Three months ago, my husband and I decided to run a half marathon in Texas after a good friend suggested it. As a big Fixer Upper fan from the network HGTV, she wanted to be part of the race where Chip Gaines had decided to run a marathon. (I, however, had never seen this show, but it sounded like a fun challenge.) This was Chip’s first. And without prior running experience. The history of this is surrounded by a strong story of a woman who professionally ran races (trials for the Rio Olympics even) despite several rare cancer diagnosises over the last 10 years. ( Her story is here) Little did this woman know that that chance meeting in New York in October 2017 would inspire this race to happen. Chip asked Gabriel Grunewald how long it would take to train for a marathon. She said 5 months, so he scheduled this race 5 months from that moment. Here is a synopsis of his story. 100% of all proceeds from this race were to be donated to Rare Cancer Research. 6000 runners signed up! The race capped out. 3,000 5k runners, 2,000 half marathon runners, and 1000 marathon runners. Due to many normal reasons, the finishing #s looked more like 2722 5k finishers, 1951 half marathon finishers, and 494 marathon finishers.
This was an inaugural race. So of course there will be kinks to be worked out. From the get go, the informational emails slowly started and they were consistent with the facebook posts to their event page. The information for the race was slowly released as details were figured out or determined to be ok for releasing.
Packet Pickup at the Waco Convention Center was easy and small. It was moved last minute to that location due to potential rain…although it was gorgeous outside on Saturday. #bravelikeGabe Gabriel was standing around talking with incoming runners at the expo and taking photos. She had some stickers as well to hand out with her hashtag.
The waiver sign up forms were at the door before walking into the room.
The big room was set up with 5k bibs and shirts to the left, marathon in the center, and half marathon furthest to the right. The process was quick. They told us to bring our registration email (which I didn’t realize I had deleted) and our ID, luckily my ID was all I needed. Picked up my shirt, grabbed my goody bag, and finally Target had little baggies with snacks of fruit strips and nuts to give us separately.
The Sports Medicine Group Airrosti was there in case anyone needed pre-event K-Taping, etc.
Swag was pretty sweet. Essentially 2 bags- a nice Magnolia bag and a Silos District bag. 0.2 sticker for the race as well.
Then off to Magnolia to scope it out the day before the race.
On Race Morning, the temps were in the 50s, starting cool. I toyed with which shirt to wear. I had packed my Asheville Marathon Ambassador tank to wear… but I was afraid my arms would freeze so I changed into a sleeved shirt and my light jacket, packing my tank…just in case.
The hotel we stayed in was about 10 minutes from downtown. We were concerned about breakfast in the morning. I had packed our oatmeal… but the hotel does do breakfast at 6am. I knew that would be too close and we would want to eat before leaving at 6. Our hotel put breakfast bags together for runners to grab that morning that included a Kashi bar, orange, bottle of water, and a little pack of Oreos. That was awesome.
Since our race was at 7:30 we did not see a need to leave the hotel before 6am. We drove to the Dutton Avenue parking area (3.6miles from our hotel) for the shuttle service. As we pulled up on to this parking area, the lines were super long to get in. And for the 1 entrance they were using, there were probably 4-5 lines of traffic from different directions trying to get in. We were definitely nervous about sitting there too long. Conrad looked at me nervously, thinking we should have left earlier. However, we ended up figuring out a back way in to get in quicker. Once we parked, there were at least 5 shuttles waiting to load runners to take to downtown Waco. This process moved quickly and smoothly. The ladies running this part did a great job.
Once on site, there were some great photo ops as the sun was just coming up behind the Silos.
And with the sun coming up, the temps quickly rose, and I changed back into my tank top for the race.
In the back fencing area behind Magnolia market, the bag drop off and port a potties were set up. There were probably 50 of them. No waits to use them.
The marathon was scheduled to take off at 7am. It started late due to the ‘course not cleared’ yet. So they took off around 7:13am. Then we were told Chip took off at 7:15 for media purposes. The half marathon and 5k were scheduled to take off at 7:30am. But it was moved back to 7:40. The start for those 2 races were at 2 different locations.
The announcer for the race got up and talked to the crowds as we waited. The Corral situation was confusing. Our bibs had our corrals listed, however the corrals were not organized by speed from what we could tell. There were Corral signs from A-E… Marathon bibs were A&B we think an all of the half marathon bibs said C, D, or E. They requested that C bibs move to the A as we moved up. This was confusing as the pacers found their places amongst everyone. If you were a bibbed E and were running under 2hrs, you would want to start with your pacers, not your corral. However, nobody was checking our bibs, so it was on the honor system. After the Elites got their start, the rest of us were released at once.
The course was pretty. Starting with running through Baylor, then to outer roads, through downtown, including an out an back between miles 6.5 to 8.5, by Cameron Park Zoo and Cameron Park, over 2 bridges, back through downtown along Austin Avenue and finishing the hilliest part in the last mile of the race. My favorite part was running by the Zoo, down the hill, and past the park. So beautiful. My least favorite… that danged hill in mile 12 after you turn the corner.
The course was listed as fast and flat. It was not fast and flat. It was flatter than running in Asheville… but there were definitely some hills.
There wasn’t much entertainment on the course. Thankfully locals or family members of the runners were out cheering family on. There were a few locations with small bands or DJs. One appeared to be a school ensemble. The signs were awesome. I loved the quotes on the mile Marker signs. I missed some, but got quite a few on camera. Which is your favorite?
