• Juan J. Arrieta

Sarasota Half Marathon Post-Race Review

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Sarasota 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.

I signed up for this race for a combination of reasons: Places with beautiful beaches are my weakness, I have family approximately an hour away from Sarasota, and because it featured a scenic, enjoyable course that promised to be quite memorable.

I flew with my family into Tampa, which is the closest city to Sarasota with a major/large airport and approximately a 55-minute drive away. We rented a car and drove to Sarasota for packet pickup on early Saturday afternoon; with the race being held on Sunday morning.

This honestly might have been the quickest and easiest packet pickup I have ever done. It was held at Fit2Run store in downtown Sarasota. After finding parking less than half a block away, I went in and literally had my packet in hand within 1-2 minutes. It had a nice race/tech shirt along with sunscreen, lip balm, and some coupons and samples of various products. The store had several tables of shoes and other running gear available on sale at great prices.

Unfortunately, later that same afternoon/early evening, the race directors announced that they were having to cancel the half marathon and relay events for safety reasons. They informed us about it through a number of channels, such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as well as email.

They then issued the following statement:

“Due to public safety issues, the half marathon and second half of the relay course has been cancelled. The decision to cancel the race was made in partnership with and under the guidance of the Sarasota Police Department. As a result of this, LifeTime will be providing refunds for all half marathon and relay participants. All half marathon and relay participants are still welcome to run the 10K distance, which will follow the route from Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall over the Ringling Bridge, around St. Armand’s and back to Van Wezel.

We do apologize for the inconvenience and recognize the hard work put into training for this event. We are extremely saddened we cannot host the half marathon tomorrow.

Half marathon numbers have automatically been assigned to the 10K race. Relay runners have been automatically assigned a new bib number which can be picked up tomorrow morning at the registration tent.”

While the cancellation was clearly disappointing, I feel that the race directors handled the situation in a responsible, professional way and considering the circumstances, made the absolute best alternative arrangements of providing the 10K event as well as full refunds to all participants.

The 10K course was both challenging and enjoyable at the same time. Soon after leaving the Start Line at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, it headed south-southwest for approximately a mile to the Ringling Bridge, which crosses Sarasota Bay and reaches Lido Key and St. Armand’s circle. The number of runners was optimal for my preference and I was able to get into a good stride and rhythm fairly quickly without having to weave in and out a lot.

The course turns around at St. Armands circle and heads back over the Ringling Bridge one more time. On the second pass, the sun was coming up over the Bay against the Sarasota Downtown skyline and the view was so amazing that I just had to take my phone out and stop to take a couple of photos---a truly memorable sight and one I will not forget.

That bridge climb is long, but it is gradual and not too steep at any one point. It felt good to focus and keep the legs moving on the climb to reach the mid-point and then hit the downhill side and pick up some speed. I was able to use it to finish strong over the last mile or so back into Van Wezel Park.

The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals, water, and Gatorade. There was ample space to not only stretch but also to sit and recover. After stretching, I met my wife and baby as well as fellow BibRave Pros Karen and Ashley, then headed to the post-race breakfast tent provided by sponsor FirstWatch.

The food was great, consisting of a big yogurt parfait with strawberries and chia seeds, as well as delicious pancakes and assorted fruit like bananas and green apples.

Adjacent to the breakfast tent was a Beer Garden, which required use of a special wristband for runners to enter after confirming valid ID showing age of 21 and over. There was a nice selection of draft beer to choose from as well as a number of refreshing drinks we could sample from sponsoring vendors. Off to one side there was a cover band playing a variety of popular hits and a large race banner serving as a neat backdrop for photos. But what I liked the most of the post-race was the location, with awesome scenery surrounding us of views of the Bay and the nearby Keys across the way.

In conclusion, despite the unfortunate cancellation of the half, this was still an enjoyable event to participate in. I feel confident that the race organizers and Sarasota PD will iron out the safety issues that prompted the cancellation and thus would definitely considering signing up for it again in the future.

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