On Sunday, October 16, I was part of a two person relay team at the Hershey Half Marathon.
After leaving the Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday, I headed up to Hersheypark to pick up my packet for Sunday’s race.
I had read about this race through different blogs since that’s how I research races. The blogs made this race sound like a great time so when registration opened, I signed up. However, my experience was anything but what was described in the blogs I had read.
Once arriving on Hershey property, we began the hunt for where packet pick up was. Emails said to go to the Hersheypark Arena so that’s where we went. Once at the arena, we were told to go to the stadium. Once at the stadium, we were told expo didn’t open until 5pm (it was supposed to close at 5pm). It was very clear expo was a best kept secret to only the event team since most Hershey staff had no idea where to send very confused runners.
We finally found someone who knew what “packet pickup” meant and he kindly putting us in the right direction. Once in the right place, it was clear we had just made it – vendors were gone or packing up and the lights were off.
We then headed to Chocolate World to grab something to eat and wait for our Trick or Treat Trolley. I thought the trolley would be a good idea since I figured it would go around some parts of the course – which it did but it was dark. It was also a really cute show and a nice way to end the day.
**I do not recommend eating at Chocolate World unless you are getting a treat – the real food is not very good**
Luckily, we hit up a Wendy’s and then headed to the hotel which was about 2 miles from the park.
On race day, we arrived with plenty of time and no traffic trouble. We were parked by 6:10 as close as they would let us park. We walked into the staging area to find where the relay buses were, the start/finish lines, bag check and real bathrooms. We then split up so I could start and he could get to the transition area.
My portion of the race consisted of a tour of the Hersheypark parking lot, about a mile of the amusement park, the back part of ZooAmerica, a loop around the Hershey factory (the original one), Hershey’s house, the golf course and then neighborhood. Some of the community was out to cheer runners on and the law enforcement on the course were awesome.
My complaint with this race: they literally were breaking the course down around us. I started to notice this around an hour in. I do not know if they cut off people behind me from continuing but I have never seen a race start to break down so soon after the start. The last water stop of my portion on the course was being broken down as I came to it and the volunteers were being told not to pour anymore water or gatorade. It was very strange and upsetting.
I have never been so happy to see the end of a race. I was really hurting after the Baltimore Running Festival and then my 6.7 miles of the Hershey Half. I happily accepted my medal, water and food bag. Then I found a chair before I attempted to make my way to the bus to take me to the finish.
Once back at the finish area, I made my way to the car to get warm (it was a very chilly day) and to change. Another weird thing – showers were available for the runners but you weren’t allowed to take bags into the stadium…so you figure that one out for me…
Anywho, after a quick nap and lunch (oh lunch!), it was into the park to walk before the ride home. It was fun seeing all the Halloween/fall decorations around the park and they had the characters out in their costumes.
Pros for the Hershey Half: prompt start, volunteers on the course were awesome, 2 tickets/runner to Hersheypark in the Dark, free parking for expo and race (so if you don’t leave post race you can park for free all day), food bags (this way every finisher from the first to the last gets food)
Cons for the Hershey Half: very little communication between event team and Hershey staff, no characters on the course, no Milton Hershey School children on the course cheering, very little distractions on the course (past year’s have more distractions on the course according to my “research”), course breakdown during the race, confusing/misleading race information, very little chocolate for participants (I know this sounds petty but again in past years it sounds like runners received more than one chocolate bar), Hershey hotels (Hershey Lodge, Hotel Hershey) are way too over priced – $300/night.
Now that I have participated in this race, I do not think I would recommend it to others. I expected more from the “sweetest place on Earth”. Save your money and just head to Hersheypark in the Dark on your own.