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Oct 1, 2013

Brooksie Way Half Marathon race review.....

Short Version
Finished in 1:48:13 (official time); no new PR(1:39:18 is my PR)
Overall place: 474/2703 
AG(M40-44): 76/241
Place for Men: 382/1382
Overall Pace: 8:16/mile 
10k split: 48:46 

Half marathon #18 and race #54

An excellent race overall.  This was my third Brooksie Way half marathon and was also my first half marathon three years ago.  The weather ended up being quite good given we were expecting rain during the race.  It seemed like the race was more crowded this year - it probably was given the surge in racing.  I ran with a running buddy, Josh, as he was seeking a PR and got it!  My race was for fun with no expected pace except to be under 2 hours since I plan to race next weekend.   I still maintained my record of all road half marathons under 2 hour time.


Long Version

Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very simple and all handled online at their website HERE.   In fact, their website and Facebook page(HERE) has everything well organized and every question you might have is on this site.

I decided to go to the expo the Friday before the race.  The expo was located on the Oakland University campus at their fitness center, which is a great facility and makes you wish you were an Alumni.

The expo was open on Friday afternoon and also Saturday to pick up your race packet.  You also have the option to pick up race day but I think things are quite hectic race day so I always pick up early for this race.  Since it's not far from my work, and I was busy on Saturday, I went there after work on Friday.

For a half marathon, this expo is huge!  It's bigger than many full marathons.  I have to admit I like to go and look for deals there.  Occasionally they have some deals that are even better than online. There was a ton of booths and I got to see several people that I knew as well.  I really enjoy the race since it's so close to where I live.
Expo at Oakland University fitness center
I also took a few minutes to talk to Alan and Larry who were working the Kona Running Company booth.  If you are local and have not run one of their races, they have a couple races coming up so check them out HERE.  These are really well run, fun races.
Kona Running Company Booth - Wicked Halloween and Kona Chocolate run coming soon
Brooksie Merchandise for sale
Of course, the expo had all kinds of Brooksie Way merchandise for sale.  I didn't end up buying anything as I'd like to get something at my marathon in November.  If you wanted something though, they had it including shirts, hats, sweatshirts, pullovers, last years shirts, mug, pins.  You get the point.

I also saw Joe who started the Medals 4 Mettle chapter here but I'm a bling junkie and I just can't part with my medals just yet.  Sorry Joe!  It is a great cause though as kids who are sick get great medals and who doesn't like a medal?
Joe for Medals 4 Mettle
After you made your way through the expo, you get to the end to pick up your race packet.  The race had the runners names and bib numbers on a wall.  They also emailed you so you could check your number, but if you forgot, you could get it here.  Once you had your number, you could get your packet.  The volunteers were very friendly and it only took a few minutes to get your packet.  You also had the opportunity to sign up at the expo if you had not registered online for the race as well as fix any issues you might have had with registration.  It was all a very organized area.
Bib numbers
Problems and lare registrations
pick up
Race applications
I don't often find great deals at the expo but I ended up finding a pair of my current shoes for only $75($110 regularly).  I can't even get them that cheap online so I was excited to find these for such a good price.  There were several local running stores at the expo and I got it from one of them.
Saucony Ride 6
With that, I left the expo and prepared by resting up on Saturday for the race on Sunday morning.

Start Area
I'm always an early person when it comes to races.  I ended up getting to the race at 6:30am(8am start).  While it's probably too early, they close parts of the streets at 7am so I wanted to get a close spot to the start. The start is on the Oakland University campus.  There's plenty of room for everything needed for the 6,200 runners that were expected this year.  As I was waiting for the start time, I clicked a quick picture of the sun coming up.  The weather was forecast to be 60 and rainy at the start time but fortunately for us, held off until about 11am so we were able to run without the worry of rain.

The start area was quite organized with tents for the team challenge, a post race tent and the start/finish area.  They also had gear check which was surprising for a half, but also given the Boston marathon issues, some races have done away with it.  For families waiting, they had a fun area for the kids including a rock wall.  The event has always been family friendly.
Beautiful sky
Gear check
Looking forward to it!
One thing I have found is that the Brooksie Way always has plenty of port-o-potties.  I've never seen more except at a larger marathon(and Crim) and I was able to walk right up to them.  While there were lines later, there were still plenty.  The race also offered pacers and they had a tent set up as well.  In fact, on of my co-workers was a pacer and had a great time.  The pacers theme was pirates and their pace times were on their swords.  Haha!  Fun idea!
Port-o-potties galore!
start area
Just before we started, I took a quick picture of the Renewal by Andersen team who I happen to know - at least the runners that were there.  You can race with their team too if you win an entry with their team.  Find them on Facebook HERE.
Renewal by Andersen team - Josh & Larry
From there we needed to get into our corrals so we were ready at the start time.   The four of us got a quick picture together.  You will notice that Josh and I have A corral bibs on but Trieu and Kevin have B bibs on.  New this year, the race set up corrals based on your expected finish time.  I don't even remember what time I put down but it must have been under 1:50.  Regardless, the race corral area was too small for A so it filled up by the time we got there so we just decided to move back to corral B.  It looks like there were many more fast runners than they were expecting.

