This was my 16th half marathon and my first time running the OC Half Marathon.
I picked up my packet on Friday afternoon. Although there was a long line when the expo first opened, it moved really quickly and I had no trouble picking up my bib, tech shirt, clear plastic gear check bag, and free Wahoo’s taco coupon. The tech shirt was a short sleeved and was a nice design. I actually wore it on race day and it was very comfortable and fit great. I wish the race would provide a shirt sizing chart at the time of registration so runners could order the correct size, as the race wasn’t allowing any size changes at any time (fortunately, my shirt fit great). The vendor area in the expo had quite a few vendors, but it was crammed into a small expo hall at the OC Fairgrounds. It was packed with people and very difficult to talk with the vendors with the noise level and cramped conditions. I also bought the $5.00 prepaid parking pass for race day at the expo.
On race day, I arrived at the OC Fairgrounds to park around 4AM. My shuttle time wasn’t until 4:45AM. I had no problem entering the parking lot at that time and quickly finding a parking spot. Boarding the busses was no problem. There were at least a dozen busses waiting for runners to board. The ride over to Fashion Island took about 20 minutes and I arrived with plenty of time before the race started at 6:15AM. It was a little windy and chilly, so I used the UPS gear check and only waited about 5 minutes to check my gear at the appropriate truck.
There were start corrals and runners started in waves, which was nice. The corrals should have been larger though. I was in my corral about 15 minutes before the race started, which I was glad because by the time the race started, there were many runners trying to squeeze themselves into the corral and it was absolutely packed.
The half marathon started about 5 minutes late. It would have been great if they would have started on time. The course was very packed for the first mile, after that, I never experienced too much crowding and running around slower runners. Mile markers were clearly posted and I liked that each one had an inspirational quote. I didn’t like how the first couple of water/gatorade stations were about 2 miles apart. I felt there should have been more earlier on in the race (every 1-1.5 miles). There were plenty of stations in the second half of the race and there were Clif Shot gels given out around mile 10. Traffic control on the race course was great. Lots of volunteers and police personnel directing traffic and cheering runners on.
At the finish line, there were plenty of spectators. The medals were very nice. I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal and wow that thing is huge! That is where the good experience stops. There were small yellow bags given to runners with only an orange, a Clif bar, and a Fig Newton bar. Also, bottled water and gatorade were given. After running a half marathon, I was looking for more food that just those items.
The family reunion area was a mess. Thousands of people everywhere, and it was very difficult to walk anywhere. The Beach Cities Challenge table was hidden between two buildings and wasn’t marked until you got to the actual table. The gear bag pick up wasn’t even on the map. The lady at the information booth in the family reunion area wasn’t answering questions, she was yelling where the gear check was located, which people couldn’t understand. I waited in line for nearly AN HOUR to get my gear bag. I’ve used UPS gear check at half marathons numerous times in the past and have never waited more than 10 minutes. So, I don’t know what happened here.
Finally, I walked back to my car and waitied another 30 minutes to leave the parking lot. I was VERY frustrated with the whole finish line and post race parking situation. I’m really not sure if I’ll be back next year due to these issues.