|Photo Credit of Ellen Wagner on Flickr|
Every year my mom and I vacation to Sarasota, FL, a beautiful Florida city on the water with gorgeous views of the gulf, clear blue water, white sand and a quaint walking town located across the inter-coastal called Lido Beach. So when I found out that U.S. Road Sports and Entertainment put on a race every March in Sarasota, I had to take advantage. And besides, I am already a huge fan of U.S. Road Sports and the races they put on.
First Watch Sarasota isn’t a very large race, they said 3600 runners took to the starting line and since it is in Sarasota, not a very large city or famous compared to Miami, most of the runners are locals and are much older. The temperatures to begin were in the 60s which was lovely and it was dark out as daylight savings time just took place, but once the sun came out, you could feel it beating down on you. Thankfully it wasn’t humid like Miami was, but by the time I finished it was hot.
The race starts at the Van Wezel Performing arts center and the course leads you down flat roads and across the most beautiful bridge into St. Armand’s Circle and Lido Beach. The bridge is probably the hardest part of the race as it is the only incline compared to the rest which is very flat, but I found the worst part was the wind over the bridge. I am used to running hills as that is where I live, (my driveway is an incline of like 10%, well maybe not buts it’s still steep) but because you are right on the water, the winds can be much stronger so I found myself drafting behind other people to stay out of the wind gusts. Once you were over the bridge it was smooth sailing.
I would say the first part of the course was the most breathtaking. Running into the city, over the inter-coastal, into St. Armand’s circle where we turn around and go back over the bridge. However, from the 10k split to mile 9 it isn’t the most fantastic. It’s straight out on the main road down towards the airport, running by motels and interesting restaurants, but once you hit mile 9, the course takes you through the most beautiful neighborhoods with gorgeous homes. It is right along the water as well so even though you are twisting and turning onto the many different streets, you still get glimpses of the inter-coastal. Also at mile 9, the volunteers handed out wet towels at the aid stations, which I LOVED. It felt fantastic to wipe the salty sweat off my face and cool me down, even though, the towels had a scent to them, but I didn’t care, the towels were genius!
Even though the race didn’t have very many spectators cheering you on, you would see the occasional cheer section thanks to the Lululemon girls, the volunteers handing out water, or those family members who were there to watch their loved ones finish.
The finish line was where most of them were lined up which was nice because it gave you that extra jolt of energy to sprint (or jog) down the homestretch. And once again the best thing about U.S. Road Sports races, when you finish they hand you this enormous medal. It was a dolphin in the waves this year, and it was huge. At the finish line, they also had the after party which consisted of the beer garden (for those over 21), the massage tables which I am always a fan of, the band playing and the post race food. Parking wasn’t a problem at all, the only problem we had was getting from our hotel to the start line as we stayed on lido beach by St. Armand’s circle which was across the causeway so they had to close a lot of the streets.
PERKS: The fantastic course, the bibs which if you ordered in advance they had them labeled with your name as well as gender specific, blue for men, pink for women. The relay runners are allowed to finish at the same time which is something I have never seen before in previous races. The wet towels which I will probably rave about forever. The huge medal and the massage tables. Even though there were only 4 of them and the lines got very long, it was nice to get a rub down and I applaud the therapists who had to touch everyone who had just run.
Ehh…Not a Fan: Getting to the race and having to take back roads around St. Armand’s was annoying and the fact that the expo and bib pick up was by the airport was a drag, but it wasn’t too far from where we were staying anyways. I also wouldn’t suggest doing a race on daylight savings time, but it seemed to work out ok even though I was more exhausted since I did lose an hour of sleep.
Final Grade: B+
All in all, Sarasota was a lovely town and a lovely race put on very well and I would love to run it again.