Surf City is a must-do race for SoCal athletes. My running group has a HUGE contingent that run in both the marathon and half marathon every year. This year I decided to conquer my fear of very crowded races and give the half marathon a try. I was so glad I did!
First thing’s first: THIS RACE IS ALL ABOUT THE MEDAL. Attention medal junkies: If you race for the kick-butt medal, this is the race for you. Every year they create a new and awesome surf board medal and they are collectors items (well, at least in running circles!).
Ok, onto the rest of the details….This is a huge race, with 15,000 participants (and possibly more than that?) so if you are nervous about big crowds just plan on arriving early and taking a nap in your car. That was the best advice I had received, and it made race morning a breeze (if not a really long, early day).
The expo is extremely well-run. Crowded, yes, but super easy to navigate through and very well staffed to get you through packet pick up and into the booth areas. (Extra bonus points: the expo was open on race day prior to the start, which meant that I could actually buy the items I’d been waffling about the day before and wear them in the race. WIN! And a bonus for the vendors who were open as well, items like arm warmers, compression socks/sleeves and jackets were FLYING out the door.)
The start-line/corrals were well managed, though there was a lot of “merging” from the sides which irritated a lot of the folks who had lined up properly inside the corrals. But there were no fights and the irritation seemed to pass quickly. The crowds were patient and the atmosphere was more like a party than a race (this could be because I’m back in the slow corrals, but still. FUN!).
I had been warned that the full marathon course was really boring but the half-marathon was all along the coast and gorgeous, so that’s what I expected. My experience was a lot less ocean view and a lot more running along the coast in the hot sun separated by a berm and a parking lot. Long straight out-and-backs are a little boring without a good view, and for 2/3rds of the course you can’t really see the water and all you see is participants. Otherwise, it was certainly an easy course to follow! My only other issue was a lack of porta-potties. Although I didn’t need to use them, there was a lot of “jeesh, where are the potties” chatter and when you did find some the stench was overpowering, even just walking by. Yikes.
I was pretty warm by the post-race finish, so I didn’t enjoy the beer garden or the concert (the band sounded pretty good!). I ran back through the expo and picked up some more stuff, and had an easy cool-down walk back to my car a couple of miles away.
All in all: awesome race. My fears of the crowds were mostly unfounded, and it was a super fun sunny party race. I’ll absolutely be back next year!