My review may be a little biased, considering that I live right in the vicinity of the course and train on it daily. So for me, the course doesn’t have much wow factor. That said…
Pre-race: Registration was excellent. Website is informative and easy to use, email correspondence was timely, no complaints here whatsoever. The expo was a little disappointing though. When considering the size of the field, the tent setup was pretty small and cramped, and there wasn’t much in the way of freebies or great deals on running stuff. I pretty much breezed in and out after not seeing much of interest. I could see the location being difficult to get to/park for, but no complaint from me as I was able to ride my bike.
Course: All things considered, the course is fair. Downtown is a great place to start & finish, and the route up Edwards hill and through the park is a nice change of pace and considerate to get the only hilly portion out of the way early on. Coming back down onto PCH feels great, but most of the race is still in front of you and the lengthy back-and-forth route becomes monotonous. And I truly think the beach path leg is very poorly conceived, with late-stage marathoners having to dodge bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. on a congested section of the course. If you live inland, all the beach running might be nice, but for me it became tiresome (not to mention that it is always breezy along the ocean). The finish is also poorly conceived, with the marathoners being corralled into a small inconspicuous chute for the finish. Worst finish line photos I’ve seen.
Post-race: Disappointed here. Very narrow/congested finish area, and I couldn’t even begin to sniff the beer tent as the lines wrapped around practically to Newport. Was forced to head across the street to the hotel and weasel a few free beers from my friends. No complaints about the post race food, but this is not usually a big concern for me after a marathon. Very nice medal though, Surf City does a great job with those.
Overall: Probably not bad as a destination marathon, but for a local it is just okay. I think a course tweak and a little finish area enhancements would make a huge difference.