This was my first marathon. I booked about 6 months in advance as I was coming from the UK to visit family. Online registration was simple and easy and the website had enough info.
Bib pickup the day before the race was also easy and convenient, the volunteers where friendly and helpful. They should consider a mail out option which would also ensure that pre-registered runners received their T-shirt as a number did not due to last minute registrations. In addition to the shirt, runners were promised a custom bag, water bottle, and swag. I received a bag from the 2012 Holly Jolly, no water bottle, and no swag (though I did get my shirt!). I have no problem with a race not giving extras, but if they are promised, they should be delivered. The t-shirt is of good quality, but has limited wearability due to it being dark blue (not good for sun or night).
Race day was well organised and started on time. There were enough toilets at the start so the wait was relatively short. I like a small race where you can quickly get started and I was across the line within seconds. Water/gatorade/toilet stations were generously located every 1.5 miles.
The course itself was, as promised, totally flat, which one would think would make the course a real PB possibility. However, the already windy conditions continued to worsen as the morning went on, making it a real nightmare for slower runners. Having completed a 24 mile race, my “great race” target was 4:30 and my “wheels fell off” goal was 4:45. I finished a disappointing 5:16. Due to the wind, I ended up walking 7-8 miles. Never in training or any event have I need to walk for any reason, but the wind was such that I was expending as much energy walking as running.
The route of the course was very boring and provided little in the way of visual entertainment. Although I finished middle of the pack, I ended up being alone most of the race, until midway through the second lap where I stumbled across two other women. They were both very experienced marathoners (60th and 155th) and were struggling as much as I with the wind and monotony of the course.
Something I did not see, which I have experienced at other races, is marshals or medics on bikes checking up on the runners. As many runners were alone and on isolated roads for much of the time, this would be a good safety precaution. I appreciate the aid stations were every 1.5 miles, but that’s a very long way if you are in trouble and it could be a long time before another runner comes along. Miles 11-13 (24-26) were horrible. The run out to the airport feels like a never ending run into nothingness and then then you have to run back and into an in-use parking lot which was rather depressing.
Volunteers at the aid stations were friendly and encouraging which was fantastic! The police officers were also helpful and friendly. I do all of my long runs alone, so I don’t typically mind being out on the road by myself (without other runners or spectators), but given the conditions and having to walk, I could have used any and all support! I don’t know what was on offer at the end of the race as I didn’t stick around, but I do know the photographer seemed to have gone home by the time I finished.
What I liked: flat course, well organised, easy registration, started on time, great volunteers, plentiful water/aid stations, nice medal (love good bling!)
What I didn’t like: wind (ya, I know that’s not the fault of the organiser), course itself was amazingly boring and isolated, although I like a small race, the course route and lack of runners made it a terribly dull and lonely experience.
Like others, I really wanted to like this race and make it part of my yearly trip to California, but I just can’t see myself doing it again. This is certainly not a race I would advise for first time marathoners or those accustomed to running with others- the isolation is hard enough, but add that wind and it’s a nightmare.
If it’s possible to re-jig the route and do a few other minor improvements, I think the enjoyability of this race could be greatly improved, which would increase the numbers, again enabling improvements.
Once again, a big cheer for the great volunteers and well organised event.