Outstanding support and entertainment
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro by going to https://www.bibrave.com/bibravepro. Find more race reviews like this one at www.bibrave.com.
This was my first time racing in the Rock 'n' Roll series. I had special motivation to participate in this well-known event, as I lived in San Antonio many years ago and still have both family and friends there. San Antonio also has a particular charm to it and well-known hospitality that attracts visitors and tourists not only nationally but internationally as well, and it was no different for me when I decided to opt-in and register this year.
The online registration process was smooth through a quick, easy-to-complete form and I received an email receipt within seconds of completing it. The packet pickup and expo was held at the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, a very large facility. While there was quite a bit of traffic, we were able to use a parking garage that is conveniently located directly across the street from the convention center and paid $10 to park there.
The process of picking up the bib was quick and easy, taking just a few minutes. The staff handling the process was particularly friendly, accommodating, and professional.
For example, when I picked up my shirt (a nice gray tech t-shirt), the Large size seemed to be a bit too big so I asked if I could try it on and confirm the fit. They said that would not be a problem and immediately exchanged it for a size Medium after I confirmed the Large did not fit me right.
I was also able to easily correct my corral assignment when I noticed by checking my bib that I had been assigned one that wasn't matching my projected time.
The start line and corrals for both the marathon and the half marathon were located at the corner of Alamo and Market streets in downtown, just a block or so from the main gathering area for runners between Hemisfair Park and the Convention Center. I felt this area was perfect as it is quite spacious and was able to easily and comfortably accomodate the thousands of us who were participating. There were plenty of bathroom and port-a-potties located in various spots around the park; lines were short and moving quickly. Race organizers also set out tables with water and electrolytes in this waiting area for anyone needing pre-race hydration, and I noticed many people were welcoming that and taking advantage of it to make sure they were starting as ready as possible.
Climate at start time was about as comfortable as it can be with temps in the low 50s with little to no wind. About 30 minutes prior to the start I took off the light jacket I had on before turning in my gear bag and just stayed with the singlet I had on, and didn't feel like I was too cold while waiting in the corrals. I felt that continued to be the case all the way to the finish line, although there were a couple of people who told me that they felt a bit warm for their preference towards the end of the race (half marathon).
The highlights of the race for me came through:
1 - The entertainment provided along the course primarily by bands playing all kinds of music such as rock, country, and mariachi. I was beyond impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the segment of road which I estimate to have been about half a mile or so, lined with several mariachi groups such as this one:
2 - The well-spaced, staffed, and stocked hydration stations, in particular the ones at miles 5+ and 9, in which they handed out Science In Sport gels. Even though I was carrying my own nutrition as a backup, I used those gels and really liked them (orange flavor). I can't say enough about the enthusiastic and helpful support provided by all the volunteers I saw and greeted at each one of the stations; it simply makes for a very enjoyable experience to have people like that helping and cheering you on along the way.
The great majority of the course was flat and fast, although there were a few rolling hills towards the back end of the half, around mile 11 or so. I personally enjoy rolling hills, as I feel that when I get to the top of one and come out on the other side I will gain momentum on the downhill side and pick up some impulse and speed. If you have included some hill training in your workouts, you should be able to handle this course without a problem and not worry about them at all; they're not that high or long.
A course highlight for me was going through the Blue Mile area in Brackenridge Park, both for its calming peace and beauty as well as the meaningful memories of those military veterans who gave up their lives serving our country.
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals, water, and electrolyte drinks, and was quite wide with plenty of room for runners to walk or greet friends and family on the sides. The medal for the half has a neat and colorful design of an art structure of a large red ribbon which is located right at the start line and was neat to see on race morning. The post-race food and refreshments provided were outstanding in my opinion.
In conclusion, I found this to be a quite an enjoyable race from beginning to end, and would say that its top aspects are the organization, support, and entertainment. The start and finish lines, all the various music bands along the course, and the well marked, stocked, and staffed hydration and aid stations along the way all send the message loud and clear that this is a professional, well-run event inside and out.