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All About Galveston's Annual Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K

The first year I moved to Galveston Island I stood on the sidelines to support a friend as they tackled the Galveston Half-Marathon. Three years later, feeling inspired, I took the plunge and embarked on my own journey, crossing the finish line of the same race to complete my second 13.1-mile competitive run.


About

The Galveston Marathon (a Boston qualifier), Half Marathon, and 5K race is an annual event organized by the Galveston Chamber of Commerce. Typically held in the early spring, often in February or March, when the weather is mild and ideal for long-distance running, participants have the option to compete in the full marathon, half marathon, or 5K running courses. Additionally, each race is open to wheelchair and hand cycle participants. All courses include the opportunity to run Galveston's historic Seawall, Pleasure Pier, and picturesque views of palm trees and ocean along the eastern edge of the island.



My Fitness Background

Growing up, I was always active and participating in sports. It wasn't until my junior and senior year in high school that I really got into competitive running. Though I didn't compete on a collegiate level, I did run various races in college; including a half and full marathon. After my marathon, I was pretty burnt out ands looking for something else to keep me active, which is when I found CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. After a 6 year hiatus, I wanted to get back into the running scene and thought the Galveston Half was the perfect course with its minimal hills and scenic route.


Registration

I signed up to run the half marathon in early January. While I didn't get the best pricing deal, I didn't have any issue getting a spot in the race. Registration for the race usually opens about a year in advance. Announcements for when you can reserve your spot can be found on their website located here or on their official Facebook page located here. Be sure to register early for the best prices as they increase the closer it gets to race day. Plus two years in a row either the marathon or half-marathon have sold out!


My Preparation

While I already have a running background, this honestly felt like a first time half to me. My body is in a much different place than it was 6 years ago, and CrossFit and Olympic lifting is a different kind of athletic beast than a half marathon. To get my body back I came up with a plan of action.The first month, I ran on the treadmill for thirty minutes without stopping followed by some light lifting. every other day The second month, I increased my time between forty-five minutes to an hour twice a week, alternating my off days with light lifting and cycling.


The third month (January) I began my official running plan by Hal Higdon. His plans are highly recommended by the running community and most of them are free, unless you want to pay for the more customized app options. Whether you want to run a 3-15k, half, or full marathon there are three different levels of plans: beginner, intermediate. and advanced. I ran the intermediate half marathon plan and it was perfect! Learn more about the Hal Higdon training programs by clicking here.



Packet Pick-Up

The week before the race you can check the official website and Facebook page to see the time, date, and location of packet pick-ups. I got mine from Galveston Island Running Company, located downtown, the day before the race. It only took about 2 minutes to grab. My packet came with my race number, safety pins, long sleeve shirt, and sponsor brochures. Most packets come with these items; however, if you get a late entry ticket they may not guarantee you get a shirt.


Day Before Race

Since I had never run the course before, I wanted to drive the route to be as familiar with it as possible. My parents drove me around as I used the map on the official website. It was also very helpful to them too because they planned out where they would cheer me on during the race! If driving the route isn't possible for you, there is an online 3D version you can use.


Day of Pre-Race

The day of the race goes by fast! Race times began at: 7:15 AM for wheelchair and hand-cycle, 7:30 AM for half and full marathon, 8:00 AM for 5K race. To be adequately prepped, I went to bed at 9 PM and got up at 5:00 AM. Immediately drank some black coffee, with apples and peanut butter. Right before I left for the race at 7:00 AM I had half a protein waffle, and hydrated throughout the morning with Liquid IV water.


My husband and I got to Steward Beach, the starting line, around 7:10 AM. At that point Stewart Beach parking was pretty full and traffic was busy. He luckily found free parking down the street, but if you plan on driving yourself or a loved one, I recommend getting there earlier than we did, unless you're just dropping someone off.


At the starting line, runners with a 6 minute mile pace were asked to line up about 5 minutes before start time, then they had everyone else grab their place behind them about 2-3 minutes before the gun went off.



During Race

Mile 1 - 7 was pretty crowded. Everyone is getting into their pace and the course is the most narrow in this section. I definitely was going faster than my planned pace but I think most of that was trying to get into a position where I felt comfortable amongst the crowd. This part of the course starts on Steward Beach and heads toward East Beach, down towards The Porch Cafe, and loops back around to the entrance of Beach Town. My favorite part was running down the road lined with palm trees. The cool morning breeze with that view is just indescribable.


Mile 7 - 9 On this section, runners are on the very east end of Seawall headed toward Fort San Jacinto. This is probably the most secluded part of the race. While not many spectators are located here, it was so cool seeing the wheelchair and hand cyclists cruising along in the opposite direction. Cheering them on as we passed was a blast! And as people looped the course, it was awesome to exchange smiles and encouragement with other runners. When I hit a wall, the support from my fellow runners really kept me going. It meant the world to me!


Mile 9 - 12 This is where I started feeling very tired! These miles are one long stretch on Seawall. Mentally it was tough because you have to run by the finish line knowing you still have about 4 more miles. It can be quite deceiving, especially since Pleasure Pier (the turn around point) is so big it can seem much closer than it is. However, this stretch had the most spectators since it's later in the morning and the easiest portion of the race to watch from. Seeing everyone with signs and hugging their loved ones is incredibly special.


Mile 13 - finish! The best part of this race is that the finish line is on a mini decline which really helps propel any momentum you may need. There is an MC commentating on finishers, crowds cheering, and music! The feeling of crossing the finish line never gets old.


Day of Post-Race

After crossing the finish line, I met up with my family and friends for some sweaty support hugs. There were vendors handing out free recovery drinks and food, but my personal favorite was Whataburger with the breakfast burritos. There was even a booth for leg massage boots which looked amazing, but I was ready to be in some fresh clothes and a yummy meal. So I took a quick shower at home and headed to Leeland House for brunch + Tortuga Mexican Kitchen for an AG's Hidden Gem signature cocktail! After. a full belly, I took a two hour nap. The perfect way to wind down race day!



What I Wish I Would Have Known

There were a few things I would have done differently if I were to run the race over again. Here are a few things that can hopefully help you!

  • Bathrooms: I tried to use the bathroom before the race but still had to go right before. The porta potties were limited, with long waits. I had to wait until mile 6 for another option, which was inconvenient. Men could use the trees, but it wasn't as easy for women. The race route didn't have accessible bathrooms until mile 9. This was my main critique of the race—plan ahead.

  • Fueling stations: At some marathons, the fueling stations are generously stocked with a variety of replenishing options such as electrolyte drinks, energy snacks, and fresh fruits, ensuring that runners have the necessary fuel to sustain their energy levels throughout the race. However, in contrast, this particular race only offered water at the fueling stations. The lack of additional hydration options and nourishing snacks may have contributed to the muscle cramps observed in several participants. If you typically rely on fueling during the race, it's advisable to bring your own supplies.

  • Awards Ceremony: I didn't realize there was an official award ceremony, so I missed the opportunity to congratulate my good friend who won the overall female category in the half-marathon. I wish I had stayed to applaud her and all the other winners.

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