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Review of Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon by ckshubin

Posted by: on February, 4 2013

This was the third race in my Beach Cities Challenge series and where I received my challenge medal.

Pre-Race – Packet pick up was one of the easiest pick ups ever – on par with Disney at the Tinkerbell Half this year which says a lot!

Free parking was offered and plentiful (unlike at the OC Marathon). I got there just before the Expo opened on Friday to find a really long line waiting to get in. However I was very pleasantly surprised at how quickly it moved and how fast I was at the front. I like that they don’t let everyone in at once but only small groups at a time. Bib and t-shirt pick up was very easy. The Expo was one of the better ones I’ve seen and one of the only ones I actually stopped to chat with the vendors and actually purchased some items. My only gripe is why they open the expo so late on Friday. I’d love a 10 or 11am opening vs. 3pm opening. I don’t live near any freeways though I’m not really that far from Huntington Beach and fought traffic both going and coming all along Beach Blvd. and even other side streets trying to avoid it. It took me well over 3 hours’ drive time total getting there and back home. The fact that I could have driven from L.A. County where I live to San Clemente and back in less time did not escape my musings as I sat in traffic at red light after red light trying to get there and home during the worst traffic times. A much earlier Expo/Packet pick up opening time would have all that could have been avoided.

Race Day – The course is fairly flat with a couple of hills. I hill train so they didn’t affect me. Very few mile markers for the half – many for the full so it was weird not knowing how far I had ran or how far I had to go. Several stations had run out of Vitalyte when I ran by and just had water. I found myself wishing several times I had just brought my own to carry. Several stations the Vitalyte was pretty watered down, so much so that I wondered if it was doing any good. I’m not the fastest but usually finish in the top 3rd in gender and age so I’m not slow either and I found myself wondering how those who were struggling behind me would make it on just water. It being warm and sweating and losing salt replacing that is imperative so to run out on course is unacceptable.

I only saw a couple of medical tents on the course. There needs to be way more of these especially later in the race. I saw none on the last half of the race – sometime after mile 6 -8 there was nothing. They need to add several medical tents just past a couple of the water stops at the later mileage on the half course. Generally I’d like to see more medical tents on the whole course overall.

Again, like Long Beach, this race has a late half start. The full marathoners take off starting in waves at 6:30 but the half waves don’t start till 7:45. Too late for my preference.

The finishers chute is one of the best I’ve experienced in all my races. Long and straight with plenty of volunteers and sections spread out so you were able to get everything they offered. Finisher’s food was good and even after you got the food bag you still picked up additional food/fruit/coconut water and you made your way out of the finishers chute. This part of the race is well done and Long Beach would learn much from Surf City on how to do a proper finishers chute.

The shirts i’m not so impressed with. Iron on vs screen printed shirts most races give out seems really cheap. I’d rather have a nicer screen printed shirt and forgo the tote bag if it comes down to costs.

Parking – is a nightmare. Period. This was the nuttiest, craziest parking I’ve ever experienced. I arrived at 6:30 to find that parking was already maxed out. I pulled out of the VERY slow line getting into the beach parking area at Magnolia and decided to drive to Edison High School to find at 6:30 I got one of the last parking spots in that parking lot. If I do this race again I will probably toss a sleeping bag in my suburban and get there at 5am just to get a parking spot and sleep for a couple of hours in the back of my car. Yes, it was that crazy.

Shuttles seemed okay. Even parking at 6:30 I missed my 8:06 corral start time because by the time the shuttle dropped us off and I did a bathroom stop (long lines) my corral had already taken off so I just funneled into the next one.

Post Race – late finish since late start. Hot. Didn’t do the beer garden. Line to get the Beach Cities Challenge medal was really long but they were really good at moving it along and it went really fast. Love that many vendors were still at the Expo and you could still buy gear! That I have not seen and love the idea. Shuttle lines to return to the beach parking lots and the high school were long but what are you going to do? Was glad the porta potties were still at Edison as the lines at the beach were long and I had a long drive home.

Because of the parking, late start and general craziness surrounding this race combined with the average course I may or may not run Surf City again. To me, it rated way above Long Beach overall and lower than OC Marathon so it’s pretty much right in the middle to me. Having run all 3 for the challenge there was something in each race I liked and didn’t like. Because of the Beach Cities Challenge it’s hard not to link the 3 together or to compare them. Surf City would fall in the middle of the 3. A fun race but the course isn’t as nice as OC but its much better than Long Beach and some of that is just location. Overall Surf City puts on a good race and with some improvements like making sure there’s enough cups and electrolyte drink on hand at all stations, better mile markers for the half and way more medical tents later in the course with an earlier start it could be an amazing race.