The water stations were hit and miss. With the warm temps, many runners were stopping at all of the water stops (including me). The first water station was set up great and prepared. Then it was hit and miss. Some water stations were well set, however the water stations on the out and back were a mess. I think they were supposed to have Gatorade… there was a big gallon of concentrated Gatorade on the ground. But the guy working the water station couldn’t keep up with the water, much less Gatorade. So some of the stations the runners were grabbing an pouring themselves to grab an keep going. Conrad was under the impression the same guy(s) were working both stations and with little help. There were 2 stations where I saw GU available along the course.
My personal race, I felt good for most of this race. I had set a goal to hit 2:20 or below. And for 3/4 of the race I was right on pace if not doing better than I wanted. The first few miles I could tell I was pushing myself. My pace was quick, maybe quicker than it should have been. It was where it was once, several years ago. I Found a good pace at around mile 2-3, a better long distance pace. I took advantage of every water stop. I came up on mile marker 4 and realized it was way off on location. I found this to be the truth at several locations. I actually felt pretty good at mile 6. As I crossed the 10k checkpoint, my app told me I was really at 6.4m, not 6.2… so I worried about its accuracy. But if it was off, my time was actually better than recorded. The water stops for mile 7 and 8 were very close together. Probably less than a mile apart from each other, but this was on the out and back and they were directly across from each other. Around mile 9.5 we started passing the Zoo and hit a nice downhill. I LOVE downhill running. At this point, it was a great break on my legs and I just let them go through the motions to go down without much work to control. At mile 10, I thought- ‘YES!!! Only a 5k left… and my pace is doing great- if I have to take a little bit of some breaks these last 3 miles, I’ll still be ok’. But maybe I was too nice to myself. I started walking a little more during mile 10. Then around mile 11, the calves started cramping. A little here and there at first. If I was running, I would just change how my foot strike hit the ground to work out the cramp. But by mile 12, I’d have to walk a little more to walk out the cramps…or stop and stretch. Around mile 12.6 there was a hill. It was bigger than any of the others. Not fair. After coming down the hill, the finish line was in sight in front of us. A long straight finish. Conrad (who PR’d once again and had plenty of time to wait for me), my friend Julie and her dad were there in front of the chute cheering me on! Thanks Julie! Thanks Honey! Thanks Julie’s Dad!
The finish was a long chute in. Waters were handed out first, then those gorgeous spinner medals. Followed by ice cold wet rags (paper made 1 time use). Slowly walking through the finish chute were volunteers handing out small packs of saltine crackers (1st time I’d seen that- smart idea), Grab The Gold bars, a Magnolia bakery cookie, and a banana (Someone joked… all this running and what did I get? A banana). I slowly staggered through the chute just mindlessly grabbing as I went. Thank goodness for awesome volunteers that deal with us runners as we finish these races. I slowly made it through and went straight to get by bag from bag check. The timing company did not have results up at that point. Not sure if they ever did while we were there.
The after party was somewhat lacking. While it was awesome to get to hang on the grounds of Magnolia after the race, the food trucks, bakery, and store were open for the runners and spectators to utilize (usually Magnolia shuts down on Sundays). And none of it was free. However it was just open area for everyone to hang. If you wanted an extra water after finishing the race, you needed to either purchase it around the Market area, or do what i did and go back by the chute and request one from a volunteer in there. Chip’s truck was out on display for post it notes to be stuck to from the crowd. His talk of ‘Start Small and go Big’ with the 0.2 stickers/logo was to inspire the post-its.
A nice treat I took advantage of was a short line for the Magnolia bakery. I randomly found another Black Mountain, NC resident working in this little shop while she was at school at Baylor! Small world! And oh my goodness that lemon cupcake was amazing!
I was able to score a photo with Clint Harp and his wife as well!
Many racers stuck around to watch Chip finish the race. He ran in a tool belt 26.2 miles. Looking at his splits, he actually did pretty darn well for his first and with additional accessories! Pictures of him coming through the finish line showed the discoloration of the tool belt onto his white shirt. His family joined somewhere along the way… his kids running in before and his little girl with him. Joanna was following on a golf cart and cheering on runners along the way of the full marathon. While waiting at the finish, we got notifications every so often on where he happened to be so we would be ready. I’d say by the time he hit mile 23, everyone started congregating at the finish line. That helped those running the full get some awesome cheerleading as so many were standing at the chute. He was surrounded by media crews immediately after the race at the finish line and hugged his family and gave a speech. He was then whisked away into a vehicle off the premises. I totally understand there might be security issues, but it would have been great if he could have experienced a normal post-race party like the rest of us :). With us.
Overall this was a great race. Hopefully the kinks are worked out by next year. There weren’t many. And I’m sure the lacking after party was to increase the amount of $ being donated to the #bravelikegabe foundation/charity, as well as planning a race in 5 months versus a year’s time.
And a final mention of my friend Julie. She talked me into signing up for this half as she signed up for the full, only to have to sit it out due to injury. However, her positive attitude and sweet cheering demeanor through the entire weekend while crutching around was absolutely magical. It’s a reminder that we can’t always control our circumstances, but how we react to our circumstances. And that is what is most important!
This is a quaint town that is worth running through. If you have an opportunity to run this race next year, it is for a great cause!