I participated in the 2013 Rock and Roll San Diego Half Marathon and while it had its share of hiccups and frustrations, it was a race I would absolutely sign up for again.
Packet pickup was relatively smooth and hassle free. It was extremely crowded but the facilities at the convention center were more than adequate to accommodate the expo and runners.
Transportation the morning of the race, however, did not go entirely according to plans. R&R encouraged locals to take the trolley to the race so I took the recommendation. I arrived at 5am at the Old Town trolley station. The first trolley came through and the doors did not open since it was already completely packed by the time it arrived at the Old Town Station. There was still time and we assumed they were running them more often so we waited patiently for the next. The next didn’t arrive for another 15 minutes (which is similar to their normal operating days – not sufficient for a huge event) Once again the trolley was completely full and only about a dozen people were able to squeeze themselves in. At that point, panic set in for all of us….we realized if the next trolley was at capacity we would have a high likelihood of missing our start.
Thankfully within minutes we were directed to shuttle buses that R&R seemed to have secured and scrambled to compensate for the lack of space on the trolley system. Our bus driver was amazing and assured all of us that he would get us as close as possible to the start line and cut out the mile walk we would have dealt with if we had taken the trolley. True to his word, he even went through one barricaded road to get us as close as possible to the start.
Gear check was smooth and efficient. There did seem to be a huge lack of bathrooms at the start line. I waited 22 minutes to use one and many of the marathoners ended up leaving the line to make it back to their corral. They were upset that they would have to rely on finding a bathroom on the route rather than finding one beforehand.
The corrals and start was very smooth. I was in corral 10 and felt that I moved through the start line much faster than some of the smaller races I have participated in. My only complaint was how many people severely overestimated their athletic ability. My corral was due to finish in 2:00-2:10 and during the first two miles there were tons of people that were already stopping or unexpectedly slowing down to a walk with thousands of runners behind them. If you have to take a walking break at mile two, chances are you probably should have started much further back. It was annoying and dangerous at times with so many runners funneled into a small space.
I personally loved the route. It was very residential but it played well into the great sense camaraderie that I felt throughout all of R&R. Unquestionably, the spectators made this race. There were some handing out tequila shots (no I did not partake – but did consider), glasses of beer, fruit, pretzels and boundless cheers and encouragement. In a few areas, residents were playing their own stereos or guitars to add to the ambiance. I loved that there was really never a time that you did not have someone to hold your attention…whether it was one of the bands, the cheerleaders, the spectators or random people who would exchange humorous one liners as you ran by. LOVED that it felt like the entire city was coming out to watch you run.
The aid stations were sub par and hard to access. I cannot believe they only offered water/Gatorade on one side of the route. With so many participants, it seems that it would have made sense to have tables on both sides. A few times I would turn the corner and realize that the aid station was across the road. So you either had to swim sideways through a bunch of runners or skip it and hope that you were on the right side for the next one. I had a hydration belt with me so I was able to supplement when needed, but it was very frustrating that some of them were so difficult to access. I finished at 2 hrs and the aid station at mile 12 was already out of Gatorade at that point.
Besides the sub par aid stations and the initial groups of people that stopped/walked right after the start line, I really enjoyed the race itself. The music, the incredible spectators and the sense of camaraderie was absolutely incredible. I don’t know if it’s because I forgot my ipod or just the race itself but I have never interacted with so many other runners and spectators during a race. The atmosphere was exactly what I envisioned when I signed up for a R&R.
The finish was extremely busy and they seemed to be having a difficult time getting the runners to move through the secured area. I was surprised that we didn’t actually finish inside Petco Park (and many others mentioned the same thing) It was still a great finish but was not communicated well on the pre race information.
Once again, retrieving our gear went without a hitch and the trolley ride back to the Old Town station was uneventful and had plenty of room.
To summarize. This is a BIG race….so it has some of the headaches of a large race (especially the bathroom situation) I can only speak for the Trolley system but even though it was at full capacity, R&R race officials seemed to immediately come up with a Plan B that eliminated the stress for us.
It is an expensive race but in my opinion you get what you pay for – which is the experience itself. I felt engaged with other runners and spectators the entire time. While the route itself wasn’t all that interesting, the atmosphere compensated for it completely (where else can you be offered shots of tequila at mile 5?)