Do you like vest water bottles? I have a backpack bladder thing that's OK but not amazing. I have a belt thing I loathe.
I really like what you say about community. That's what I've loved about running, and it's the difference between running a race. Why pay money to run? Because it comes with a huge support community, from organizers to volunteers to spectators who shout "nice job 339" to other runners. It's just so positive.