Disclaimer: I received free entry to this race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Click the following links to learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Registration for this race was easy-peasy, done online in just a couple of minutes on a well-designed page and form.
The packet pickup and expo was held at the executive club level inside Minute Maid Park, the homefield stadium of the Houston Astros. There was plenty of signage outside to leave no doubt where to enter the stadium for the expo. I left quite impressed with not only the location, but also with the entire process from beginning to end. They had plenty of friendly and knowledgeable staff on hand for everything, from handing out GREAT dark chocolate near the entrance, to the bib pick-up, to the convenient goodie bag area where you could try on the great running jacket included on the packet, and swap it if it did not fit correctly. This is not a common accommodation on a lot of events, so this race clearly distinguishes itself by doing this. The overall feel I left with when walking out is that the organizers form a quality outfit that has this process down and polished and clearly know what they are doing.
Swag: The main swag item (and a GREAT one at that) was a neatly designed running jacket with a 1/4 zip top running jacket made of a 90/10 polyester/spandex blend with the race logo and branding on the front/left side and on one of the arm sleeves.
The start line was conveniently located immediately next to Hermann Square/City Hall, where bag drop off and the runners' gathering area was located. There was plenty of room and areas such as benches and wide walkways to stretch and relax prior to the race. It took less than 1 minute to walk to the starting corral. Start waves were staggered nicely to accommodate the various paces as estimated during the sign-up process.
Weather: Got lucky this year and in my opinion the climate was literally perfect for racing---at start time the temps were in the low 50s, with an overcast sky and little to no wind the entire route.
Course & Support
The bulk of the course was along Allen Parkway, from the edge of downtown to just a few blocks from Memorial Park and back. There were quite a few inclines on it, in particular on the way back between miles 6 and 9. Nothing crazy though; all quite doable. The hydration stations had plenty of volunteers with a set of Nuun electrolyte on blue cups first, water on white cups second. In addition, each station had a table of some treat such as gummy bears, and yes, you guessed it, chocolate. In the middle of the race I heard a few runners here and there comment that they thought they'd be more hydration stations, but I felt there were sufficient. I never felt myself wondering how much longer to the next station or that they were spaced too far apart. In my opinion, on a 15K race you shouldn't need more than 3-4 stations at most. If you do, you're probably not prepared properly for the distance.
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals and water and was quite wide with plenty of room for runners to walk or greet friends and family on the sides. The medal is a large, chocolate bar unwrapped at the top that makes it appear that you're about to eat it, and it's a neat, unique design---definitely a keeper. The post-race food was, as expected, all themed around chocolate, with delicious dark hot chocolate, marshmallows, etc. It truly is good, quality chocolate believe me. I consider myself a chocolate snob and theirs passes the test with flying colors.
Results claimed on Athlinks
Another neat aspect about this race was their coordination/sync with Athlinks, an awesome program that serves as the central database where runners and athletes can keep up with their racing history over the years. In less than 48 hours I was able to go into Athlinks, find, and claim my results for this race, and see that it was my first ever 15k event and so it is now my PR result for that distance.
I enjoyed literally just about every aspect of this race. There wasn't a component that I felt was not done professionally and with thought behind it, and I would definitely recommend doing it to anyone considering signing up.