This post is a little delayed, but I have been piecing it together since the event on April 26 as I take breaks from my final papers. I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with this semester and will get back to a normal running/workout/blogging schedule.
I arrived to the expo on Friday around noon and it was a madhouse. There was very little parking near the expo and the ones that were available would price gouging runners. Therefore, Susan dropped me off and made the block while I grabbed my registration stuff. The expo was well-organized, it was just a large mass of people in a small space. There were several vendors in attendance and if Susan was not waiting on me, I could have spent some time wandering around the various booths.
On race day, it was advertised that you needed to get to LP Field by 5:30 am or there would be no free parking available. We got there at 6:00 am and had no problem getting a spot, but the issue was traffic, as any trip to Nashville involves. I went the long way to LP Field and missed the vast majority of the traffic, so that did help. Parking was 1/2 a mile or so from the start line, so runners could get a little bit of a warm up before getting to the corrals. The lack of porta-potties was noticeable on my walk to the corral. The few that I did see had insanely long lines. Around corral 14 there were several porta-potties, but by that point most people had fought the crowds.
Prior to the race, all I heard about the event was how hilly it was and that the weather could be quite unpredictable. Whereas the course was hilly, especially on mile 12, that was not the most notable feature of the course to me. The most notable feature was the amount of runners on the entire course. There were over 19,000 finishers for the half marathon alone! This is the first race that I have run in that had a crowd for all 13.1 miles.
I did a fairly decent job of watching my pace early in the race, balancing the hills, sun, and crowds. In fact, it was not until mile 11 that I really started to feel the effects of the course. And at that point, I had not fueled besides my water and Gatorade stops, so I just sucked it up and gave it my best attempt to finish. There is a modest hill at mile 12 that felt like a mountain to me, and my splits reflect that. I did feel good as I crossed the finish line, and felt that it was a great race overall.
Course: B: It was hilly, but not overwhelmingly so. There were bands throughout the course and quite a bit of crowd support. Water stops were frequent and there was GU at mile 11, which is where the marathon and half marathon split up. The finish line, however, was a huge cluster. It felt like runners were being herded like cattle from receiving our medals to the various refueling options, around the corner to the beer tents. Honestly, the process would have probably worked better if the race could have use the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.
And for those of you that frequent The Chive like I do, the water station around mile 7 was sponsored by Nashville area Chivers. It was great to see all those green and BFM shirts.
Swag: A: A nice looking tech shirt and two medals! One medal was for completing the race and one was for being a St. Jude Hero. The bonus medal was not from St. Jude, but rather the fundraising medal given to everyone running in a Rock ‘N Roll event for charity. The 2014 Country Music Half Marathon medal and race shirt were MUCH better than years past, especially the 2012 medal and 2010 shirt.
Overall: A-: Fun race with tons of support and upgraded swag. Weather in late April in the south can be quite unpredictable, but this year we really dodged a bullet. It was almost a perfect day for running, and I finished as the heat began to set in. I would certainly run in this race again.