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I honestly don't want to start out with a negative, but the first experience with this race was the packet pickup, and it ended up being more hectic than it should have. The day I was able to go it was held at a Nike store that apparently had a shoe release going on at the same time. I ended up standing in 3 different lines because there weren't any signs for either crowds and nobody knew where to be until their staff finally came out and split us up. I was glad to get my stuff and leave as soon as possible. Race day parking was so much better than the last time I did this race. I was able to get into the first parking garage and only had a 5 minute walk to the start line. There were a lot of Porta Potty's near the starting area and there didn't look to be any lines longer than a handful of people at a time.
The race starts along Miami Beach as you work your way through the city and back to the beach. This race is fairly quiet when it comes to spectators. There are spots through the city areas where people out and about are cheering you on. You get occasional honks and cheers from the traffic passing by on the bridges. Oh yeah, those bridges. There are four of them. The first three get higher each time with the last one being shorter. This year there were strong wind gusts heading west, so the last two bridges were tough as you battled the climb and wind. We ended up having a tailwind for the first 6 miles and a headwind the rest of the way. The benefit to the bridges are the constant views of the water which is always nice to look at while running.
The aid stations were a bit disappointing. Typically you can hear the volunteers yelling out "water" and "Gatorade" way before you even get to them. This time, they were basically just talking loud and hard to hear. It was hard to decipher who had what unless you looked at the color of the cup they were holding. Typically they'll be grouped, with water in the front and Gatorade in the back, or vice versa. They seemed inconsistent as I saw them all mixed in together. This caused a lot of congestion and runners stopping, especially in the early miles. I really felt they should have had more tables to create a longer line or have tables on both sides of the path. I ended up skipping two aid stations and grabbing water at some, despite wanting Gatorade, because of how unorganized they were. In the later miles it was easier since the crowds thinned out and the volunteers weren't overwhelmed. They were friendly and trying to be helpful, but it definitely seemed like they could have had better organization. I also didn't see or hear any of them handing out gels which is typically offered somewhere in the middle miles.
The finish is pretty quiet until you get to the last quarter mile and can start hearing the announcer, music and crowds. It's a long winding path along the beach, and in some areas you almost forget you're in a race because it feels like another weekend long run. The finishing chute thankfully brings the energy and excitement for one last push!
After you cross the finish line, you get your medal, which was a bit disappointing compared to other medals I've received for half marathons, including the last time I ran this one. The design was a lock and was pretty small, but very thick. Typically races that start and/or end on the beach will have some sort of beach or ocean theme. This one doesn't give you that vibe or memory. Speaking of swag, the shirt design was lacking in my opinion as well. It has a big key logo but the race name is so small compared to it. It's a shirt I wouldn't want to wear out in public compared to some others that I've received.
Overall, I liked the course and everything offered after you finish. Getting to hang out on the beach afterwards is always a plus. I'd like to see them working on the aid station organization, finding better locations for packet pickup, and creating better race themed medals and shirts. If you're looking for a Miami race without the huge crowds that the Miami Marathon brings the month before, then I'd definitely recommend checking this race out.