Finished in 1:54:01(official); no new PR
10 mile split: 1:25:52
Overall place: 155/709AG(M40-44): 17/48
Overall pace: 8:42/mile
Race #71 and Half marathon #24
Surprisingly, this is the first race that I've reviewed for Kona that had shortfalls in it. It was not a bad race but it was not a great race and I've always used Kona races as a standard for how things should be done. Unfortunately, I can't say that for this race. I loved the finish on the track, the start was ok(parking lot?) and the course was alright and needs improvements. While I'm sure I was in the minority, I like running on dirt roads because of the softer surface but potholes throughout made it quite difficult to run. I think with some needed changes, they can make it better and bring it back to the Kona "standard" that we all love at their races. Most of the issues are easy fixes but the biggest for me is the course and that needs to be changed before I'd run it again.
Registration is very simple. Sign up on the Novi Half marathon website and get signed up. Since my entry was complimentary for this review, I mailed in my entry. Runners also can mail in entry as well but online sign up is so easy with Kona as it is with most races these days.
The race offered a couple options for packet pickup including pickup the day before the race and also race morning. I tend to volunteer for packet pickup but was not able to this weekend. Because of this, I picked up my packet race morning. The pickup was located at South Lyon East High School which is a great venue for packet pickup. It's also the start and finish area too so it makes it very convenient. I got to packet pickup when it opened at 6:30am. I wanted to be able to park in the school lot instead of taking a shuttle the race offered to another lot a couple miles up the road. I was one of the first runners there so parking was very easy. One of the biggest things I've learned is that if you don't want to use the shuttle, go early. Simple enough.
Kona had their typical set up in the school gym and I said hello to Jill, the co-race directors wife who was working the Kona store. You also had the ability to register race day if you chose to.
|Race day pickup|
|Race day registration|
|Volunteer check in|
About 15 minutes before the race start, I made my way over to the starting area. It was a short walk from the parking lot I was in and was really easy. On my way to the start, I walked right next to the stadium and saw where we were going to finish. The start area was well organized but really nothing special starting in the parking lot. I guess I've been spoiled with Kona's downtown finish in Plymouth or the Horse Track in Northville. They did the National Anthem and we were ready to race!
|To start area from Parking|
|Football stadium at High School|
|Runner in front of me|
|Runners behind me|
The course was a mix of pavement and dirt roads. I had no goal for the race except to finish under 2 hours to keep my road race half streak of all half marathons under 2 hours. Mission accomplished. I'm happy that was my only goal because my legs have been pretty tired from a half last weekend and a 5k on the Friday before this race. Overall the race is a flat and fast course except for parts on the dirt road were difficult to navigate and made for a little slower go.
|Course per Garmin|
|pace/elevation/heart rate per Garmin|
|Splits per Garmin|
Of course, we started off pretty fast at the beginning but then I got into my groove a little better. Things were not overcrowded at all and felt good right from the start. The number of runners running kept if comfortable. The race was much smaller than their other races but this was the inaugural year so expected to be smaller.
|Just getting going|
|Dirt road stretch|
|Race marking water|
|Back to pavement|
|Karly and her Hokas - half left and 10k right(I think)|
|Port o potty on course|
|Back to subdivision|
|A few spectators|
|Lake on left|
|Back to dirt|
|Watch the potholes|
|Steve cheering at mile 9|
|Watch your step|
|Karly coming my way|
|Back to pavement|
|10 Mile Split|
|Dirt roads again - watch it!|
|Lots of potholes|
|Michael working hard|
|Road open to cars|
|Remaining course on pavement|
|A little hill|
|Turn to High School|
|View of port o potty|
|Still on course|
|Around the football field|
|On the track|
There were more than enough aid stations on the course and all the volunteers were awesome. The race offered water and NUUN at the aid stations. NUUN is like a Gatorade except without the sugar. I've actually trained with it before(and reviewed it a couple years ago HERE) and it's really good but it's not well known so I'm guessing many runners would not try it unless they trained with it.
What I was really surprised to see is that the race had no nutrition on the course such as GU or ShotBloks. While it's not something I use for a half marathon or lower distance, the majority of half marathons I've run offer something at least once or twice. The management needs to understand this is a half marathon and not a 10k so most runners need nutrition for this distance and NUUN is not enough.
|Needed help on other side|
A stadium finish is always awesome and really fun. Originally the race advertised the finish was going to be on the 50 yard line but they changed it to the track. We finished near the end zone of the football field and were given our medal as we finished. Because the food tent was on the other side of the field, we had to make our way back to that side and volunteers were directing us where to go. You can see the cones below directing us that way as well. As we got to that side, there was one more aid station(after the finish) with water and NUUN.
|Walk back to food|
|Last water station after finish - met Brian from RWB|
|Other side of field by food area|
|Panera cookies yum!|
|Water, bananas, granola bars|
|Age Group Awards|
|The SEMR/Ignite your Spirit gang|
|Overview of finish area|
|Real bathrooms too|
For your race entry($55-65 depending on when you registered), you received a chip timed course but was fairly open to traffic. I was surprised to see the race bib just be a plain bib and there was no QR code on the bib. The QR code is starting to be the standard for race results. Every race I've done with Kona over the last few years has had the race name on it and I was surprised this one was plain. While I'm aware it likely saved money, this was their introduction into the half marathon distance and they didn't use their typical standard they have used with their other races. First impressions are everything!
You also received a Leslie Jordan race shirt. While it's similar to the shirts Kona offers, this one is a new color and a color I don't have so it will get worn during training. You also received a race medal. Of course, Kona has always done a great job on these and the size/quality for a half marathon was good and similar to their other races. It seems given the tougher half distance, the medal should be slightly larger or the 10k medal should be smaller to recognize the half accomplishment. While the ribbon was also custom, it only said finisher on it. It's better than being a plain ribbon but I like it better when they put the race name and/or date on the ribbon. If you are going to customize it, you might as well do it nicely, right?
|Medal close up|
It was clear in this race that management was not as organized as all the other races I've run with them. I've always put Kona in the top category when it came to race organization but this race clearly lacked some things they do in their other races. They needed many more marshals out on the course to keep runners safe. They should have offered nutrition on the course. They should have organized the finish line area better so runners didn't have to walk back and forth. While I don't think it's the races fault for potholes, they need to think about this being the course if that will be the condition of the road. There are runners that will not want to run this course again just because of this. They should have put the race name on the bibs to make it a nice bib.
Overall, it is a race that needs numerous changes to make it much better and bring it up to the "Kona" standard. The biggest one for me is the course. They need to change the course and get off those dirt roads. This race certainly didn't represent the races I'm used to seeing out of Kona. Unfortunately it's not a half going on my top list which is disappointing because I love Kona races so much! First impressions are everything for an inaugural race and I was completely surprised at some of the choices made for this race. Given this was their introduction into the half marathon, I expected a world class event that Kona has come to be known for in this area and this wasn't it.
Race director comments
The race co-director, Alan Whitehead, from Kona Running Company, called me yesterday afternoon to explain that they have already started planning to make some changes to the race for next year to address the issues. The biggest was changing the course to remove the majority of the dirt road portion. I think that will be a welcome change for everyone. He also said the food would be moved over near the parking area so that the finish flowed better and that they would have more course marshals out on the course.
In regards to the potholes, they tried to contact the Oakland County Road Commission to get the potholes fixed but they were not successful and spent hours to fix a portion of the dirt road. I know many think that a race organization like this has some pull but the road commission did not have it in the budget to fix something for a one time race. I appreciated the fact that he even called to give me some feedback since
|Half #24 in the books|
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion except an honest one.