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Jun 18, 2012

Inaugural Ann Arbor Half Marathon race review

Rest day on the schedule today.


Short Version:

Finished in 1:52:52
Overall place: 238/1211
AG place 40-44:  10/77
No PR for me today.

Hot, humid and hilly.  It seems to be a theme for me this year.  Haha!  Overall, I liked the race except for part of the course.(read below for details)


Registration/Packet Pickup
The race did have an expo that was the day before the race.  It was located at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor.  I did no go to it since it's an hour, 15 minutes from my home but they had race day pickup as well.  While I did not go to the expo, I imagine that parking was easy since it was located in the mall plus the race gave you  most of the day to pick up your packet.

Packet pick up was very simple on race day.  The packet pick up was set up right at the start line.  It could not have been any better.  Parking was right next to "The Big House",(or you could park downtown and be closer to the finish line) where U of M football plays and the packet pick up was right there as well.  It was very convenient.  In addition, most marathons and some half marathons do not offer packet pick up the day of the race so that was a bonus for me since I live far enough to not want and drive there twice.  Kudos to the race director for allowing this.  I would guess more people signed up because of this.  I walked up to the table, gave them my number and they gave me my shirt, race bib and sticker.  They had safety pins there ready for you if you needed them also.  Overall, I felt it was very well organized.

After I picked up my packet, I met with Brandon from Renewal by Andersen of Detroit.  They were the company sponsoring several runners today along with being a race sponsor.  We were able to meet and get a quick picture before the race started.  What a fantastic company to help support the community this way.  Thank you Renewal by Andersen of Detroit and Brandon for setting this up.  I would not have had the opportunity to run this race if it were not for your generosity.  I also received many, many comments about my shirt during the race!  People loved it!  Plus the face that we were at UofM racing with Green and White shirts just sparked peoples interest even further.

Part of the
Renewal by Andersen of Detroit team
Packet pick up
Packet pick up/late registration
One oversight on the part of the race was port-o-potties.  They had them but they had them on the other side of the stadium.  I'm not really sure why they were so far from the start line but there was a road and a parking lot near the start line that could have fit plenty of them so it was easier access.

Start Area
The start area, which was right next to the packet pick up was also well organized.  It was right next to The Big House.
The Big House
They had a balloon start line set up and got it ready to go just before the starting time since the road was open to traffic just before start.
Start at the balloons
In regards to the start, the marathon runners started 15 minutes before the half marathoners which seemed to work out fine but most races I have gone to start at the same time.  I will say that the start of the marathon was a few minutes late and they started the half marathon about five minutes late.  It's a pet peeve of mine but with all the planning that goes into these races, PLEASE, start on time.  I don't see any reason for a least any good reason.

This is where things start to go downhill(literally ha).  We started right at the top of a hill by the stadium and went down hill.  Police support throughout the race was fantastic and they did a great job at keeping the runners safe given this was not a closed course.
Here's the start - before the race(typical hill too)
(this was looking the opposite direction we started)
The course itself was quite hilly but nothing unbearable.  To give you an idea, for the half, the elevation gain from my Garmin showed 319 feet of gain and 391 feet of loss.  I won't use that as an excuse for my slower time.  What I would use, however, was the darn humidity.  It was hot and humid and I would say it was probably the most humid race I've ran in three years.  Of course, it was June after all.  Add the hills, and you've got slow times(for me at least)  The heat just got to me today.

The course had some great views of the University of Michigan campus and downtown Ann Arbor.  There are some beautiful sites on campus and you got a great look at the campus by running the race.  However, there is one big part of the course that needs to be adjusted.  The race needs to get rid of the Briarwood mall circle.  I'm not sure who's idea it was to put that in the race but it was horrible.  No support, no music, and just plain boring.  Given all the space there, the race could have had at least one band half way through that.  There was a band at the start of that circle but you really needed something more in there.  With all the awesome areas in Ann Arbor, they pick a mall parking lot to run through?  I would have preferred to run more at U of M than a mall parking lot.

In fact, I would say that the course overall would have made for an excellent 10k or 10 mile race showcasing Downtown Ann Arbor and the campus of University of Michigan.  I also thought that I would not like the out and back portion of the race but it actually helped break the race up for me.  I will also mention that the mile markers were very well placed and quite accurate which I was happy to see.

In any case, I would hope course changes are coming next year to help improve the race.  You can see the little circle below for what I'm talking about.
Elevation per Garmin

Course per Garmin

Aid Stations
The aid stations were well manned with volunteers and plenty of water and gatorade.
Great volunteers
The race director asked us to think about which station had the best volunteers.  While the volunteers were all good, I didn't really see a need for a contest since there was not anything that stood out(such as costumes)  One thing that did stand out was the volunteers throughout the course were great.  Many of them were clapping and cheering for the runners which was nice.  Even the volunteers at the turns that were alone were cheering.  Crowd support was minimal otherwise.  Of course, there were people at the start line and the finish line cheering but other than that - it was very sparse.  In the Briarwood mall parking lot, there was nothing!  I would have also liked to see more bands(not just music) on the course especially near the hills.

