I completed the Des Moines Women’s Half Marathon (my 11th half marathon) as part of my (re)scheduled 20-mile training run. This race was a bit momentous for me, as it was my LAST race in the 30-something age group. Admittedly, I got a little choked up that morning. After finishing my 7 miles on the paved trails in Water Works Park, I lined up with the 1,800 other runners to start the half marathon.
Registration and Cost: Registration was online. I was nervous the event would sell out, considering how late I signed up (only after my original weekend plans were canceled). There was an option to purchase an extra glass of wine with registration for $5 (yes, please). My cost after fees and extra booze was $81.12.
Packet Pick-up: I had a bad feeling when I got an extra email this week AFTER the “this is the last athlete email” was in my inbox (the “last athlete email” where the participant guides were also not hyperlinked). It was about parking, and that’s something that stresses me out more than it should. But since I am still unfamiliar with most of Des Moines (and still have to use my GPS to get anywhere), it’s always a concern — particularly for races. They also urged participants to pick up their bibs on Saturday; despite my plans to go early on race day, I decided to make the extra trip out to Jasper Winery.
Well, parking was annoying — mostly because it seemed no one really knew where to go; once I found the grassy lot behind the winery, I was OK. But people were parking on the front road and side road and trying to parallel park. And there were a lot of people walking in the road (wtf?!). Because I parked in the back of the building, there were no signs directing me where to go — I had never been to Jasper Winery. I saw a bunch of tents and went in that direction (even though I entered the wrong way, seemingly).
And then I realized that there was a line around the front side of the building for packet pick-up. The backup was because we had to sign TWO waivers before picking up our bib. WAIVERS. When registration was ONLINE. It was a little ridiculous.
My gut feeling was proving to be right — and this was a case where I didn’t want to be right!
Registrants then went to a separate table to pick up their bibs; the lines were formed by bib numbers. And then there was a third set of tables to pick up the swag bag. I also got my extra wine ticket, and took that immediately to the winery so I could relax and enjoy (it really was a beautiful day!).
All that said, I really, REALLY loved the bib design!
Expo: There were a couple tents set up outside for the race promoter and Girls on the Run, and the rest of the “expo” was inside the winery. SHAPE is a sponsor of the event and had a mini-shop with its workout apparel. There was also a giant display with every runner’s name printed. I noticed on my way out that the banners on the way out ALSO had names printed on them. I liked the integration!
As you exit, you can grab a glass of wine (I think they also had beer) and sit outside and enjoy the weather. My Front Porch Rosé was a perfect complement to the weather.
Swag and Medals: The half zip, a branded wine glass, the medal. Yeah, this swag is pretty awesome.
Weather: The weather, honestly, could not have been more perfect. It was 57 degrees and sunny at the start — warming up to low 70s by the time I finished.
Course and Elevation: Extremely flat — really, a perfect race for any first-time half marathoners. The start was in front of Jasper Winery and continued past Gray’s Lake into downtown, around Principal Park, connecting to the paved trails that lead back to Gray’s Lake again, and finishing the last miles on the trails at Water Works Park.
Start Line and Parking: The race was delayed by 15 minutes BECAUSE OF PARKING. There were no corral openings — at least none that I could see walking up as far as I could fit to the 11-minute pace sign; runners filtered in from the back. They ended up having to start two different waves because they couldn’t get runners all filed in. Also, I never saw anything posted that parking was at Water Works — everything said the winery. I guess it could be assumed if you are familiar with the area… but I’m not.
Aid Stations: I was happy with the spacing of the water stops, but not too happy to get to the one at 3 miles and find it not have Gatorade as promised in the Athlete Guide that was provided the week of the race (when we got the actual email where the links worked). In fact, there was supposed to be Gatorade at the Mile 6.5 aid station (there was not); there was also definitely no “athlete nutrition in the form of bananas, Clif Bars, Fruit Strips and Twizzlers” at Miles 7.5 or 11. Those aid stations DID have Gatorade though (grape, gross).
Fans and Experience: There were EXCELLENT cheer sections and “fans” along the course, and some of my favorites were the Girls on the Run (who were volunteering at the aid stations; definitely not their fault AT ALL that the stops were not stocked as promised), the Velorosa cyclists, the lululemon Des Moines cheer squad, and the Pure Barre West Des Moines (they’re opening next week!) ladies near the finish line. I saw a lot of repeat spectators who moved along the course, spotting them again-and-again and exchanging “woos.”
Total Bullshit: I have a list of things per this race experience, but overhearing runners NOT be cool to cyclists was stoking my Run Rage. In fact, there was a lot of race etiquette lost on many of the participants of this race. They’ll learn; I can’t fault them for being new to the race mores. BUT DON’T BE DICKS TO CYCLISTS. Because you’re racing on the trails does not mean the outdoor world shuts down for you.
Finish Line and After Party: The race ended where we started — at Jasper Winery. Our finisher medals were handed to us at the end of the “chute” and volunteers passed out bottles of water. You could get individual printed results outside the finisher area — where they also had a live band, food tents, food TRUCKS… and wine. Did I mention that free glass of wine for finishers? They did one better by me by having FREE SANGRIA. Which was a good thing because the athlete food line was SO LONG, I didn’t bother. I guess that was free, too, per the tab on my bib.
And then I waited in my car for a half hour trying to exit the park because the race didn’t keep any traffic volunteers or cops on duty to assist with getting everyone out of the parking area (one giant grass lot and one light that let out about 5 cars at a time). Parking sucks. The end.
THE GREAT: Free sangria!
THE GOOD: Great weather and awesome swag.
THE BAD: If the lack of race etiquette bothers you, this is not the race for you.
THE UGLY: I wrote four paragraphs complaining about parking. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
TL;DR: I didn’t hate this race… but I didn’t love it. There are definitely improvements to make for next year.
Overall: 461 out of 948
Last race in the 30-something age group!
Females 35-39: 90 out of 161