Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock N Roll Savannah Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews! P.S. Applications are now open for the 2018 BibRave Pro Program and close on November 15!
You may have read on my blog before, I’m not really into gimmicky, for-profit races. However, I’ve been cautiously intrigued by the Rock N Roll Races for some time. Most people I talk to have good things to say about the races so when given the chance to run Savannah as a BibRave Pro I jumped at the chance. Oddly, this was also my way of celebrating NYC Marathon Weekend while not being in NYC. 😀
Savannah makes for a great destination race for those of us in the South because it’s accessible by drive from several major cities; it only takes about 3.5 hrs from Atlanta, so it’s a great weekend escape. Hotels in the historic part of the city can be pricey but I highly recommend staying in the area, especially if you can split the room with family/friends, or find an AirBnB. Staying downtown affords you the ability to park once and then walk for the rest of the weekend. For the race, if you stay downtown you’ll probably be able to walk to the start and from the finish as well. If not, there are several shuttles from area hotels that you can book for free in advance or at the expo. Since I didn’t use this option I don’t really know if it was hectic on race morning or not (Spend the money to be walking distance, it’s worth it!).
I arrived at the expo early Thursday to set up a booth for the Atlanta Track Club. It was cool walking around before the crowds arrived and I was even able to pick up my bib and shirt before the official expo open. I’m not a big fan of expos but something I did notice was that there were very few “freebies”. I know a lot of people love walking around expos and grabbing samples. This expo was medium in size (some say small for a Rock N Roll Race) and would probably be disappointing for those who really get into the expo vibe. For me, it was fine. I actually bought more stuff than I usually do, mostly because it wasn’t crowded and I wasn’t stressed to get out of there. I was told that packet pickup moved smoothly both days and no one had any issues. One major thing to point out: you MUST pick up your own bib! You cannot have family or friend pick up your bib, even if you can’t make it to the expo before it closes after work. For a destination race, where many people are trying to travel without missing too much work, this seems pretty unacceptable to me. I was told by a director that this was due to liability, but I’ve been to many other high security races where picking up someone else’s bib was no problem as long as you had signed confirmation and a copy of their ID. No go at Rock N Roll. They don’t advertise this, but there is an emergency bib pickup on race morning for those who can’t make it to the expo. Honestly, the start area was quite crowded and hectic so I wouldn’t want to be searching for that at 6:30 on race morning. I think Rock N Roll/Competitor should really reconsider this.
I had hoped to hit sub-5 hour finally but stomach issues and heat with direct sun squashed that a bit. The course is mostly flat, as expected. But what they don’t tell you is how much exposure you get in the second half of the course. Several miles on a highway means wide open blue skies and blazing sun on an 80 degree day. Not so fun. Outside of the highway stretch on the out and back, much of the course was through neighborhoods, including Savannah State College. The volunteers, especially the students at the college, were amazing. Of course the bands were great but I was, honestly, expecting more of them. There were a disappointing number of quiet stretches. The quality of the music was top notch though. Quality over quantity I guess. The other thing that impressed me on the course was the fact that, even in the heat, the water and gatorade was always ice cold. And they had cups of ice chips, plenty of sprayers, and sponges. Their heat plan was in place very well this time around, after the course closure they experienced in 2015.
You can read my full BibRave review of the race here, with more details on expo, course, travel, etc. I can definitely see myself doing Savannah or another Rock N Roll race again. With cooler fall temps, Savannah for sure offers a fast course and potential PR opportunity for the half and full distances.
What are some of your favorite fall destination races? Sound off in the comments.