This year will be my 10th year partaking in Houston Marathon weekend in some way.
Started with the 5k back in 2013, the full from 2014-2018, 2019 and 2020 I did the half and last year the virtual full, which counted towards legacy status. This year will be my 7th running of the full marathon. What is legacy? You need to run either 10 fulls, or 10 halfs to be a legacy runner, no mix and match, but they don’t need to be consecutive. Being a legacy runner gets you a t-shirt, a designated bib, but the most important thing of all is you get your own bathrooms on race morning and I think that’s really why everyone tries to attain it. The Chevron Houston Marathon is my favorite race and let me tell you why.
- The George R Brown Convention Center. The entire pre and post race staging for this race is indoors. As someone who has a somewhat low tolerance for cold I really appreciate this. You do all your pre race photos, potty stops, stretching etc in a nice brightly lit gigantic space warm and safe from the elements. And then when it’s time to go it’s about a 10 minute walk to your corral so you can really limit the amount of time standing around in the dark and cold. They also have a really well organized bag drop so you can take along whatever you need for before or after. Then after the race you are shuttled back inside the center, where you get your t-shirt (and beer mug if you did the full) You can change clothes and go have breakfast. The pride of Texas, HEB, serves hot breakfast to all the runners. There is also the usual banana, crackers, soda, chocolate milk and coffee. AND there is an ice cream sandwich truck. Which if you ask my husband is the best reason to do the half, as they will not have run out of ice cream sandwiches if you only run the half. The pre and post race areas are for runners only, so best practice is to drive yourself or carpool with your running buddies and let the family sleep in and then set up several hours later at some point on the course. Everyone needs to be downtown early, even if you have a late corral, because of the road closures, so don’t make your family sit in a car for 4 hours just to have a 30 second glimpse at you on the course. There is a family reunion center outside of the athlete area. Be warned: once you go out of the athlete area you can’t go back in.
- The Course. Houston is known for being flat and fast. The race starts with full and half runners together for the first 8 miles and then it branches. The full heads towards Rice University, which is the prettiest part of the course in my opinion, and the half heads back downtown. I have to say, having run the half a couple times, it is a joy to say, “See ya later suckers” at that split. The full course has one semi-legitimate hill at mile 12.5, known as Mount Westpark. There are no naturally occurring hills in Houston so these are all man made bridges and underpasses. The rest of the “hills” come in the last few miles on the Allen Parkway, which while they are small, they are also painful at that stage of the race. The half marathon course has zero hills. Ryan Hall set the American record on the Houston Half course in 2007 running a 59:43.
- The Weather! I can truly say that 9 times out of 10 the weather is great. Typical temps are in the 40’s to start and 50’s or 60’s to finish. With the exception of 2017, the hot year when it was mid 60’s to start and Death Valley to finish. That was ugly. However, I beat my husband at the marathon by about 15+ minutes that year so there is a silver lining to everything. This year is shaping up to be excellent weather.
- Course Hoopla! Now I know this exists, because they send out a survey every year asking what your favorite Hoopla station was, but to be very honest I do not notice. I am one of those runners who has blinders on and sees the 10 feet in front and not much else. But there are lots of live bands along the course and all kinds of entertainment. There are Greek Belly Dancers at about mile 16 as well, which I have noticed. This race is really well loved and supported by the city of Houston and so the entire way is lined with spectators and people cheering. It has an awesome atmosphere. There are also several breweries who set up and hand out beer in those last few miles, so if it’s not your day you can at least have some fun!
- Race Weekend Activities. Whatever your running jam is, this race weekend has it. Great expo, elite panels, meet and greet and shake out run with Des Linden, and a huge post race party (with beer) in Discovery Green. You can make a whole weekend out of it. This is the biggest single day sporting event in the city.
- But the number one reason I love this race is because all my friends are there! It is the single biggest event in running in SE Texas and everyone goes. You get to hang out with your buddies, and all share a great (or not so great) experience together! This year, being the 50th anniversary, EVERYONE is going. It’s going to be a blast.