On Saturday, June, 16 we ran the Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon in Ithaca, NY. This was the third time we had done this race, and the second time that it had a point-to-point format that starts a bit north of Ithaca. From there it goes down the Black Diamond Trail to the Waterfront Trail and finishes in downtown Ithaca. New this year, the race incorporated a bag drop and a ride on the bus to the starting line was included in the registration.
Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost was about $65 for the early bird pricing. By the end, it was around $90 (but we had registered in the first wave). This is a bit high, especially considering that it doesn’t support any charities that we know of–but it’s also a nice event.
Packet Pick-Up: This was held at the Finger Lakes Running Company Store on the Ithaca Commons with three different times offered. Violet did the pick-up for both of us without any trouble. This year’s swag for the pick-up included a canvas tote bag and a cotton-blend t-shirt. The shirts are gender-specific and as is the trend this year: teeny, tiny; and non-technical (not that we’re getting bigger!). Violet asked about switching t-shirts and was told that we’d have to wait until after the race. The packet pick-up also included a flyer with the show-your-bib specials for around town.
Pre-Race: The buses started at 6:15am from a bus stop in the downtown area, with the last bus scheduled to depart at 6:45am. We both made use of the bag drop, mostly in order to switch our t-shirts. The bag drop was easy and located by the running store in the downtown area. We were in line for the buses by 6:40am but didn’t get on one until about 6:50am. There were some porta potties by the bus area for people who needed them.
We were dropped off about a “country block” from the start line. There were several porta potties there, too. We stood in line for those for quite a while until right before the race start.
Like last year, the race started very unobtrusively… where suddenly people were just on their way! We were toward the back of the pack and just went with the flow.
Course: The course begins out in a more rural area by some crops and goes about 1.5 miles before runners reach the Black Diamond Trail that connects Taughannock Falls State Park with Cass Park. The course goes for about 5 miles on the BDT, which is a bit narrower than a road and has a crushed limestone surface. Despite having about twice as many participants as last year, the course didn’t “feel” more crowded… that was a relief, especially on the BDT portion of the course! There are also a number of small waterfalls that you pass on the BDT and that trail is mostly shaded, with a gradual descent into Ithaca.
The course then goes on the Waterfront Trail from Cass Park to Stewart Park, giving runners a nice view of Cayuga Lake. One rough patch for the course was going through the Ithaca Farmers Market area because the course went through the gravel parking lot rather than on the paved Waterfront Trail.
After exiting Stewart Park, the course went through some of the Ithaca area–including by Ithaca Falls, one of the larger waterfalls in the area. The finish line is near the Ithaca Commons area in the heart of downtown.
Finish Line: The finish line was on a street, entering the Commons area. There was an announcer and volunteers on hand to give finishers a reusable plastic water bottle that was filled and their medals. This year, the medal is made from wood, painted, and attached to a lanyard… but it looks like it’s meant to be detached and used as a coaster. The lanyards have a clip that make them multi-functional (and they look more like a medal’s lanyard, whereas the Seneca7 lanyards definitely just look like a lanyard).
Post-Race: As has been the case previously, the post-race was one of the better events of the year. There was live music in one of the Commons’ pavilions… and more importantly, the food was good. There was a tent with water, granola bar-type things, watermelon slices, and freezer pops. (There had been yogurt there in the past and we kind of missed that this year!) For the other food, there were soft tacos with sweet potato salad or pulled pork with sour cream and cole slaw, and scrambled eggs. For other condiments, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce were available. There was also Ithaca Beer Company beverages including three types of beer and ginger beer (the ginger beer is one of our post-race favorites)!
There were security personnel keeping people with cups out of the rest of the Commons. This was probably more for the beer than other drinks, but that was a little annoying at the end when we wanted to wander with our non-alcoholic ginger beer.
There were also complimentary massages available, and the post-race bag pick-up. The bag pick-up was a little confusing because the bags were held in a different location than they were dropped. However, we were both able to swap our shirts for a different size… and found that many others were looking to do the same.
Weather: The temperature started in the 60s and was in the low 80s by the time we were leaving. It was sunny and not too windy throughout the day, but we were glad to be running on the shaded BDT for the first half. It was a little hot in Stewart Park, but not bad… especially considering the cold, rainy/snowy races we’ve had earlier this year.
Apparel: Charcoal wore compression shorts with running shorts, a tank top, a running belt, a running cap, Darn Tough 1/4 crew socks, Brooks Pure Cadence 6 shoes, and she carried her Nathan handheld water bottle.
Violet wore Saucony compression shorts with running shorts, a tank top, Pro Compression crew-length socks, an elastic bandage on the recovering ankle, a running cap, Saucony Guide 10 shoes, and she carried her Nathan exo-shot water bottle.