Name of the race: Syracuse Half Marathon
Where: Syracuse, NY
Date: Nov 12, 2017
Time: 7:45 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Rolling hills
Entry fee: $75 until 3/31; $85 until 6/30; $95
Post-race Food: Bagels, peanut butter, granola bars, cookies, apples, bananas, pancakes, sausage, bacon, chocolate milk, yogurt, water, and coffee
Swag: An amazing windbreaker and finisher medal
Performance: Overall: 430/2881; Gender: 126/1839; Age (40-44): 15/234
Weather: 27 degrees, 63% humidity
I signed up for this race months ago when I was thinking over what I wanted to accomplish in the fall. I planned to use Syracuse as a backup race for running a sub-1:45 if Wineglass didn’t work out. Since I ran a great race at Wineglass, I decided to run Syracuse for fun because running a half for fun, instead of time, is a completely different experience.
Ben and I thought that we would have a long weekend getaway race weekend because he would get Veterans Day off, but we found out a few weeks ago that he had to work. I didn’t have a problem with going up to Syracuse by myself, but it’s more fun to go up with someone. I asked Mara, an old friend from grad school, if she was interested in doing Syracuse with me. After a quick check to make sure her ex was fine with taking the kids for Saturday night, we were set.
I drove up to Ithaca to spend Friday night there with her and her girls. I’ve known them their entire lives (in fact, she blames me for their existence because I badgered her endlessly until she had children). I love spending time with them and catching up with what they were up to. Saturday afternoon Mara and I drove up to Syracuse. Packet pickup was at Fleet Feet Sports, a running store, which actually had a small expo. I rarely buy anything at an expo, so we were in and out.
I found a great place to stay through AirBnB. We got a private room in a shared apartment right in downtown Syracuse. The location was absolutely perfect as there were tons of restaurants nearby and we were blocks away from the start/finish area. The host had the cutest little Yorkie, named Penelope. I could have happily stayed in the apartment all day playing with her. In fact, when we were at dinner, I spent the entire time talking about how we needed to hurry back to the dog.
Mara and I made our flat runners, took photos, and then discussed what our plans were for running the race. I woke up earlier than Mara because I wanted to do a quick warm-up. I used the time wisely to check out the start area; the instructions strictly warned us that only clear bags would be accepted, but in reality, any bag was accepted (thank goodness!). I headed back to pick up Mara and to pack a bag with extra clothes to wear after the race.
Syracuse Half Marathon is seriously an underappreciated and underrated half. There’s so much to love about this race. Sarah of Running on Healthy wrote this post about what makes a great race and Syracuse ticks off many of those items.
- Warm indoor place: The start/finish area was right in front of the OnCenter Convention Center that we had access to. This meant we had a lovely warm place to rest and relax before and after the race, which was very much appreciated on a brisk fall morning. There was lots of space for all the runners to hang out in.
- Indoor restrooms: The OnCenter had several indoor restrooms, which several hundreds of people took advantage of, but in case that wasn’t enough, there were walls and walls of port-o-loos outside as well. Wait-time for the outdoor facilities was short.
- FREE Pre-race coffee: Ben and I love these sort of touches at a race. Mara didn’t believe me when I told her that coffee would be waiting for her at the start. There was a huge Dunkin’ Donuts truck with lots and lots of coffee, sugar, milk, and flavored syrup. It was amazingly luxurious.
- Great course: Rolling hills can be tricky for runners, especially if you’re used to training on flat ground, but I really liked the rolling hills on this course. The inclines were short, and you were rewarded with long gentle declines. The changing elevation made the course interesting. We ran through Syracuse and they did a nice job of having us see different areas and because we ran next to parks and a cemetery, we saw a fair amount of fall colors.
- Fantastic local support: Lots of music, cheering, cowbells, and signs. Because I was running this for fun, I actually got to enjoy the support. Usually I’m so focused (and/or tired) that I don’t see them and I don’t care, but I soaked in the experience. I waved my arms at the spectators; I danced to the music; I encouraged some college boys who were trying to sing a song acapella, but couldn’t remember the words, so they were mumbling, but thanks to my urging, they sang with gusto; I laughed at signs; and I high-fived little kids.
- Post-race chocolate milk: I really really really love guzzling chocolate milk right after a race. It’s soooooo good. Thanks, Byrne Dairy!
- Hot post-race food: Another luxury! I always appreciate a good post-race spread, but hot food is a real luxury that I don’t see often. Because of the cold weather, I very much appreciated having something warm to put into my belly!
- Amazing swag – terrific windbreaker and a beautiful medal: I know this is heretical of me, but I don’t like race shirts. I rarely wear them because for me, running shirt season is a short one in NYC. I pretty much exclusively wear singlets/tanks from March – October. There are two weeks of shirts at the beginning and end of singlet/tank season and the rest of the time I wear long sleeves. Technical material doesn’t wear out quickly and since I do so many races, I’m drowning in shirts that I don’t wear. So I was beside myself with joy when I discovered that we were getting windbreakers for our swag. It’s an incredible jacket. I absolutely love it and have been wearing it constantly. It’s beautifully made and fits really well on me. Ben couldn’t believe that I got it as swag. He had assumed that I bought it. I’m not one for medals either, but I was impressed with this one. It’s lovely and it’s one of the nicest medals that I’ve received.
I took one of Ben’s old suit jacket with me as a throwaway item. It was in such horrible shape that someone said to me, “Let me guess, Salvation Army?” It was chilly enough in the morning that I needed it. I quickly tossed it to the sidewalk moments before we started running. I took the first 10 miles easy. I hadn’t run a half purely for the fun of it since the Baltimore Half two years ago. Even Rehoboth Half last year, although I wasn’t going for PR, I was still running that race to the best of my ability level that I had at the time. Running for fun is amazing; I grinned the entire time and hammed it up for the photographers. The miles ticked by quickly. At Mile 10 I was feeling entirely too fresh, so I decided to race the last three miles. A little bit of lung-burning toward the end, but it felt good. I was shocked when I crossed the finish line in 1:47:38; a sub-1:50 and I wasn’t even trying! I still had lots of pep in my legs and easily could have run several more miles.
I called Mara to see where she was on the course. She was also having an amazing day and was past the Mile 12 marker. I set off to go look for her so I could run through the finish line with her (I took the chip off my bib so I wouldn’t be recorded again). We ran about a half mile together. She was excited to finish under 2 hours because she hadn’t been running much lately due to work and life. She realized that she runs her best when she lays off the pressure on herself and listens to her body, instead of forcing a pace on it.
After the race, we went inside the Oncenter to warm up. Even though I was indoors, I was so happy to wear extra clothes because when I stopped running, I got rather chilled. The race organizers had one of the convention rooms set up with several tables and chairs, so we had places to sit, relax, and eat our food. Mara and I chatted while I ate and Adam Erza Group, a folk band from Boston, played music. They played some cover songs along with their own original work. If you like folk rock/acoustic music, you should check them out. Another nice touch was that names of finishers, their hometowns, and their race times were projected onto two giant screens.
We showered, packed, and drove back to Ithaca. I had lunch with Mara (yes, I know I ate after the race, but I eat so much after running) before driving home to Ben and Bandit in Brooklyn.
I had a wonderful time at Syracuse. There are so many great races in New York that it’s easy to overlook one. I totally think you should run this if you live in upstate New York. This race used to take place in the spring, but it’s now been permanently moved to the fall. Downtown Syracuse has a cute small town feel and was quite charming. I would love to go back again to do this race.