The Inaugural Zooma Florida Half Marathon is in the books! Unfortunately, I don’t have any fun to report on the expo or activities of the day before the race. We left Tampa with plenty of time to make it to Amelia Island, the location of the race, but we got stuck in some pretty rough traffic. I had to have someone leave my race packet at the front desk for me when we arrived – thank goodness I was able to grab it then!
The race was hosted at the amazing Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. I have stayed in a couple other Ritz Carlton locations and they have been amazing – this hotel was no different. The rooms were beautiful, the grounds were pristine, and the service unparalleled. I hope to be able to come and visit the hotel again! The nice accommodations are one of the drawing factors of the girls weekend that Zooma wants to attract. I ended up bringing Marcus and a couple of friends along since we had plans for the weekend after the race, but it was have definitely been fun to bring a car full of other ladies with me. Maybe next time!
On race morning, there was a departure time of 7am from the hotel to the start. The course was point to point, meaning the start and finish lines were in different places.
We were on the bus for about 15 minutes before hopping off. A group of us immediately went over to a nearby building to protect ourselves from the wind – thank goodness it was there – it was cold! The wind was pretty intense and the temps were hovering in the 50’s – cold for this Florida girl!
(Race ambassadors left to right: Rachel, Michelle, Julie, Caitlin, Me)
In what seemed like just a few minutes, we all made our last porto potty stops and headed to the start line. Since it was the inaugural year, the race was pretty small. It was nice and easy to make our way into the start corral, which is always awesome! There is nothing worse than being stressed out just getting to the start! Yay for Zooma being so organized!
The first couple miles of the course actually had some little rolling hills – it was nothing too crazy, but my legs noticed it. I really just went out comfortable, knowing that if I pushed it in the first half, I would die in the second half. I just ran 10 miles the weekend prior to the half, which was my longest run in a while. I definitely wasn’t in racing shape, but I didn’t want to treat this as an easy run. I wanted to find something in the middle. The first half of the course was in a State Park. It was very shaded and the roads were very quite. I really like those first 6-7 miles. They were very peaceful.
(photo from Caitlin)
Once we got out of the park, we started the head south towards the Ritz Carlton. We got crazy lucky, and the wind was at our backs – thank goodness! We probably had gusts close to 20mph, which could have been a game changer if the wind decided to blow north instead of south. The rest of the course was a straight shot. I will say – if you are looking for a half marathon with a lot of support and spectators, this is not the race for you. There was very, very minimal support on the course from spectators, which really didn’t bug me. I could see this being a little rough though if this was the first time ever running this distance. Just something to keep in mind. Another negative of miles 7-12 is that they were on the shoulder of the road. The street wasn’t closed to vehicular traffic, so we ran on a portion of the road that was sectioned off for us. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing if that part of the road didn’t have a slight slant and it was just for a bit, but for 5 miles – I wasn’t a fan. My hip/ankle started to bug me a bit, and I know it was because of the slant. The views were beautiful though – we were right on the water, running past some of the most amazing homes in north Florida.
Once we got about 1/2 mile from the finish, I noticed something that I was not expecting – sand, and lots of it. The last portion of the course was ran on the sand into the finish line. It was very soft sand and I was definitely having a hard time with it. Since I was so late on Friday, I wasn’t able to make it to the course preview, which did mention this part of the course. Luckily, the sand wasn’t too long, and before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line.
Rather than a medal like most races, I received a little box with a cute necklace inside, made just for Zooma finishers.
The necklace represented the Sacred Fire – “symbolizing internal fire, passion, and will. Turquoise is the stone of health.” Pretty fun stuff! Once I finished, went quickly upstairs to shower and change clothes, then headed back down for the after party and awards ceremony! I ended up running a 1:42:10, good enough for 15th place and 2nd in my age group.
One aspect of the race that I love is the very usable age group award. We were given to-go coffee mugs, which was so so exciting! You all know how much I love coffee mugs! And how cute is the shirt we were given for participating as well?! Love love love the chevron print!
(photo from Julie)
There was a fun after party with different vendors, yoga, massages, and a lot of amazing girly activities! The race staff did a good job, and I look forward to even more improvements for next year’s race. To the Zooma team – thanks for having me as a race ambassador. I enjoyed running the race for the first time, and loved meeting all of the other ambassadors as well!
Have you run the first year of a race before? Would you run Zooma next year? What about girl weekend races – yay or nay?