The Iron Girl was my very first half marathon and holds a ridiculously special place in my heart. Last year I was in a place where I didn’t know if I could even do a half marathon. I finished so emotional and so overwhelmed and I knew I had to come back this year. This year, the 5K was calling my name and just like last year I enjoyed it tremendously.
Coming off of a one month rest from running, I wasn’t sure how I would fare. I did two 5K runs during the week on my treadmill in preparation, but I didn’t want to come out and push myself to the point where I would hurt my knee more than it already is hurt.
I’d seen the orthopedic doctor and my first question was “do I need to stop running?” to which his response was no (Thank, you JESUS). He told me to take care of it, though, and that I would need some physical therapy. So with KT Tape on my knee to keep it in place I toed that start line with a goal to just finish. I was highly emotional at the start- more than I had anticipated.
I gave a look up at the sky to acknowledge my God and thank him for this ridiculous blessing, this gift that He has given me and I got moving. I’ve now run this course three times with Iron Girl and a local series and I love it every single time. How can you not love running in Clearwater? It’s just so awesome. I didn’t beat my best 5K, but I came pretty damn close. What matters most is that I finished and I did it pain free. I’m so thankful for that and looking forward to physical therapy and the progress that comes with my running moving forward.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty:
Packet Pickup was fine- it was at a running store at a local mall. The lines were long and the space was hot and tight, but I was able to get out in about 20 minutes. I think if I was running the half, my wait would have been longer (there were two separate lines based on distance).
Parking was okay- race directors sent out a City of Clearwater parking map beforehand letting people know where they could park. I knew that the parking closest to the event would fill up the fastest, but still managed to luck out and snag the last parking spot just steps away from the start line.
Bling was adorable. It was a two-sided medal with images of sea turtles, bridges, dolphins, palm trees and a removable charm that you could add to a necklace or bracelet- what’s not to love?
The T-Shirt was perfect this year! Last year, there was a dreadful maroon colored v-neck shirt and I think people let them know how much they hated it. They gave out racerback tanks this year (and for the 5K the option of a white tee) and they were awesome. They held a vote allowing runners to choose what image and saying would go on the tank. “We Run This Bridge” won (runners go over the bridges in Clearwater) and I love it. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a tank from a race.
The course was beautiful! You run along the bay when you go over the bridge with the Clearwater skyline in your view. Be prepared for that incline as you run up, up, up on the bridge. Trust me, you’ll feel stronger for having conquered them.
Aid Stations- Gatorade and water were available at the aid stations. I will say, though, that the water was warm this year and I think it caught some people off guard. I didn’t mind. Water is water.
Photographs- The photographers weren’t very visible to me during the race. I only mention this for those who enjoy getting their race photos taken. I saw one photographer on the course and the one at the finish line.
Finish Line- This year, Outback Steakhouse was the sponsor. Outback also owns Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill, so I’m sure the food was to die for. I wasn’t too keen on eating a full on meal at 7:40 am, so I passed on that. There were volunteers handing out water, plenty of vendors, and free 5 minute massages on site, which was nice.
I love being a part of a women’s only race. Since this was where I ran my first half, it was bittersweet to come back to the start. I look forward to running with them next year if I can.