Why You Should Run (Or Gallop) the Cowtown Marathon
As a Yankee who relocated to Texas I absolutely had to run a race called The Cowtown Marathon. Little did I know that Cowtown would quickly become my favorite Texas race. (And the marathon where I qualified for Boston!) This big race in a big town offers big fun. Buckle up your cowboy running shoes and get ready to hit the pavement through Fort Worth, Texas.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Cowtown Marathon. The Cowtown has grown significantly over the years. It now offers six different races over the course of the weekend. Saturday hosts a 5k for adults, a 5k for kids, and a 10k. On Sunday you can run a half, full, or ultra (50k) marathon. With sponsors such as Sprint and Miller Lite, you can guarantee that this non-profit organization will put on a great event the last weekend in February.
If you love to run for a cause, this race has one! The Cowtown Marathon started a program known as the Cowtown C.A.L.F (Children’s Activities for Life and Fitness) in 2009. The charity provides grants and running shoes to low-income children in North Texas. At the children’s 5k race on Saturday, you can see some of these children zooming by. All of the proceeds from the race entry fees go to this program as well.
If charity isn’t enough to convince you that this is a fantastic event, here are some other reasons to love the full-marathon.
It isn’t the reason why you choose a race, but getting good race swag is a nice bonus. The Cowtown Marathon gives runners a dri-fit V-neck t-shirt at packet pick-up. It is a practical shirt for a runner: comfortable, breathable, attractive to the eye, and true to size. The v-neck quickly differentiates it from all of the other race t-shirts that overload your drawers. Additionally, marathoners receive a long-sleeve dri-fit finishers shirt that is equally appealing. You also get a zip-up disposable jacket along with your foil wrap to keep you warm at the finish. (I still have zip-up because it’s a great layer to wear at future starting lines.)
The post-marathon food is so good that I call it part of the swag. The nourishment table at the finish is long and plentiful. It goes far beyond just bananas by including unique and delicious things like hot chicken soup.
The Cowtown Marathon course is infamous for its trek through downtown Fort Worth. At mile 6 you’ll run through the Stockyards (be careful of your footing because it is cobblestone.) You will run past Texas Christian University, through a lush golf course, and spend miles 23-25 zig-zagging through the beautiful trails of Trinity Park.
There are two things to note about the course. The first is the split from the half-marathon. If you’re not mentally prepared, it can be discouraging. Why? Because the split occurs at mile 10. I was expecting the half to diverge closer to, well, the half mark. Recognizing that you still have a 5k to run to make it to the half-way point after the race splits can mess with your mind. I was not aware of this the first time I ran the course. At mile 10 I thought I’m half-way! Big mistake.
The second thing to keep in mind is the infamous hill of the course. Although the race is comprised of rolling hills, the uphill over a small bridge at mile 9 is the toughest and can put a damper on anyone’s race if you let it. The race directors realized this and last year added an element of fun to the hill. A timing mat placed at the bottom of the bridge and one at the top now times a runner’s trip up the hill. The non-elite runner with the fastest time wins a free entry to the following year’s race!
The Cowtown Marathon will never leave you thirsty. The course features 24 fluid stations! Each station provides water and a 50/50 water-to-Powerade mix. Additionally, there are six energy gel stations that distribute GU. The race is so well stocked that you could not ask for more.
The good people of Fort Worth don’t stop there, though. One of my favorite support sections along the course is the neighborhood starting around mile 16. Spectators put out their own aid stations with water, bananas, oranges, gummy bears, and even beer, if you’re brave enough to take one. They cheer you on with enough gusto to revive your spirits through some difficult miles.
I love a good cheering section. Cowtown has plenty of energetic and enthusiastic cheerleaders on sidelines. From actual high school cheerleaders volunteering at water stations, to the “Touch HERE for Power” and other signs that line the course, you will feel like a rock star pounding this pavement. This marathon is fully embraced by the community and it shows. If you don’t have your own family and friends there to watch, there are timer mats at the 5k, 10k, 13.1 miles, 30k, and 23 miles. The frequent check-ins allow your loved ones to follow your progression via text, email, or Facebook. If you’re fortunate enough to have people come to watch you, there are ways to view the course at several different locations. At last year’s race, I saw the same three women whooping and hollering, signs in hand, at three different places! They were strangers to me, but when I saw them again at the finish, I felt like they were my new best friends.
This past weekend I ran a small half-marathon in Texas. Although I did not know anyone else running, I quickly joined the invigorating post-race conversation. What was everyone buzzing about? Cowtown of course. “Are you going?” “Are you running?” “I saw you there last year!” Strangers are no longer strangers if you have this race in common. It truly is a big race with a big heart and a small-town feel. Giddy-up runners! Registration is still open!