Plano Balloon Festival – First Half Marathon Complete!

Plano Balloon Festival 5k & Half Marathon

The Plano Balloon Festival should have been our second half marathon; a cool-weather, flat and fast (for us) race we would use to submit proof of time for our Dopey Challenge in January. Alas, Mr. Murphy had other plans. In April, the Alamo Half got rained out (my thoughts on the Alamo Run Fest). We were hoping for some fall weather and a fairly flat course for our first officially timed race. As it turned out, the weather was pretty warm, and the course not really flat. All things considered, we still enjoyed a decent race and a good watermark to work from, albeit not the fast POT we wanted.

Race Registration, Packet Pickup and Expo

Online registration for this race was via RunSignUp.  We registered for the Sky High Challenge, Saturday’s 5K and the Half Marathon on Sunday because it fit our Dopey training plan and we’d gain some extra hardware (more on that below). While I didn’t have any questions about the event since I saw everything I wanted to know on their website had plenty of information, my daughter had one and was able to get the information she needed.

Packet pickup took place multiple occasions before the event at a local shopping mall.  The volunteers moved the line along quickly and we got our bibs and shirts and were on our way in a few minutes!

There was no expo for this race, instead a “Runners Village” with vendors and services was set up at one end of the festival.

Spiderpig
“Spiderpig, Spiderpig…” (Yep, you’re welcome!)

Race Day

The Course

One thing I wish with respect to all races.  Can you just agree on a single way to map the course?  PBF Races had attractive maps with mile markers, aid station and porta-potty locations, but they weren’t to scale and didn’t include elevation information. Fortunately, the course was well-marked and easy to follow, with volunteers at turns and junctions. The half marathon had multiple timing mats strategically placed, so it seems like it would have been fairly difficult to cut the course.

Aid Stations

The aid stations for the half (there was a single station for the 5K) were well-placed and well-stocked, even for those of us at the back of the pack.  I appreciated knowing in advance that the only fuel on the course would be at a single GoGoSqueez station, so I made sure to bring my own.  I didn’t catch anyone’s name, but there were some enthusiastic volunteers at the aid stations and in between along the course – thanks to all of you!

Finish Line

The handing out of the medals was a little interesting.  Those of us doing the Sky High Challenge were to receive two medals after crossing the finish line of the half marathon. I didn’t realize that both medals were being handed out at the finish line (instead of at a separate booth as seems to be more common) and almost walked away without mine!

Post-Race Refreshments
Post-Race Breakfast

One of the best parts of this race was the food! Not only was there the obligatory post-race water bottle and banana, but there was breakfast for all the runners both days. Saturday was breakfast tacos (it’s Texas, y’all) and Sunday they served a full breakfast… bacon, eggs, hash browns, and muffins or cinnamon rolls.  Pretty sure I replaced most of the calories I burned off before I got back to my car.  In addition, a local coffee company provided free coffee and orange juice, there was BodyArmor and samples of all sorts in the Runners Village.

 

Plano Balloon Fest Medals
Yes, the medals were very cool!

Swag for this race consisted of a tech shirt for the 5K and a gender-specific singlet for the Half Marathon.  I don’t really wear tank tops or singlets, so I don’t think I’ll use that.  Sandy’s singlet seemed to run pretty small, so she doesn’t think she will wear hers either.  And, honestly, while the shirts are fine, they’re white… with a red print.  Blech.

The medals, on the other hand, are pretty cool.

 

Final Thoughts

Was this the fast POT we were in search of? No. Was it a well managed, well-supported race on enjoyable courses, with helpful and enthusiastic volunteers, great swag and awesome food? Yes, indeed! Which leads us to the all-important question, “would you do it again?”  Yes, if I was in the area or planned this as a stop on a longer trip (another run-cation maybe?).

This event falls just short of a destination race for me personally, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an awesome event that I am glad we attended. And it bears mentioning that we made some new friends on this trip, including Robert at the RunOn store in Dallas (Preston/Forest). We met Robert while running the half marathon, and I was admiring his RUN TX compression sleeves. Next day, Sandy and I were each fixed up with a pair of our own. Robert also does Spartan Races, and I hope to have him share some of his experiences in a future post. So yeah, all in all it was an awesome first half marathon and an awesome stop on our run-cation!

Monster for a Minute with Dark Hour Haunted House
Just gonna leave this here… feel free to add your own caption in the comments.