Finish area
The finish ended on a football field on U of M's campus called Elbel Field.
Elbel Field
It's used for band practice and other sports.  It was a nice finish.  They had a great finish line right on the field as you turned into the field.  I really like field finishes.  It would have been much better to finish in the big house but I assume there was some restrictions on using it or the race organization did not want to take away from their other race in April, The Big House Big Heart 5k/10k.

Brandon from Renwal by Andersen of Detroit took some finish line pictures so I can't wait to see how I turned out.  Once you finished, they had volunteers giving out the medals and water.  There was no food allowed on the field so you had to go outside the field to get your food.  Outside by the food, there were a few vendors including Renewal By Andersen of Detroit who sponsored me for this race.  In addition, the timing company had posted some of the results already and they had them on two 40" flat screens showing the standings of the race.  I thought that was a nice feature.  A line of port-o-potties were right by the finish as well if needed.

After I finished, I went up to mile 25 near my car and waited to see Mark from Writing, Running and the Human Experience.  He was running the full.  I was not sure on timing but figured even with the heat, hills and humidity, he would be finished in less than 4 hours so I waited to see him.  I was right!  I got this picture of him.  He's smiling and that's the last hill on the course around mile 25 - nice job Mark!  I can't wait to hear what he thought of the marathon.
Mile 25, a hill and a smile?
Great job Mark!
Once you finished the race, as I said, there was water and powerade in the stadium.  Outside the stadium, there was bagels, bananas, apples, muffins(really big good muffins), and granola bars.  Plenty of food to go around for everyone.  All runners also received a shirt with registration along with a sticker and a medal.  Take a look:
Medal and bib
Sticker - a nice touch
Overall I thought it was a decent race.  I know it sounds like I was tough on the race but we have to give some consideration that this is an inaugural race and things will not be perfect.  I think if the race director can make some adjustments(hint: course), this could be a really great race to run.  Would I be back to run it again?  If they modify the course, I would do it again.  There's got to be a better route though for me to be back next year.
My typical picture at home post race
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. Hey Jeff. great review! yes, as soon as I can think straight I'll be writing some thoughts cause I'm still quite delirous. Thanks for helping me get through that hill.

    1. No problem. Glad to help. You deserve a few days to get your brain/muscles back. :)

  2. Sounds like a cool race to me -- would have run by some of my old haunts. I agree though -- Briarwood mall is pretty dreary, and I can;t imagine running around through it. Maybe try to incorporate the Arboretum, or more around the streets around campus.

  3. My rambling post is up

  4. I'm going to side with Mark on the Briarwood stretch. It was a nice reprieve to be flat for awhile. I would have preferred running through Gallup to get the flatter portions, however, for the half marathon.

  5. Nice job! I ended up getting video of pretty much every runner of the full marathon between the leader and the 4:30 pacer at about mile 6, so I'm sure I have Mark in there. I think part of the problem with course support/cheering was the lack of advertisement/notification. It seemed that nonrunner residents of A2 had no idea this was even happening, until they tried and failed to drive around that day! (And subsequently complained about on article comments)

    1. Wow. You have real life footage. I might be afraid to see because it could shatter some imaginary and delusional image I have of myself. And yes, I did read some ann arbor article comments, including the Mayor who called it a major inconvenience.

    2. I read that article too Mark. Very disappointing comments about the race. It's a Sunday morning - no better time to do it really. Perhaps your race medal will be worth something if they cancel going forward.

  6. Congrats on finishing another half! It has been a warm spring.

  7. I love the shirts, bibs, and medals for this race! I was not in love with the course thus why I didn't sign up even though I work in A2 and run the area regularly. I just couldn't bring myself to pay to run around the mall parking lot. I too hope they change the course and possibly move the date, local residents lost their minds on about all the road closures on Father's Day and a marathon in June is just a bad idea anyway. Congrats on adding another half to your race belt and I'm glad you enjoyed the running tour of my dear A2! :)

  8. Yeah, I agree, the fathers day thing did little for me but it was probably inspirational for some. I saw a very funny, farce post on how the mayor of ann arbor said that he would only continue the race next year if the marathon was changed to 15 miles to be disruptive. (fake news, btw)

  9. Hi, Jeff, and thanks for coming to my fair city to run the half! I did the full myself, and I will double your feeling about the Briarwood loop and put mustard on it. Maybe next year they'll find a different major sponsor than Macy's. Other than that, I share your opinion that the race was well organized and the volunteers were terrific.

    Come run the Dexter-Ann Arbor half next year!