoy than getting to share tips and experiences with other runners...especially those running their first half marathon! While those ladies I met probably think I was just helping them, they had no clue how much they helped me by being with me those final three miles.
As you exited the finisher chute, you received your finisher medal and a Publix reusable shopping bag filled with your post race snacks (banana, orange, mini muffins and water). I absolutely LOVE this because not only does it prevent people from taking more of their share of snacks (leaving the back of the pack with nothing), it gives you a bag to carry things in so you aren't juggling your belongings.
The race might not have gone the way I wanted it to, but I finished and THAT is a victory. In all honesty though, once I crossed the finish line all I could think was how thankful I am that I crossed the finish line of my 114th half marathon and 'where are the mimosas?'. I headed on over to the adult beverage tent where you had your choice of a celebratory mimosa or beer. Most races just offer beer (if that), so I love the fact that you can opt for a mimosa. No need to rush back home or to your hotel. Since it was such a beautiful morning to hang out with your girls in the park and relax a bit post race, many ladies opted to stick around and enjoy some great music to unwind and celebrate their accomplishments. Ember City really brought great vibes and lit up the atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.
Of course you can't leave a race at Forsyth Park without a picture at the fountain, right? While Momma K and I were there snapping pictures, a few innocent bystanders (i.e. non race participants) were asking us about the race and were encouraged to keep an eye out for next year's race (especially the locals we met).
It was such a perfect day! I LOVED all the support and camaraderie among the ladies out there on course! The course was amazing. The weather couldn't have been much better. The volunteers rocked. Yes, even a few weeks later, I am still beaming about this race. When you run as many races as I do each year, a lot of them start to blend together. The Savannah Women's Half Marathon is definitely one that stands out for all the right reasons.
Where is my race shirt? Oh, forgot to mention that! Rather than provide race shirts, Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon & , 2017 was a bangle with the race logo on it and last year was a backpack which was my favorite and I use it every week.
This year's participant gift was a race logo duffel - perfect for the gym, races, or travel! Everyone has their own opinion on what gift they prefer, but I thought the duffel very unique participant gift and something that I will use often. I have so many race shirts filling up my drawers, it was nice to get something different. Don't worry, if you really wanted a shirt to commemorate the weekend, a variety of shirts (and other apparel) was available for purchase post-race and also online.
The best part is that the weekend isn't over yet! I still have a fun-filled afternoon and evening in Savannah ahead of me (after a nap) and Yoga on the Square in the morning!
Thank you so much to every single person that made race day so magical for me: race directors, fellow bloggers/ambassadors, volunteers, fellow runners, spectators, sponsors, and everyone I forgot to mention.
Oh, if you couldn't tell, I will totally be coming back to Savannah Women's Half Marathon again in 2020. Spoiler: next year's Publix Savannah Women's 1/2 Marathon & 5K will be on April 4, 2020 and registration opens May 1!