Cost: $40 online registration
Expo: Huge expo at the Tampa Convention Center. It was a bit chaotic because there was a game that night at the arena and another event at the Convention center the same night. So we had to park in a far off paid lot, then take a special Gasparilla shuttle to the expo. Once inside it was a mad house and long lines. At the door, they couldn't find my husband's registration so we had to wait in another line to have them look it up, so that was an added stressor. It was late, we had our daughter and my mom with us, otherwise we probably would have looked around at all the vendors, but we didn't bother. We got our bib numbers, our race shirts and got out of there!
Parking: Morning of race parking was available in a number of paid lots and garages. We were lucky enough to find street parking on a side street. The City of Tampa does not collect meters on weekends, so we got free parking! Score. If you run this race, definitely go onto the side streets and park for free!
Start: We started the race before sun up at 6:45am which was nice to try and beat the heat. The start line was NOT well organized. This was a huge downside of the race. The race contained 4921 runners, which is very large but there was only one entrance into the starting corral. It was completely fenced off. This made it very difficult to find your pace area within that corral. My husband ended up hopping the fence to get up near the front (since he runs at a 6:30 pace). Since I wasn't going to be hopping the fence, I just kept following the fence back, back, back trying to find an entrance. I finally realized I was back near the 10:00 pacer and needed to be up closer to the 8:30 pace group since my half marathon time is closer to that pace. It took me a full 2 miles to have enough open space around me to settle into a pace. I felt I wasted so much energy those first two miles maintaining an 8:40 pace while bobbing and weaving all over the street, up onto curbs, in the gutter, on the grass median....it was a mess! I tried to regain my running zen after chaos at the start!
Course: The 15k course (9.3 miles) along the Hillsborough Bay. You could see the bay for almost the entire course. We went into a neighborhood for the turn around portion. I was thinking the course would be more scenic than it was, but the scenery didn't really change at all and made it slightly monotonous. At mile 3, there was a terrible smell coming off the bay....and I mean stinky. Since it was an out and back course, we ran through the stink again at mile 7...ewwww. I am not sure what the stink was and if that was normal, but I sure hope not. Tampa was under a boil order that weekend as their water system experienced failure, so I am not sure if that had anything to do with it or not. But it was yuck. Due to the system failure, they also mentioned to us to not drink the water being sprayed from the water misters as we ran through them. There were plenty of aid stations (in which they assured us the water was bottled water), and lots of porta-potties along the course, though the one that I stopped at mile 4, I did have to wait for two people in line ahead of me.
I took my time on the course and took water/gatorade at each stop because of the heat and because my original plan was to turn around at the finish line and run the entire course again so I could get in 20 miles for my marathon training. I didn't think I'd be able to get much water on my second loop so I wanted to take it all in now. The inserts my podiatrist put in my running shoes to help alleviate the symptoms from my Morton's Neuroma unfortunately give me blisters and I was starting to get two really ripe ones. I stopped at mile 6 to put band aids on the blisters on the soles of my feet :-(
Finish: The finish line wasn't anything spectacular. The finish shoot was really long, which in a way is good....it keeps people walking instead of stopping immediately. They were handing out cold, wet face clothes which was a really nice touch...it was HOT. I got my medal and my bottle of water and found my husband. Our plan was to find the medical tent for more band aids, grab some food, drop the gear off at the car and take off to do a second loop of the course. We searched and searched among the crowds to find the medical tent and could not find it! That was crazy. We asked information in the Convention Center and they didn't know either. Not good. Couldn't find the food anywhere either...usually races have bananas, oranges, etc with the water at the finish. Not so here. We called the hotel (we were instructed we could only do so morning of) about getting a late check out and we were denied. So without extra band aids, food or a late check out, the additional ten mile run wasn't going to work. Which was good anyway as it was pretty hot and humid. So then we decided we might as well go get our free beer and we couldn't find the post race party for our free beer either. The finish line was really disorganized and crowded because the 5k which was even bigger (11,000 runners) was about to start in the same area. We headed back to our hotel with a bad taste in our mouth about the whole race :-(
Overall, the novelty of running in Tampa, seeing the bay and palm trees, and having nice weather at the start was nice. As a former San Diegan, I do miss my palm trees living in DC! $40 for a race is a good price too. This race definitely has those things going for it. I would say the downsides were definitely the disorganization. Would I run this race again? No.