The Cowtown Half Marathon: Cowboys and Cattle and Hills, Oh My.

The original plan for Cowtown 2020 was for this to be a family run. My mom had recently moved back to the DFW area and joined a local running team, and I had signed up for the Cowtown Half as a race we would run together. Fate was not on our side though. Mom’s been struggling on and off with an injury since last fall. We had hoped she would be healed in time for Cowtown, but it just wasnt in the cards. However, I had already signed up and it was an excuse to see the family and run through a new area.

The Expo

Mom had already picked up our packets from her team lead, so we really didnt neeeeeed to go to the Expo for this race. However, I just love expos. I love the free samples, the shopping, and seeing other races I could sign up for. We did some shopping, and I picked up a new, smaller water vest for shorter runs.

The Giant Cowtown Cow Bell

I did have one goal at the expo. I was out of running gels, and needed to pick up one or two for the race the next day. I’m not completely picky about my gels, but I have a few requirements. First, that it’s small, malleable, and nonmeltable, because I usually stuff that single gel for the half marathon distance into my bra. (TMI Second, it doesn’t cause a large amount of nausea. There are a few, heavier gels, that I just can’t stomach. If you read about my San Marcos Half Marathon, Gu gels tear my stomach up. This expo only had Gu! Every table I went to that had energy gels, I could only find Gu brand. They had other hydration tablets, and I found some stroupwaffles, but no other gels. I ended up going to Academy later that night, and came across the same problem. Is there only Gu in DFW?? Eventually, I did find Sports Beans from Jelly Belly. I had never tried them before. I don’t usually try new things on race day, especially gels, but I was getting desperate at this point.

Miles 1-6

The corrals were so organized! About 5 separate corrals were laid out parallel to the start line, so the later corrals could see the first groups start out, and corrals were enforced. This meant you couldn’t bump yourself up to a faster corral, but could bump down to a slower one to run with friends. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but its a safety issue. A runner in a too fast corral could very easily be ran over in the herd of runners leaving the very tight start line. The first half mile is always very crowded and it’s easy to run into other runners if your pace isn’t similar.

Corral A was the fastest runners, plus the relay runners. I started in Corral B, and tried to place myself between the 3:40 marathon pacer and the 1:55 half pacer. I had heard that the second half of this course was rough, so was hoping to bank some time at the beginning of the race.

The Cowtown Marathon Start line

The first mile was compact and completely downhill. I am terrible about starting out too fast in these big hype, big races, but the downward slope of the first mile didn’t make it seem as fast. Really! The first 5 miles were relatively easy and mostly flat with a few rolling hills. We ran through some parks, and the crowd support was great. Lots of bands and cheering sections along the course.

There was one very frightful event around Mile 3. We went through A LOT of intersections. The race organizers did a great job making the course safe for everyone and I appreciate all their hard work, but I guess they can’t catch them all. There was VERY impatient motorist at one intersection. A small gap of about 10 feet opened between the group of runners that I was a part of and the runners in front of us, and this truck gunned through it! The runner to my left and slightly in front of me was close enough to hit the window as the truck zoomed by. It was an adrenaline boost and a shock. Its 7:30 am on a Sunday morning, where do you need to be so badly that you would endanger half a dozen runners??

Mile 6: The Fort Worth Stockyards

The Stockyards are the highlight of the race. This area is SO COOL. You run down a hill, take a sharp right and the road becomes brick. Lots of businesses are out and waving. Women dressed as saloon girls, lots of music, and even a longhorn (who seemed very disinterested in the whole thing).

If you’re not from Texas, this is probably the MOST TEXAS you can get during a race. For a vacation race, this one should definitely be on the list. They really embrace the city’s highlights.

The Cowtown Marathon travels through the Fort Worth Stockyards during Mile 6

Miles 7-13.1

After the stockyards, more course entertainment! Around Mile 7, I started taking my sports beans. It was different! Instead of taking a whole gel at once I was able to space out eating the jelly beans over about two miles. This was so much easier on my stomach, and I started to mentally prepared for what I saw in front of me. Mile 9 starts at the bottom of a bridge that is uphill for about a half mile into downtown. Its beautifully framed with the Tarrant Country Courthouse being directly across the bridge. BUT, you can see this hill FOREVEEEEER. I especially loved the music and the energy at the top of this hill.

Also…this is where the 1:55 pacer passed me… I heard her mention to her pacing group “time to slow down and bank some energy” as she ran past me on the uphill. Luckily, she was in view for the rest of the race, but I never did catch up with her.

Elevation map for the Cowtown 2020 half marathon course

I crushed Mile 9 and Mile 9 crushed me. Looking at the elevation graph, you can see there were some steep hills in those last few miles. I had to stop and powerwalk up a few of them. Remember how I was saying it was great that the first mile was all down hill? I found the first part of that hill! It was leading up to the finish line.

The Finishline!

I crossed the finish line with a gun time of 1:59:40 (as seen above) and a chip time of 1:54:52. Only 8 SECONDS below my goal time and a PR of almost 2 minutes for me. My best before being 1:56:XX in the Battle of Hillotes half marathon last fall. (Also an extremely hilly race, I need to learn how to find flatter courses!) Let me you, I was ecstatic. I really didn’t think I would hit my goal time, especially with how off track I felt for most of January.

In the shoot, I received my medal, and there was a lot of deep chiming coming from the volunteers handing out the medals. I never realized that the cowboy hat shaped medal was also a cowbell! So, they put a cowbell on you, in a shoot, then lead you into a literal cattle shoot to collect your finisher t-shirt and snacks. I loved it!

I made it all the way through the shoot looking for the beer tent. I had two finisher tickets for beer to turn in! (I mean, did you see my t-shirt?) After exiting the shoot, I finally found the Millertime tent. It was empty. They were refusing to serve any beers or seltzers for another hour according to one man at the tent. (And he was rude about it, so I’m guessing runners had been coming by for a bit asking.) It was unusual, and ended up leaving without the finisher’s beer. A first for me, but I’m definitely not letting it ruin an awesome race and and awesome PR.

The Medal

I mean, I still can’t get over how awesome the swag is for this race. A VERY unique medal that I can ring like a cowbell AND two comfy shirts.

In Summary

The Cowtown Marathon is definitely a race that I’ll be running again. The course is challenging, but has some awesome sights and a definitely a “Cowtown” feel. Water stops were plentiful and the crowd support was amazing. (And some great swag!)

Hopefully, Mom will be in tip-top shape and injury free next year and we can do it together next year!

Anyone else run Cowtown this year? Let me know how you liked it!

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