Not-so-Haunted Half 2017-Austin

Haunted Half Austin

Sandy saw this event on Facebook and loved the t-shirt and medal design. I figured the 5k would be something fun and Halloween-ish we could do with the girls, AND it would be a good chance for all of us to do a trial run on some of our costume designs for our upcoming Disney races (in addition to Sandy and I doing Dopey, the girls are doing WDW Princess in February).

Race Registration, Packet Pickup and Expo

Race registration was handled through RunSignup and went smoothly. We got a group discount (for 4 or more) as well as a social discount for sharing on Facebook.

Packet pickup was the day before the race, at the race location – Travis County Expo Center. I have to admit that we were pretty early to the packet pickup since we were coming from an event at the same location. Although we weren’t the first ones to pick up packets (there were a couple of others in front of us), it seemed to still be a little disorganized.  We went to one table to pick up bibs and bags, and were pointed to another location for shirts.

The race guide, showing the shirt we SHOULD have received

Shirt pickup was pretty disappointing.  I walked over to the table with the shirts that looked like the one in the promo material and was told that if I wanted one of those I’d have to buy it for $20, otherwise, “The free shirts are over there.”  Even though I entered specific shirt sizes for each of us at registration, at the “free” shirt table, we basically just pulled whatever size we felt like taking from one of the stacks. The shirts were not the design, quality, style (short sleeve not long as advertised) or even the RANGE OF SIZES that were listed on the registration form.

The “free” shirt we got unless we wanted to pay $20 extra for the shirt we were supposed to get.

I don’t know whether they were short some shirts, or had the range listed incorrectly for the race, but we had to take what they had. Am I wrong to assume that if I ORDER a certain size, that will be the size I receive?

As far as the “expo” went, there were booths for two other races, a local CrossFit box, one apparel booth and Nuun.  Oh and the paid shirt booth.  Not much to see there, although the Cupid’s Undie Run sounds like a lot of fun!

While the volunteers at the expo weren’t unfriendly, no one seemed to be too enthusiastic either… All in all, it was a little disappointing and apparently a preview of how race day would go.

Race Day

Let’s see… where to start? We arrived at the race location about an hour before the start of our race and about 30 minutes before the start of the half marathon (which started half an hour before the 5k since the course for the half shared the first few miles of the 5k course). The race site looked about as disorganized as the packet pickup had been the day before. There seemed to be an ample number of volunteers but no one to direct them, so most were just standing around. The half marathon started with minimal fanfare and no headless horseman… where was the freakin’ headless horseman that was supposed to lead the start of the races?

Once the last of the half marathoners cleared the starting area, the 5k runners started gathering around and shortly we were off.

Tinkerbell, Cinderella and Ariel

The course was well marked, and according to my Garmin fairly accurate. I only noticed one volunteer on the course at an intersection where you could have made a wrong turn. I did not see any interim timing mats but that’s not surprising on a 5k course. What bothered me the most about the course was the lack of the promised aid station. Sandy and I don’t normally use/need an aid station on a 5k but there seemed to be plenty of people (some in our group) who could have used hydration, or at least refreshment. The race guide stated that there would be aid stations at miles 2,4,6,8,10 & 12 for the half marathon and at mile 2 for the 5K. Each aid station was to have water, Powerade, and Portapotties. I can not vouch for the half marathon course but I can confirm that there was NO aid station on the 5k course. Not cool!

Other issues with the course were the lack of any of the “haunted” features as advertised. Not THAT big of a deal, but if you say there is going to be a haunted tunnel, then dammit there should be a haunted tunnel (an inflatable tunnel with nothing in it doesn’t count!). There were a few whimsical inflatables, and some teenagers made up as zombies (very un-enthusiastic zombies), but it all seemed sort of thrown together at best.

There were also supposed to be photographers along the course. The race guide even designated mile markers they would be placed at. Though I saw numerous photographers/videographers around the start/finish area, I did not see any on the course.

The finish line was pretty standard, with the addition of a large jack-o-lantern inflatable to run through. They were announcing your name as you finished, which is a nice touch that has also become common thanks to advances in chip technology. Volunteers were handing out medals as you crossed the finish line, which brings up another weird issue… the medals.

There seemed to be two sizes of medal. Both sizes carried the same design (pictured), but one was quite a bit larger than the other. These seemed to be getting handed out at random. Not sure what was going on here. Was the larger medal for the half and the smaller for the 5k? Maybe adults and kids? Maybe they just had some of each size and thought folks wouldn’t notice? Either way, it felt like this was another case of volunteers being ill-instructed.

Haunted Half Medal
The medal design was was of the few highlights of this event

Post-race refreshments pretty much followed our developing theme. There was water (if you could find it), cold towels, and a table with bananas, honey stinger gels (not GU as advertised) and Halloween candy. I never saw the donuts that were listed in the race guide.  There was also supposed to be pizza at the finish, but I didn’t see it (or space where it might be at some point). I did see a lady in a Papa John’s uniform asking after “someone in charge”. We stuck around for about an hour after we finished our race, and decided there wasn’t going to be much more to see.

There was one other thing that Sandy noticed at the finish, and thought was a little weird/inconsiderate. As I mentioned before, they were announcing your name as you crossed the finish line, at least this was the case for the 5k participants. They started announcing the 5k awards AS the first of the half marathon runners were crossing the finish, which means they finished without much fanfare. Bad planning and a little inconsiderate.

Final Thoughts

For what ended up being a fairly small investment (about $25 each after discounts) this was an OK event. We made it fun, and we did get to try out some costume pieces (some of which will need tweaks before Disney). If I had to sum this up in brief, I would say this was a well-intentioned event that fell way short of the mark in the actual planning and execution stages. Sadly, this one wont be on our list for next year.

Prepare to meet thy doom, pixie!