I’m rating the course itself e a “D” (October 7, 2012) for one reason, congestion. If you’re looking for a PR, this is probably not the course for you. The problem is the first portion of the course is narrow. Think one lane road that gets worse when you run directly along the beach. Imagine 20,000 runners funneled into a cement strip a few miles long that is about 8 feet wide and you get the picture. To make matters worse, the organizers allow participants to start early, although they don’t receive chip timing. Who are the ones who don’t care about chip times? They are the walkers!! So what you have, is the main body of runners converging on the many hundreds or thousands or participants walking. Along the cement strand the most beautiful part of the run (the beach) there is simply no where you can go. You either bob and weave, continuously slowing down, speeding up, and yelling “on your left”, or you run in the sand (which is really not an option). I was not able to completely break out from the crowd until about mile 11.5, which is where the marathoners and half marathoners split. After that point, it was a different run.
The organizers of this race need to dramatically reconfigure how to stage the start. Under no circumstances should anyone other than elite runners and chair racers be allowed to go early. If they want to allow for running along the beach, they need to be strict on the corrals and not only assign people according to recent previous run times, but also police the corrals to ensure slower runners don’t move forward. This is always a concern in every race, but arguably the impact here due to the narrower course over the first 11.5 miles.
Parking is a little tough in Long Beach, especially if you don’t know the area. Signs pointing to parking were only “okay” but lacked specificity. So if you pre-paid to park, you either had to know the area, or have luck on your side.
The expo was average. Nothing special. My group though pricing was unusually high this time for many items. For example, GU that I would pay $1 – $1.29 at REI was $1.50 at the expo. Usually these are more competitively priced. We skipped buying anything. Sad, because we came prepared to spend a couple hundred.
Post-race I thought was excellent. The distance from the finish line to the exit area was short and given the number of runners, there was almost no congestion of runners and spectators. Compared with the LA Marathon, the finish area at Long Beach was light years improved.
Overall, I gave this a “B” rating, but struggled to do so. It’s definitely a race to run for fun, but don’t expect a PR here if you are a consistent runner. Gels and fluids were good throughout the course, though they obviously had fewer volunteers than they needed. As a result, the volunteers were struggling to keep up with fluid demands. For example, you might get to a table and have no cups full of water, but the volunteers were working as fast as they could (and it was GREATLY appreciated).
Bottom line, if you only run one or two races a year and want a PR, try one of the other more local races like L.A. or Orange County. I know I won’t run this one again until they change the way the course is managed, but if changes are made, I wouldn’t hesitate to run.