This was the 5th Annual Hillsborough River Marathon, Half Marathon, and Quarter Marathon held in Hillsborough River State Park just outside of Tampa directed by Endeavor Racing Inc. They host mainly trail races and their theme is 'Dare Greatly.' I was hooked as soon as it mentioned the course was within the state park where you could also camp.
I was super excited as I kept hearing great things about their events. However, this was one of the few, or maybe only, time I walked away feeling a little ripped off.
The campground is great and is pretty large and spread out. They accommodate Rvs and tents, so if you are looking for quiet, Id suggest to maybe inquire who is reserved next to you and/or ask where the more remote/less reserved portion is. I unfortunately was next to an obnoxious family that stayed up past midnight with screaming kids and movies projecting with surround sound outside. There are bathhouses that also have laundry facilities. They are also pet friendly
The park itself has multiple trails to walk, run, bike, mostly along the river as well. There are playgrounds for the kids, and one of the largest pools I have ever seen for a campground! They rent all sorts of different styles of bikes and kayaks to explore. The only thing I didnt like is the main road is one way and is a very large (and slowly driven 10mph) circle. If you pass something, or forget something, you have to loop all the way around again. I must have driven that loop 20x in the 24hours i was there. There is a small independent cafe where you can grab a bite to eat and last minute supplies.
There was an Endeaver Facebook page as well as the event itself. I did a mail in option for registration to save on the fee, but never received any email confirmation until the week of the race. Most communication was done on Facebook, including the last minute cancellation of food. (say what?!)
PACKET PICK UP
There was an option for packet pick up the day before the race or morning of. Because I was already there, I opted for the day before. Unfortunately though, they did not have the chips yet, so we all had to come back early before the race anyways.
The 3 different races started at 3 different times, which I liked, but unfortunately the fast marathoners had to come running through our half marathon line up because we were about 10 minutes late getting started. The gentleman tried to gather us and run through the directions of the course on a megaphone, but it was very hard to heard.
It was a cold morning, temps right below 50, so it was hard to tell how hot this Florida race was going to end up being. I finally decided on short sleeves, pants, gloves, and ear warmer/headband and was perfect.
The course itself had 2 loops in the beginning on pavement and 2 loops in the middle on the trail. The start and finish was walking distance from each other. The trail itself was a mixture of gravel, sand, tall grass, tree roots, branches, etc. I never felt it was too out of control and a lot of it was very hard packed.
There were about 3-4 aid stations with water/gatorade and one station had mms, gummie candies, fruit.
Being a trail race, there were no spectators to cheer you on. There were a couple points were cars were able to share the road though.
Unfortunately I didnt realized until too late that I did not bring breakfast food. The cafe was already closed and the park was in the middle of nowhere, so not sure how far a store was. I took my chance and prayed the Cafe would be open before the race. Unfortunately it was not. I had one pack of GU gummies on me for the entire race. Thankfully I actually felt fine. I did grab the mms one my first loop and craved them the next several miles until I came back to them. I felt strong running the entire course. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down as this was not a road race and no one needs to break anything with this being The Donna marathon training season! On the hard packed section was when I was able to make up my speed, and then the section with the tree roots, I just kept it slow and steady.
The night before the race there was an email post that the breakfast buffet at the finish was cancelled because of vendor/management of the park issues. Though disappointed, I was ok, because they said they would have regular race food after. Unfortunately, after I crossed the finish line, there was only water and apples left. Completely unacceptable. At this point I was starving and upset. I had to walk over the cafe and spend $10 on a (fabulous) breakfast burrito.
SHIRT AND MEDAL
For this being on the smaller and more inexpensive side of races, the shirt and medal represent exactly that. I would have preferred a tech shirt vs cotton. I do like the uniqueness to the wooden medal being a trail race.
For an mid registration of $57, here is what the race promised (and what is still on their website)
• Custom Race Shirt
• Awards for all Finishers
• Park Entry Fee
No food, no drinks, no raffles. For $57 I got to run a trail that is open to the public, no traffic diverted, no city official regulating or securing the course, a generic unisex cotton tshirt, an inexpensively made medal. Where exactly did the money go??
Update-The race director did respond right away and apparently there was only a break in time where they were out of refreshments and offered a discount to those affected for next years race.
Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy camping and exploring the State Park and I did enjoy running the course. The race director seemed genuine in his response, so hopefully future races will not be impacted the same way.
I am on a 10 year mission to run a half marathon a month as well as run one in each of the 50 states, all to help spread the word of breast caner prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle. Please consider making a DONATION today to show your support. 100% net proceeds go towards the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.