I also saw Coach Ken at the start and he had things well under control and it's a good thing he was there.  Some of the runners started moving the fencing which would have caused issues.  Also he was doing a great job enforcing the corral if you didn't have the right bib on.

Before the start, they did the National Anthem sung by the City of Rochester Hills mayor's wife.  With that, they sent out the first corral and we were off in the second one.
The fantastic four
Runners in front of us before start
Runners behind us before start

Note: When I take pictures during the race, I don't change my pace or stop in the interest of safety. I just keep running and I get what I can get from the pictures. Some come out better than others but they give you a great idea of what the course is like. 

Also note that these pictures came out much worse than normal. The weather was great for running but not for taking pictures while running.  My pictures tend to come out better when it's a really sunny day.

The follow are three photos are from my Garmin.  The first shows the course which was the same as last year.  My Garmin showed a little short on distance which I really hate but it seems that's been the case on several races this year.  Might be time for a new Garmin?  As you can see, the elevation is quite hilly.  Actually, the first five miles are primarily downhill and then it's hilly from then on to the finish.

I had no plan but to just be under two hour time.  Since Josh was looking for a PR, I told him that I would stick with him.  I wanted to push myself hard but not full out race and his time was perfect.  I basically followed him the first 7 miles and then he followed me to the finish.  It's funny because I probably would not have gone out so fast at the start but I was just going with it.  He wanted to bank some time since the hills slow you down and I've done that before for this race as well and it worked for me.  At the last mile, we(really he) sped things back up so he could get his PR and we both ended up finishing together.  It was a nice race and it was great to run the whole way with someone you know.  I felt really good with the 1:48 time given I ran 50 miles this week for marathon training.
Map per Garmin
Elevation per Garmin
Splits per Garmin - mile 8 is always my demise
Since I've run the race several times, I pretty much knew the course.  It is hilly but I love the challenge.  We start off on Walton Blvd in front of Oakland University.  The sun was coming up and straight into us at this point.
On Walton Blvd in front of Oakland University
Before I knew it, we were already at mile one which should not be surprising considering we ran a 7:58 first mile.
Mile 1
There are pockets of people on the course cheering us on but I wouldn't say it's anything like a large marathon or like the Crim where everyone comes out to cheer.
Mile 2
There was police control all over the course and at the start/finish area.  Some of the course was closed and some of it was partially closed.  Either way, the police did a great job keeping runners safe.
Police traffic control
Mile 3
Between mile three and four, we head out onto the Clinton River Trail and this is a really nice part of the trail.  It's a little narrow for runners when getting on the trail since you have to run the sidewalks but I've never experienced any issues in the three times I've run it.
Near trail
Clinton River Trail entrance
This is an area I've run many times before since it's not far from home and a great place for a long run without the pounding of the pavement.
Steel bridge on trail
Mile 4
Mile 5
After a couple miles, we go through the back of downtown Rochester on the east side and run up through Downtown.
Back to pavement
We even make a pass by the Royal Park hotel which is a really nice hotel in the area.  I've not stayed there but have been to functions for work and it's extremely nice.
Next to Royal Park Hotel
Downtown Rochester
Mile six marks the path to getting runners onto the Paint Creek Trail.  I've done numerous long and short runs here and it's one of my main training areas when marathon training.  The picture below is the "duck pond" area and the start of the Paint Creek Trail which goes all the way to Lake Orion.  We are only on it for about a mile or so but it's great to have two trails mixed into the course.
Rochester Municipal Park(duck pond)
Steel bridge in park
10k split timing mat
On the Paint Creek Trail
Half way!
Mile 7
As we finish off the trail, we go West onto Tienken road. This is one of the hilliest roads in the area and we run on it for about a mile and half but it sure seems like longer with the long hills.  They are not really steep but they are long.
Tienken hills
Mile 8
More police
Mile 9 turns us onto Brewster
Mile 10
As we turn off Tienken, we go up Brewster which is also hilly.  We then make our way onto Dutton which is a dirt road.  The road this year was pretty bumpy and was not in good running condition.  The road was in much better shape in past years.  As you can see, there are also port-o-potties on course.  I know there were more but I only caught these on camera.
Mile 11 on Adams
Mile 12 also on Adams
Above is on Adams which again is a hilly part of the course in Rochester "Hills".  Our final turn takes us back to Walton so we can get back to the finish line which is the same place as the start area.  People were lined up on both sides cheering on runners at the finish.  They also had a timing mat away from the finish so the announcer could call out your name as you were finishing.  That last mile, Josh really picked up our pace so he could get his PR and we finished extremely strong!
Back to Oakland University
finishing up hill
Overall the course, while the same, is a fun and challenging course.

