Hershey Half Marathon Overview:
This was more of an event than a race. The Hershey mascots were on hand at the hotel and at the start (I even got a picture taken with the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup!). Walkers had a 7AM start and runners a 8AM start on the same course so there was the predicable congestion on the course and around water stops. The course began and ended around Hershey Stadium so there was plenty of parking nearby. The course was hilly but the inclines were manageable and not that long. Most areas were well marked; the volunteers and support staff were friendly and helpful. Overall a good race and a great family weekend (and a PR didn’t hurt either…)
Hershey Half Marathon Pre-Race Sign up and arrival:
This was planned as a family weekend so I purchased the Overnight Package which included race entry, Hershey Lodge room for one night with two queen size beds, two Hershey park In The Dark tickets and some other freebies for about $340 including tax. I purchased another two tickets for $22 each (discounted from $30) and we were all set. The package was purchased through Active.com and the only issue was that on Hershey’s site they said that the package included 4 tickets and Active.com stated 2 tickets.
Checking in was a breeze. We got to the hotel about 3:30PM and our room was ready. No lines/No waiting. I picked up my race packet in the lobby which contained my bib, shirt, all four tickets and other do-dads. Minor point here is that Hershey originally stated that our packet was going to be in our room but I thought the lobby pickup worked better since it gave you the chance to ask questions and it also gave you your park tickets even if your room wasn’t ready.
Hershey Half Marathon Race Morning:
Left the hotel a little before 6:30AM for an 8:00AM gun time. I usually like to get to the start an hour prior just to plan for the unexpected (car won’t start, getting lost, etc…). The trip to the park was only about 10 minutes from the Hotel but we decided to leave early when I heard about the road closures. The Hershey folks said that the road closures would start between 6:30 and 7:00AM so I thought if we left before 6:30AM, we should be good. Also the walkers had a 7AM gun time so I wanted to get there early enough to get a good parking spot and this paid off when it was time to leave.
As I mentioned the walkers had a 7AM start so when we got to the start there was a lot of activity in the hour prior. There were a good number of clean porta-potties at the start but as the race start got closer 10 and 20 runner deep lines were forming (another reason to get there early). The start area was well marked and well organized but there was no water at the start.
Hershey Half Marathon Race Start:
Race start to mile 2: Gun went off a little after 8AM. The first two miles or so (and the last two) were in the parking lot of the park. Not very exciting scenery. One thing I noticed right off the bat was there were orange cones every tenth of a mile with the distance marked on them. This gets a big thumbs up as there was never a doubt where you were along the course. Some turns in the parking lot could have been better marked, there was one section where you had to stay to the left but were turning right and there was no cones or barrier to tell you how much of the turn you could shorten. I always try to run the tangents since that’s what the USATF uses to measure the course, but there wasn’t any way to know how big a cut I could make.
Race mile 2 to 6: At about 2.5 miles you entered the park. For those that have been to Hershey you know that the walking paths are not wide so while I didn’t run into any runner congestion issues it’s easy to see that others may have. At mile 3 you were out of the park and on the road, plenty of neighborhoods scrolled by with tall trees and green grass.
Race mile 6 to 10: You ran across a bit of grass and on to a road adjacent to the golf course at mile 6. As far as water stops they seemed to be spaced out every few miles and there were plenty of volunteers. There was an inflatable arch at the halfway point which was a nice marker to gauge your pace (and pain level). It was around this point that I started dealing with the walkers. I must say all the walkers were considerate and did their best to let the runners pass. I tried to return the favor by calling out (on your left/right) before I passed so they knew I was coming. There’s nothing more obnoxious then folks whizzing by right off your elbow with no warning. It was unavoidable though on most turns to have to go to the outside because there were walkers side by side on the inside track. Walkers were instructed to stay to the right during the race so they can’t be faulted for that. Mostly nice neighborhoods until you reentered the park at mile 10.
Race mile 10 to finish: Reentering the park for a brief ¼ mile and then back through the parking lot retracing the start to the stadium. The finish was really the highlight as you entered the stadium to all the screaming spouses and kids from the runner’s families. Gave you a real shot of adrenaline. When you crossed the finish your time and name were shown on a big monitor which makes a really nice official finishing photo for those that decide to purchase one. I was really stoked to when I saw my time on the big screen 1:26:36! I was shooting for a sub 1:30 but I just had a great race where everything clicked. It seems that most of my break out races occur in the fall. I’m thinking this is due to the mileage buildup over the summer and training in 90+ degree temps.
At the finish you receive a really fun finisher’s medal and a little reusable lunch sack keepsake (with logo) that had chocolate, a big cookie, a regen recovery drink along with other snacks.
Overall I would definitely do this race again. We all had a blast at the park and the race was fun with great weather to boot!