Race: Cowtown Ultra
Runner: Coach Jenny Windham
Race Date: 02/26/2023
Location: Fort Worth, TX
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The spectators-they line the streets and not only have fun signs, but offer everything from water to snacks & beer or shots!
- The downtown scenes-you get to see some top attractions like the Stockyards, Cultural district, TCU, and Trinity River Park trails.
- The friends-this race has been going for 45yrs and has history you can share with other family and friends who had their firsts here.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
There are a lot of people, which requires planning for parking and meeting up.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Define weird haha. If you want a uniquely western TX feel, this is it! Uber friendly folks combined with uber friendly runners!
I wouldn’t define necessarily as weird, but maybe not found elsewhere.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
- My friend was running it too! She didn’t have as much confidence, and was dealing with calf issues, so it was nice to feel strong and there for her.
- My husband and a good friend came out and met us twice, and were there for the finish. Course support decreases the further you go, and that’s when we planned for. There are no drop boxes/bag options in this race, and the weather is always very different by the afternoon.
- My feet made it with blisters, yes, but no major permanent setbacks. Such a great feeling achieving my first Ultra!
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- There are distances from 5K to Ultra, kids 5K and adults. Plan to arrive early, and aim for the Friday Expo/packet pickup.
- This allows more enjoyment of the moments leading up to the run.
- Pace yourself, many start out faster than they should. It’s easy to get swept up in the fanfare.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
- Course familiarity is a bonus, whether it’s mile 9 bridge hill or the different sections you’re passing.
- I liken it to a road trip. The more you remember various stops, even if it’s an aid station in front of a house having a block party, it’s something to help distract you from how many miles are left, or a nagging knee or blister etc.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Take your time at the beginning as the crowd doesn’t thin out til a couple miles in. There’s no rush, plenty of time to make up for it later once your breathing sets in and legs get warm…sometimes literally. Plan your fuel and stick to it, especially for any areas you struggle with. For most, even myself as I did the shorter distances (Half & Full) it was mentally conquering the mile 9 hill. Having fuel at mile 8 helps, and you can focus on the cheering and mental grit to not stop, etc whatever your goals are. There are bricks you’ll be running on in the Stockyards area. If you have foot or ankle etc issues, you’ll want to take care and plan for a slower section. The finish is uphill, but it’s not steep, just drawn out. Then it turns and you have a flat walk, jog or sprint to the finish line.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
It’s downtown, so mainly roads and store fronts, but there are some fun sections like the Stockyards and residential area near TCU.
The Full/Ultra course go thru nice Trinity River trails, so if you’ve done races there or just weekend training runs, that’s a peacceful area.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
I’d say it’s moderate. There are plenty of hills and turns to navigate. For some this might feel like it drains your energy, for others it might feel like a nice change of pace (pun intended).
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
This is the MOST and BEST organized run of all!!! Constant email communication, prompt replies from race director if you have any team or other questions. They have maps for Expo and Event layout, as well as parking lots, and course, including pacers for all distances.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
- Oh yes! There’s an Elite Men & Women start a few mins before the main corrals start.
- The longer courses are USATF and BQ, there are division awards 5 deep for the kids, 3 deep for Adults, 1 deep for the Ultra.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Best prices are earliest, best hotel availability is in advance, as any travel. They also have a very runner friendly race distance change, or deferment to virtual or another racer for a fee. Friends may pickup packets, everything is in their FAQ.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
- Standard fare, water and Gatorade Endurance. Some vendors have real food, including pb&j, hot dogs, burgers, plus bananas, oranges, pickles.
- I didn’t see much GU or wafers, but I was in a longer run where the shorter quicker distances may have used it up.
Weather and typical race conditions
Just like TX weather, it has varied from icy morning to very warm afternoon. They provide a recyclable cover up at the finish, for the next year. Folks generally plan a hoodie and gloves/hat/gaiter for the morning and shorts or tank for afternoon. They donate any thrown away items, or you can hand it off to a loved one if they’re there. Communication is excellent as far as the Expo and Race hours, and last year we had a delayed start on the Saturday races (shorter distances 5K/10K are Saturday, longer Half/Full/Full Relay/Ultra are Sunday) because of ice.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
They are a Nonprofit active in the Community and donate to C.A.L.F. (Children’s Activities for Life and Fitness), as well as partner with Alzheimer’s Assoc and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and also allow strollers. I’ve seen people run with pockets, running belts, running vest, carrying a hand bottle or hydration packs.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Yes, as long as they don’t mind navigating road closures and crowds. There is a RunFarUSA app they can follow for live tracking, in addition to your Garmin or Strava options. I carry my phone, and my husband was able to track me in tandem with the app. My friend and I ran separate paces before the first mile. I finally only caught up to her at mile 24, but we texted each other starting around mile 20 checking all was good.
How’s the Swag?
The best around! They have running shirts and finisher shirts. Medals that fit a different theme each year, or that you can combine with the previous series. They also have a “Challenge,” which is running a race distance both days, and another medal. The shirts are drywicking, and they also have a store online and in person at the Expo that you can buy hoodies and hats, additional merchandise.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5, I absolutely recommend this one for all distances. It’s my favorite and unique to our town culture/history.
Jenny Windham is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.