Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ocala Half Marathon Review 1/31/2010

Ocala Half Marathon Review

FLASHBACK REPORT: Ocala Half Marathon 1/31/2010

My last race report was about the Disney Wine and Dine 13.1.  This race had a huge number of participants.  The race had about 12K registered participants.  This was Disney so they had all the money in the world to have fireworks, live entertainment, characters, fireworks, a food and beverage festival, etc.  It had it all, but how did it compare to my first ever half marathon.
Smiling through the pain

My first ever half marathon was in January of 2010.  I had run 13.1 miles in training several times but never in a race.  This was my first race and I was excited.  Bonnie said I should pick a big race for my first but instead I picked one of the smallest races I have seen to date.  This race was the Ocala Half Marathon.

Ocala is a small city located in Central Florida. The 2000 US census indicated it has a population of just under 46,000 people.  In comparison, the Chicago Marathon has a registration cut off of 45,000 participants. 

Ocala is horse country.  Ocala/Marion County is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.” According to Wikipedia, “Marion County is one of the major thoroughbred centers of the world, with over 1,200 horse farms in total and about 900 thoroughbred farms totaling some 77,000 acres.”  The city also hosts the “Horse in the Sun (HITS)” dressage/jumper event which is one of the largest horse events in the country.  Needles (a horse bred from Ocala) won the Kentucky Derby in 1956).   The horse, Affirmed, won the Triple Crown in 1978 and was also bred in Ocala..

My Race Results

This was my first 13.1 and it showed.  My overall time was 2:33:23.  At about mile 7 my knees completely gave out.  I hobbled along them till I could no longer jog 5 feet before wanting to cry.  The pain was unbearable.  It took everything out of me to just finish the race.  I had to completely walk the last 3 miles of the race.  I was really embarrassed with my time and my knees.  I finished last in my age group but there were only 18 people in this group.

Since that race I have improved greatly.  Two months after the race I would PR with 2:06:01.  I shaved off 27 minutes off my time in 2 months.  My Disney Wine and Dine 13.1 was 2:08:59 with no knee pain (knock on wood).

My Results (Click on the image to enlarge)

It's hard to smile with no knees!

Race Review (Race Grade: A)
Mile 3 (Photo courtesy of

For this race you can either register for a full or half marathon.  The first half of the full is the same route as the half but then splits off for an added portion.  Both races are held on the rolling, paved, back country roads.  The roads run along the large acres of horse farms where the horse stables are larger and much more expensive than my home.  Million dollar homes, million dollar horses and lush green pastures set the scenery of the race.  There were no fireworks, Disney characters, live entertainment, etc.  Just beautiful, quite country roads, rolling hills, trees and horses.  The run was beautiful.

This race was really small.  It had only 302 participants for the half marathon and 116 participants for the full.  The registration cost for the race was also low.  Depending on when you registered the cost of the half ranged from $35 – $55 and $50 - $80 for the full.  I think I pay $35.  This is a far cry from the $135 I paid for Disney.
Darn cold!!

The temperature during the race was about 40 degrees.  That is cold for FL and everyone was wearing jackets, gloves, hats, etc.  It was also very foggy for the first portion of the race.  The fog over the green pastures was a pretty site.

Twizzlers as swag.  Yum!!

The swag at this race was the best I have ever seen.  The race had more than enough water stops and each water stop was loaded to the gills with goodies.  The goodies at each water stop included: water, HEED, gels, Twizzlers, Fig Newtons, cookies, oranges, grapes, bananas, Clif Bars, Clif Shots, coffee, and electrolyte tablets. The after party had grilled sandwiches, pizza, Dunkin Donuts, coffee, bagels, beer (if you call Miller 64 beer), fruit platters, Odwalla Bars, chips, coffee, hot cocoa, juice, fruit smoothies. In comparison the water stops at Disney gave you water and Poweraid only. One stop gave us Shot Blocks.  After the race I got one water, a banana, a muffin, a granola bar and two pieces of hard candy.

The volunteers was AWESOME. They were the best I have seen anywhere. They had little Pop Warner cheerleaders cheering you on.  Each table was staffed with more than enough volunteers who went out of their way to find out what you needed.  Many of the volunteers were very young kids who were excited to be helping out. At some stations the kids would run ahead of the water stations and ask you what you wanted.  They would then run back to the table and run back with what you wanted. Many locals came out to cheer you on.  They even made up signs and posted them along the route cheering you on. 

The sign at Mile 20 read "Here's how you run a marathon. Step 1: Start Running. Step 2: There is NO step 2!!" (Photo courtesy of

Disney Wine and Dine 13.1 had 12,000 participants at $135 a head for a total of  $1,620,000 (and that is only in registration).  The Ocala 1/2 and full marathon raised $33,440 and that is only if everyone registered the day of the race at the full cost (which of course did not happen).

Yes, I am a fan of small races and I love trail runs.  But I am not downing Disney because it was a big race.  In comparison I did the 2010 26.2 with Donna in Jacksonville and thought it was a grade A race and it pulls over 10,000 runners each year.  To me it's not the size, cost or number of participants that makes a great race.  It's about being treated like you are not just another number in the race.

You really got the feeling like the Ocala race was a big event for a little town and they wanted it to be special. Ocala treated its runners like kings and queens with all the food, goodies and great volunteers. Disney made me feel like a just another "customer." 

My Race Number

You can read other reviews of the Ocala race at the Marathon Guide

Well, another race in the books (not the record books).  In this case the history books.

I would like to make a special thanks to Dana Casanave with 52 Beginnings for allowing me to use some of her pictures of the race.  I did not have any and she gave me permission to use some of hers. Her post on the Ocala Marathon can be found here.  This amazing women is running 52 Marathons in 52 weeks for South African Aids orphans.  I will post a blog about her soon.

Please, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of the race.

My First Bling (Disney's is much prettier though)

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