The Tampa Bay Marathon was the 22nd one that I’ve completed. Overall, it was an enjoyable race and a great choice if you’re looking for a February marathon. The course is interesting, the Expo is easy to navigate and don’t worry, the marathon is mostly joggler-friendly. It’s not like Chicago or New York where the crowds are huge but it is a nice sized marathon extremely well organized.
Overall Marathon Rating
This race gets 4 out of 5 bean bags. It is well organized, has a nice course, and is a great choice for a winter marathon.
Tampa Bay Marathon Course
The marathon course had three main segments Davis Island, Downtown, and Bayshore Boulevard. A 6:00 am start meant that it was dark when the gun went off. This was especially challenging for jogglers. The race began near the convention center. The first six miles were run through neighborhoods and around Davis Island. It was a bit too dark to really appreciate the scenery, but at times you could see water which was nice.
The second leg of the marathon (miles 7-12) was run through downtown Tampa Bay and out around the University of Tampa. With the sun coming up around this time, joggling is much easier. At this point you also get to see the other runners as the paths cross. This makes it fun for jogglers because you’ll get lots of cheers from the other runners.
The third leg of the marathon (miles 13-26) was an out and back path along Bayshore. You could see water almost the entire time along with all the other runners. It was quite scenic.
The only complaint I have is that I’m not sure that I got a flavor for the city of Tampa Bay. When you do Chicago or New York you get to see all the different neighborhoods. You really experience the city. I didn’t get that feeling during this marathon. For running, the course was great. For seeing Tampa Bay, not so much.
The expo is one of the most important parts of the marathon. It really helps you feel connected to a running community. The Tampa Bay expo had lots of vendors and free samples. It also had a registration system that was a breeze. This could be because it was a relatively small marathon but I’ve seen marathons this small screw it up. Not so here.
The goodie bag was just ok. I’m not a huge fan of dri-fit shirts as a give-away for a marathon. Sometimes I just like to wear my marathon shirts out as a sign of pride. I’d be much more apt to do that if it was a regular cotton shirt. Exercise shirts are all the rage now but as my pal John Kelly says, they are for 5 & 10Ks. For marathons, you’ll want cotton.
Other marathon factors
The Tampa Bay marathon is set up pretty good for spectators. There are numerous sections that are easy to get to without much walking. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of spectators out watching. This made things especially difficult in the later miles. There was a good crowd at the very end but it would’ve been nice to see more people.They also get high marks for the number of aid stations. There was even more than at Chicago. This is a real strength for this marathon and hopefully they’ll keep it up.
The weather in Tampa Bay was great, especially for a guy from Chicago. Running in this weather was a real treat. There was a fair amount of wind near the end but that will happen with races run along a big body of water.
The medal was pretty big and you really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you walk around wearing it. There was plenty of food at the end (even oysters and calamari). I ate what I could and wished I would’ve felt like having more. You won’t always feel hungry right after you finish a marathon.