I arrived in plenty of time to pick up my packets as well as the boys' (I knew exactly what to expect and where to go because I'd had helpful email communication about the race in the days leading up to it). This process went very smoothly - no lines; all three races (there was also an 8K) were divided and organized. They had plenty of safety pins for numbers, and all racers received a nice race t-shirt (the half marathon shirts were long-sleeved technical shirts, the boys got long sleeved cotton shirts).
I don't wear a watch when I run, but it seemed as though the race started right on time. They had a huge firetruck parked at the top of the hill with a large American flag hanging down for the American Anthem. The first mile was a little crowded but things thinned out quickly. The first hill started at mile 1, and there were hills all through the race. Even the last mile had a doozy of a hill! Definitely a rolling course that you would want to hill train to run.
This race was so well-organized. They had tons of volunteers, water stations, and from mile 5 on portajohns. They also gave out Gu gels around mile 9. Every mile was marked (very helpful for me since I do not wear a Garmin) and there were also time clocks at a couple of spots throughout the race. The race goes through all the high points of Salem - it passes the duck pond, the golf course, the downtown area (it starts and finishes at the Farmer's Market), the Civic Center, neighborhoods full of historic homes, and Roanoke College. Of course around every curve you get scenic views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Also interesting is that you will experience a variety of terrain - while the majority of it is on pavement - at times you will run on dirt, grass, and brick pavers.
I am training for a long distance, slow race next month, so I wanted to be cautious not to injure myself during this race. I had just done a 26 mile training run on the Sunday before my race, and was concerned about some foot pain I was having afterwards. As a result, I treated the race as a tempo training run and pushed myself, but did not race all out. I tried to make sure I kept some healthy distance between myself and the people who tend to be around my speed.
You can tell as I crossed the finish line that I enjoyed the race and ran with some conservation (most of the time at the finish line I look like I'm dying). My mom caught this picture with her cell phone (she managed to watch the boys race and then keep them entertained while I ran).
The finisher's area was great - they had Chick Fil A sandwiches, fruit, Gatorade, and water. There was a band called Uptown (which my boys loved) as well as massage and stretching and granola bars. My time of 2:02 was good enough to earn third in my age group, so in addition to the very nice finisher's medal that everyone receives, I also got a trophy.
This was a great race! I loved the course and had a wonderful overall experience. Would I run it again? Absolutely.
Disclaimer: I received free entry into the Salem Half Marathon for review purposes. The opinions above are all my own.