Aid Stations
There are a ton of aid stations.  I'd have to guess one every single mile on the course.  While I didn't use them, they were all cheering loudly and were very helpful.  The aid stations had water and Gatorade and also had one station that had GU as well.  The first aid station was kind of placed strange in that it was a 1/4 mile from the start. Seemed like an odd place since who would need it that quickly?
At 1/4 mile and 12 3/4 mile? huh?

Entertainment on course(new category)
I added this new category since there was so much entertainment for this race.

The Brooksie Way has always had entertainment on the course but this year it seemed that there was even more than usual.  They had some really good bands out there to help us runners out.  I always love to see entertainment on course and it's pretty unusual to have so much for a half marathon.
Guy with guitar - really good!
Finish Area
The finish area was also well organized.  As you finished the race, there were volunteers ready to give you your medal.  My volunteer even congratulated me by my name which was on my bib.  That was a nice personal touch.   From there, there was water, bananas, apples and chips through the line.  Pretty standard race finish food.

Because my buddy Trieu was on a team challenge team, his company gave two tickets to their after party so we headed over there.  They had the taste of Village that offered samplings of food from some of the retailers at the Village in Rochester Hills. There was pasta, salad and frozen yogurt as well as Budweiser beer.  We did the same thing over at the Crim challenge team but the food was much better at the Crim.  I learned that a couple restaurant backed out last minute and one didn't even show so that explained the lack of food in the tent.
For your race entry($45 when I registered), you received a chip timed course that was police controlled.  A personalized race bib if you signed up early enough.  The expo was free to anyone who wanted to go.  The race also offers a free practice half before the half.  You also received a long sleeve tech shirt.  It always seems that this race picks the brightest shirt colors.  While I don't mind bright colors, the hunter orange is, well, bright!  All finishers receive a finishers medal no matter if you ran the 5k, 10k or half marathon which I thought was a nice touch.
Shirt Front
Shirt back
Not included in the entry was the team challenge but it's something you can get your company involved in.
Team Challenge entry
Medal with ribbon
Medal close up
Organization was good overall.  The communication was excellent and they had a website and Facebook page to keep you informed.  The start area and finish area was also well put together.  There were enough port-o-potties for the crowd.  The volunteers knew what they were doing and were helpful.  The expo was well planned and orderly.  Packet pickup was very easy.

My only issue with organization, which has been an issue at other Brooksie halfs I've run, is leaving.  You would think that with campus police and Oakland County sheriff, this would not be an issue but each year it takes entirely too long to get off campus and go home.  They need to have more police and/or volunteers directing traffic so it moves smoother.

Overall, this still continues to be a great half marathon.  I like that it's in my backyard.  I love that I get to run parts of the course that I use for training.  I love the hills and challenge of the race.  The organization does a good job directing the race and putting things together.  It is starting to get to be a much larger race in the area - good or bad depending on your viewpoint.  The weather this year was excellent for running.  It will definitely be a race I will do again.
Another successful half marathon
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. Nice job to you and Josh. I think the Brooksie expo is great and I've found some good deals there too. I love that they change the medal up from year to year - it's a nice one. It's cool that you caught a picture of Steven Clark's band on Avon before the Clinton River Trail. We enjoyed spotting them there the previous two years. I'm glad the weather worked out for you and that it was a good run!

  2. I'm still amazed that this is #18 half for you. That is ridiculous!! I think I've done only 4... I lost count. Great recap and awesome pictures! You do an awesome job at that. I wish I could do the same for my races.

  3. Thanks again for running with me! The hilly part of the race didn't go as well as I had hoped, but without having you in front of me pulling me along, it might have been worse. Glad I made ya work a bit that last mile. :) Was able to turn off the safety and just go.

    I only run the course twice a year (the practice run and the race), but this, for several reasons, feels like my "home course". I plan on running the Brooksie every year.

    1. Enjoyed it Josh. I think you would have done just fine without me there.

  4. It is always good to have a friend to run with/help if you aren't racing. I enjoy running races just for fun/ training. Well done on a solid run at the end of a good week.

    1. Thanks coach! Next week I was to kill it on the course!

  5. I ran the 10k...I'm happy you had a better experience than I did!
    Here's my recap:
    Not sure I'll be seeing another Brooksie Race...

    1. Sorry you didn't have a good experience. Yes, the area is hilly. I think you should try the half marathon next year. I think you will find it's geared towards runners.