I needed a race like this. It was chilly. It was overcast. It was rainy. My shoes and clothes were completely soaked when I crossed the finish line. And I loved every minute of it.
If those conditions sound miserable, let’s look at some of my other races over the last several months:
- Honolulu Marathon: 100+ degrees and infrequent water stops. I saw dozens of runners passing out and being whisked away by medical personnel.
- Garmin Half Marathon: Unseasonably warm, humid temperatures and full sun. The high was in the upper 70’s, so it wasn’t terrible. But it was still uncomfortable. Especially since I ran it dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
- Buffalo Marathon: Springtime highs in Buffalo, NY average in the low 60’s. On race day, the temperature was 96.
- Grandma’s Marathon: In Duluth, MN, sometimes there’s still snow on the ground in June. This year the heat index on race day was 105. The race was black flagged and over 2000 runners didn’t finish.
By the second half of Grandma’s, I began wondering if I would ever run another race that didn’t turn into a scorching hot death march.
Race directors can’t control the weather. The best they can do is try to mitigate weather related risks and hope for the best. Despite the mild temperatures on race day, the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon race directors had to do this as well. They moved their post race party indoors to avoid the rain. I didn’t care about the rain though. Running this race was refreshing.
The Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon is in Portland, Maine. Portland is just over 100 miles north of Boston. It’s Maine’s largest city and its metropolitan area makes up almost 1/3 of the entire population of the state. The entire state of Maine is known for its scenic coastline and lobster industry. You’ll find these things in Portland. You’ll also find a nice arts district, islands, a lighthouse, great restaurants and the Shipyard Brewing company, which sponsors the race.
Something interesting about the Old Port Half Marathon is that its organizers rely heavily on runner feedback to plan their event. Everything from the music at the start and finish lines to the post race festivities and free race photos are all based on survey results and website selections made by current and past participants.
Something I found notable is that race T-Shirts aren’t included in registration fees. If you want at t-shirt, you can opt to pay extra when you register, or buy one at the expo. But you won’t automatically get one. This is genius. I do so many races that even though I donate a couple dozen t-shirts to charity every year, I still have more than I know what to do with. So I skipped the t-shirt and bought a poster at the race expo instead. Since I didn’t have to pay for a shirt, this race had one of the least expensive half marathon registration fees I’ve ever paid.
Another nice perk the race directors offered is the RaceJoy mobile app. This app is available for Android and iOS devices and works with multiple races. It’s probably the most useful race app I’ve seen so far. It offers live tracking, course information, updates from race directors and integrated messaging. I kept it on my phone after the race because I found out that a few other races that I’m planning on doing this year are also using it.
The course itself was beautiful. It’s a looped course that starts alongside the water at Portland’s Ocean Gateway Terminal. Runners get views of Portland’s the waterfront, downtown, Shipyard Brewery, Casco Bay, lobster boats, sailboats, islands, parks and trails.
The course is mostly flat, but it does have two steep inclines. The first one starts at mile 2, where the course not only heads uphill, but changes direction several times by rounding a series of corners. The twists and turns almost feel like steep switchbacks on a hiking trail. The second incline is at mile 6. This one is about as steep as the one at mile 2, but the course is straight at this point so it’s easier to see the top. These are the two most challenging parts of the course. Other than a really mild incline around mile 10, the rest is either flat or downhill.
There are plenty of water stations alongside the course and the crowd support is pretty good too. There are a lot of spectators in the downtown areas, and after about mile 11, the crowds get thicker as runners approach the finish line. The final half mile of the course passes by the Portland Train Museum. Spectators pack into old commuter trains to cheer for runners as they head to the finisher’s corral. The finish line is in front of the Ocean Gateway Terminal.
The medal is good sized, round, and contains the race name and a nice design of a sailboat. It also doubles as a bottle opener.
The Post Race Party is a fun filled pizza, beer and music fest. The only downside was that the weather forecast originally called for severe storms on race day. So as a precaution, the race directors moved the party inside where everything stayed nice and dry but felt a little bit cramped. It did rain off and on throughout the morning, but there was no severe weather and the party probably could have stayed outside. It’s better to be safe than sorry with stuff like that though and the event was still a lot of fun either way.
Overall, this was a fun race with a scenic course and great temperatures in a nice city. I’ve heard that this race has also fallen victim to unseasonably warm temperatures in the past. It was nice and cool this year though, and that made me happy. It’s been a while since I could say that I genuinely enjoyed a race as much as I enjoyed this one. When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I could have easily run a few more miles. That worked out well because I had another half marathon planned for the next morning…. I’ll write about that experience tomorrow.