Disclaimer: I received entry to the Hospital Hill Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
I had the pleasure of participating in the 2020 Hospital Hill Half Marathon as a BibRave Pro. First some housekeeping. The race calls Kansas City home. The 2020 race is the 47th running of the race and making it Kansas City’s oldest race. Hospital Hill has been named a top 25 road race by Runner’s World Magazine and hosted the USATF National Championship half marathon in 2002. It has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities. Through a partnership program charities can use the race as their own fundraiser. The RDs started the Hospital Hill Run Foundation which has donated more than $130,000.00 to local organizations since 2016. In 2019, Hospital Hill Run gave $25,000.00 each to Kansas City Public Schools Education Foundation and Strive for Life as beneficiaries of the race that year.
Hospital Hill Run is a great example of RDs making the most of the virtual race. It created a special hashtag for the virtual race and encouraged racers to share their photos on social media. It created a special virtual run Facebook Page for racers to connect socially. The RDs also created virtual challenges that allow you to enter to win free running gear by completing challenges and uploading that info to the virtual race Facebook group. This promotes further social engagement and gets the sponsors involved. Once your virtual half marathon is complete you will receive a digital finisher certificate and a swag packet consisting of a shirt and medal (both are excellent quality). Hospital Hill Run has done a great job creating a community around the virtual race. It was still committed to the community and charities through the foundation.
I was thoroughly impressed with the way the RDs managed the virtual race. By far it has been my best virtual race experience to date. The online community was key in fostering an atmosphere of inclusion instead of isolation that one usually feels in solo events. I really enjoyed seeing everyone complete their race and share photos. The Hospital Hill Run has been the only race to mail out the race swag early (instead of waiting for you to submit your time). I love this! Knowing that my race shirt and medal were waiting on me was a big positive during my race. It also made for a more authentic post-race experience. The Hospital Hill Half Marathon is a race I want to run in person. The virtual race experience has convinced me that the in person experience would be amazing. I want to run the streets of Kansas City, I want to experience the expo, I want to enjoy the food and breweries and I want to support this race in the future.
My personal philosophy is to make a virtual race as authentic as possible. Yes, you lose some competitive bump in performance and a supported route allowing you to run with less gear. However, the virtual race does not have to be an inferior experience. First, I conduct a significant amount of research on the route. As an aside I would like to see RDs do a better job of providing statistics on their route on the race website. A google search allowed me to find some past race posts on Strava which gave me the elevation numbers. I then use the route builder in Strava to create my route that reflects the same gain to create an authentic experience. As a resident of the flatter portion of Florida, this presents some difficulties, but I was able to create an excellent route. Second, I follow my normal race routine. This means eating my usual pre-race meal and laying out my gear the night before. It also means continuing a tradition of post-race pics and beers with my girlfriend and racing friends. I enjoyed doing a local brewery tour downtown with my race shirt and medal as I would for an in person race.
I ended up creating a damn hard route for an unsupported race. The route combined with the Florida humidity made this half marathon one of my tougher races. Thankfully I had a local friend register with the BibRave discount code and race with me. We did start the race an hour later than I wanted which made a huge difference in heat, humidity and my performance. (For those with no summer experience in the south one hour can make a huge difference in real and feel like temperature). My Hospital Hill Half Marathon route time was 2:13, which is my highest half run time, with approximately 458 feet of elevation gain. See https://www.strava.com/activities/3572205690.
Overall the Hospital Hill Half Marathon was an amazing virtual race experience. The shirt and medal were both excellent quality. I encourage you to visit their website (http://www.hospitalhillrun.com) to learn more about the race and consider registering for the 2021 race. Further this opportunity would not have been possible without BibRave and the BibRave family of runners. Be sure to visit BibRave.com to read reviews of races, leave a review of your own and follow BibRave on all social media channels. Finally, thank you for visiting my blog. Please sign up to receive notification of future posts and find me on social to follow my runs in the sun here in Florida.