This was my first half marathon although I’d done several 5k races so knew what to expect pre and post race.
Pre-Race: The Expo was average – not stellar but not bad either. Only complaint about the Expo was the vendors were so close together and aisles so small that even on Friday (the less crowded day) it was hard to move through. Being at the O.C. Fairgrounds seems they would give them a little more room to spread it out a bit more. Especially since you have to pay $10 to park for 10 minutes to pick up your race packet! Biggest pre-race gripe – paying to park for the expo. Pre-race pro – packet pickup was fast and easy.
Race day: I had a 5:30 shuttle time. For OC you park at the start (OC Fairgrounds – again, pay another $10) and you get shuttled to Fashion Island start line by bus. Your assigned a shuttle time and corral time. It does help the flow if everyone followed that shuttle time but not everyone does. My shuttle time was one of the earlier ones and when I got there at 5:20 I walked right onto a bus and was headed to the start with only a 5 minute wait time. This left me plenty of time to locate my friends, use the restroom and warm up. Corral assignments aren’t monitored and it was sort of a mess but not badly so. The corrals were based on times with each time having an “A, B or C designation to break up how many start at once. I was in a “B” corral but because of the mass amounts of people ended up starting somehow with the “A” corral. I’m not slow and not a walker so it didn’t really affect anything.
The course: Beautiful. Loved this course which for the May 2012 was redone from the prior year. I hope they keep it. I loved running through the gorgeous neighborhoods and gazing at the beautiful homes and lush landscaping. The beach views were nice. Course support was pretty good considering it’s a new course. Plenty of water/gatorade stations nicely spaced. Be forewarned that there is a nice hill at mile 10! I train in hills so no big deal but it seemed it caught a lot of people by surprise.
Medical response needs to be improved. There were 2 runners that collapsed right near the finish line. It took FOREVER for medical to respond to one that happened in front of me. It was easily more than 5 minutes if I recall. It took a long, long time. Response time should have been less than a minute since the finish line was right there and there should be medical personnel at the finish.
Post-race – water and gatorade and a bag of goodies at the end. All very good. The half and full have 2 different medal areas that you automatically funnel into so no worries about getting the wrong medal if you pay attention to the signs. The finishers chute was a little short, quite crowded and the medal picture opportunity needs to be moved completely OUT of that area and put somewhere else! I didn’t even know it was there till I left that area and you can’t get back in. For my first half I would have loved a finisher photo. This race had vendors out after finishing – foam rollers, free recovery drinks, OC Marathon merchandise. Very nice and one of the few that do this. My favorite was free massages from Massage Envy with so many tables set up you had a less than 10 minute wait. Nice way to finish a race.
Parking – Expo parking should be free. I have yet to run another race where you had to pay to park to pick up your race day packet without a free choice! This to me is unacceptable. If the fairgrounds won’t wave parking for the expo/packet pick up then they need to move packet pick up somewhere else. Coming in I got stuck behind a car that asked like 100 questions and was causing problems completely holding up the line. The attendent should have had her pull off so those of us who knew what we were doing weren’t sitting behind her getting agitated for 15 minutes waiting. I did the prepaid parking ticket I bought from the Expo the day before which I recommend. Plan to arrive much earlier to allow for the freeway backup. Also know there are 2 lanes from the 55 that funnel into the parking lot of the fairgrounds. Luckily I knew this and was able to pass well over 300 cars backed up waiting and pulled right into the 2nd lane going into the fairgrounds. The attendent there failed as well as they could have easily been directing the cars right there to start funneling into that lane causing there to be little to no backup or at least not a long wait to get into the parking lot.
Exiting the parking lot was a nightmare. It literally took over an hour to leave. I actually turned off my car and sat there. For an hour. Before I moved even an inch. Mostly because you had cars funneling into the main line to leave from the parking areas and the signal to let you out onto the main street was only letting 2-3 cars out at a time. For exiting purposes they need to look at using traffic cops to hand guide the mass exodus of runners leaving all at once post race and ignore the signals for a short time.
This race started my Beach Cities Challenge. I was glad that I picked this first. Would also make a good last race in the challenge. Of the 3 races in the challenge this by far is the best one and the ONLY one I will run again.