This race report has been a long time coming (I blame the influx of work, physical therapy, and doctor’s appointments), but last month, I travelled to Savannah for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K.
I ran the Publix Savannah Women’s 5K last year, where I served as a race ambassador. I loved how the race celebrated female athletes and positivity, and I had a wonderful experience. This year, I found out the race was on the same day as one of my favorite Charleston-area races, the Cooper River Bridge Run. It was a tough decision, but I applied for the ambassador position anyway and was proud to be chosen again.
When race weekend came, I knew I made the right decision. With my hip/glute injury and having to “just run” instead of race, I was glad to run the 5K. I prefer smaller races, so it was nice that I didn’t have to deal with a packed course like the Bridge Run- or the traffic fiasco that comes with it.
The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K is probably most positive race environment I’ve encountered. All of the women on the course cheer for and support each other, especially during the out-and-back portions of the half. Ladies stick around at the finish and cheer other runners and walkers in. The race also allows men to run (although there are no age group or overall awards for them), and men are also treated respectfully, not booed or criticized.
Best of all, the race treats women like athletes- not “divas” or an after thought. It amazes me how other races, including the large one held in Charleston on the same day, have 60% female runners, yet offer only men’s cut shirts. The apparel at the expo is all ladies cut, and the vendors are also local businesses, many owned by female entrepreneurs.
Instead of a race shirt, all runners- 5K or half- received a backpack at the expo. Backpacks are one size fits all and a nice change. I’ve been using mine for the gym and for taking my laptop to Starbucks to write blog posts. Plus, if you do any shopping at the expo or in Savannah, you have a bag to take your goodies home in- win win!
In the days leading up to the race, I considered asking the race director if I could volunteer instead. Whether I’m injured or healthy, I love volunteering. It brings me joy, and I try to do it every month in Cindy’s memory. But even if running isn’t going well for me right now, I could run- and running (usually) brings me joy too.
I decided the best way to represent this race as an ambassador was to run an easy pace, thank the volunteers, and encourage others on the course. With my injuries and setbacks, I knew I wasn’t capable of a fast time. Maybe the encouragement could help push another lady to a PR or to meet her goal, and maybe thanking the volunteers would encourage them to volunteer again next year or serve at other races.
On race day, after ambassador Cecilia sang the national anthem and the gun went off, I reminded myself that no matter where we are on this journey, we’re all in it together.
We took off and I settled into a pace that didn’t feel too hard and I struck up a conversation with some runners around me. One lady was running the half marathon as her last long run before the Boston Marathon the next weekend. A few guys were running to support the ladies in their lives. We had a nice conversation about other good races and running routes and stores in Savannah, too.
The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K courses are quite beautiful. I’ve only run the 5K distance, but you run through downtown and by some great landmarks, including Savannah’s City Hall, Telfair Museum, Mercer House, Washington Avenue, Grayson Stadium, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, before finishing in the iconic Forsyth Park. Both courses are USATF certified and all runners receive a finisher’s medal.
Once the 5K split from the half marathoners, I found myself mostly alone on the course, so I focused on taking in the sights along the course. After all, it’s not every day I get to run somewhere new and different. I ran without music and heard the cheers when my friend Becky won the 5K race, too.
As I approached the finish, I smiled for the cameras- I wanted a good race picture. The race pictures were included in the entry fee, which was a great perk, especially since the photos were good. It’s one of my best race pictures in awhile.
After crossing the finish in 26:14 and collecting my medal, I immediately ran to the mimosa tent. I wanted to reclaim my title from last year- being first in the mimosa line. I succeeded! I was really proud to be the first finisher at the mimosa tent this year, as more runners finished the race before I did this year. The mimosa tent volunteers, or should I say volunBEERs, were so nice and encouraging as well.
I enjoyed my first mimosa, then went back to the finish to cheer for the other ladies. I saw quite a few of the race ambassadors as well as many ladies from Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.
Time aside, I finished smiling and happy, and without any injuries I didn’t have at the start. I headed back to the hotel room to wake Clay up, and we went to brunch in Downtown Savannah. The positivity of the Savannah Women’s Half continued all day long- as we walked around the city, I saw so many ladies wearing their medals at brunch, and everyone congratulated each other for running. There was no judgment, no cattiness, no comparisons- only positive vibes.
If you’re looking for a flat and fast half marathon or 5K, as well as a gorgeous and fun girl’s weekend, I would recommend the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K. The course support and positivity make it a great first half marathon or 5K, and the flat and fast course with pacers make it a great race to shoot for a PR before the summer heat kicks in.
I’ll definitely be returning in future years and hope to run the half someday.
Race Name: Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon/5K
Location: Savannah, GA
Date and Time: April 7, 2018, 7:30 AM
Swag: Backpack, bath fizzies, ice pack, finisher’s medal for all runners (5K and half marathon)
Post-race food: Water, bananas, mini muffins, oranges, two free mimosas or beers per runner
Weather: Overcast, 64 degrees, 83% humidity. A little warm for a half, perfect for a 5K.
As an ambassador for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, I received a complimentary race entry as well as other perks. I did not receive monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own.