My Profile

@MilesOStridin

San Gabriel, CA Raving since 2021 Active 2 weeks, 3 days ago

About Me

  • Running club(s):
  • Rave race:
  • Race that's calling my name:

    Boston, one day!

  • I run because:

    I can! It’s good for my legs, and it’s good for my soul.

My Races

Organize, track & review your races and personal bests here.

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Half Marathon

Marathon

Ultramarathon

(Marathon or Ultra) + Half

Marathon + Ultra

Other

Future Races

Personal Bests (5)

Race Distance Location Date Result
Marathon Los Angeles, CA Nov 7, 2021 3:39:16
Half Marathon San Diego, CA Oct 24, 2021 1:39:45
10 Miler Huntington Beach, CA Sep 25, 2022 1:27:16
10K Seal Beach, CA Nov 20, 2021 49:01
5K San Diego, CA Oct 23, 2021 24:16

Future Races (43)

Race Distance Location Date Paid
Half Marathon Santa Barbara, CA 2022
10K Los Angeles, CA Feb 18, 2023
Half Marathon San Diego, CA TBD
Half Marathon Banff, Canada TBD
Half Marathon Carnation, WA TBD
Marathon Folsom, CA TBD
Half Marathon Falmouth, MA TBD
Marathon Chicago, IL TBD
Marathon Cincinnati, OH TBD
Half Marathon Cloverdale, CA TBD
Half Marathon San Pedro, CA TBD
Half Marathon Kissimmee, FL TBD
Half Marathon Encinitas, CA TBD
Half Marathon Kiowa, MT TBD
Half Marathon Kiowa, MT TBD
Half Marathon Wilson, WY TBD
Marathon Two Harbors, MN TBD
Half Marathon Townsend, TN TBD
Half Marathon Koloa, HI TBD
Half Marathon Tahoe City, CA TBD
Half Marathon Long Beach, CA TBD
Half Marathon Camarillo, CA TBD
Half Marathon Encinitas, CA TBD
Half Marathon Ojai, CA TBD
Marathon Staten Island, NY TBD
Half Marathon Pasadena, CA TBD
Half Marathon Big Bear, CA TBD
Half Marathon Big Bear, CA TBD
Half Marathon Big Bear, CA TBD
Half Marathon Salt Lake City, UT TBD
Half Marathon New Orleans, LA TBD
Half Marathon Carson City, NV TBD
Half Marathon San Diego, CA TBD
Marathon San Francisco, CA TBD
Marathon Seattle, WA TBD
6 hr Reedley, CA TBD
6 hr Paso Robles, CA TBD
Half Marathon Agua Dulce, CA TBD
25K Malibu, CA TBD
Half Marathon Ventura, CA TBD
Dopey Challenge (48.6 Miles) Lake Buena Vista, FL TBD
Half Marathon Virgin, UT TBD
Half Marathon Virgin, UT TBD

Past Races (32)

Race Distance Location Date Result My Raves My Performance
Half Marathon Big Bear, CA Nov 12, 2022
Half Marathon Malibu, CA Nov 6, 2022 1:55:19
Half Marathon Cloverdale, CA Oct 23, 2022
Half Marathon Agua Dulce, CA Oct 22, 2022
Half Marathon Tahoe City, CA Oct 16, 2022
Half Marathon Long Beach, CA Oct 8, 2022 1:55:26
10 Miler Huntington Beach, CA Sep 25, 2022 1:27:16
Half Marathon Carnation, WA Sep 10, 2022
Half Marathon San Diego, CA Aug 21, 2022
25K Malibu, CA Jul 23, 2022
Half Marathon Ashford, WA Jul 16, 2022
Half Marathon Ojai, CA Jun 5, 2022
Half Marathon San Diego, CA Jun 4, 2022
Marathon Big Sur, CA Apr 24, 2022 3:58:01
Half Marathon San Diego, CA Apr 10, 2022 1:48:18
Marathon Los Angeles, CA Mar 20, 2022 3:43:24
Half Marathon Huntington Beach, CA Feb 6, 2022 1:42:07
Half Marathon Carlsbad, CA Jan 16, 2022 1:44:43
Half Marathon San Dimas, CA Dec 12, 2021 1:50:22
Half Marathon Del Mar, CA Dec 11, 2021 1:48:46
10K Seal Beach, CA Nov 20, 2021 49:01
Marathon Los Angeles, CA Nov 7, 2021 3:39:16
5K Los Angeles, CA Nov 6, 2021 25:16
Half Marathon San Diego, CA Oct 24, 2021 1:39:45
5K San Diego, CA Oct 23, 2021 24:16
Half Marathon Long Beach, CA Oct 9, 2021 1:45:30
Marathon Los Angeles, CA Mar 8, 2020 4:19:08
10K Huntington Beach, CA Dec 15, 2019 52:21
10K Universal City, CA Nov 17, 2019 56:03
5K Universal City, CA Nov 16, 2019 34:08
Half Marathon Los Angeles, CA Nov 9, 2019 2:29:37
10K Huntington Beach, CA Sep 21, 2019 49:59

My Raves

This was my first time running the Malibu Half Marathon. It’s a beautiful, hilly course, but the tradeoffs for racing this stretch of Highway One are narrow lanes and chaotically … MORE

This was my first time running the Malibu Half Marathon. It’s a beautiful, hilly course, but the tradeoffs for racing this stretch of Highway One are narrow lanes and chaotically jammed water stations.

Expo / pick-up:

-Packet pick-up and the expo is staged in the Zuma Beach parking lot. You can look up your bib number and efficiently grab all your items. I loved the small official cloth bag that they provided. It’s sturdy, and just big enough to hold the shirt, bib, etc. There were so many great vendors providing samples (and more bags), including Neutrogena, Qure, Oak Berry, Bahamii, and UCLA Health. The official merch store also sold parking passes for the rest of the weekend’s races, so that’s a great way to save yourself a few minutes on race-day morning.

Parking:

-Tip: while you can pre-purchase parking at the expo, that doesn’t guarantee you a great spot! Beach parking is plentiful, but the parking spots are stretched thinly along the coast, so you need to get there EARLY to prevent having to walk a mile-plus to the start-line. Based on my experience, “early” means at least an hour and a half before the start time.

Pre-race:

-The start area is just between the Zuma Beach parking lot and the expo area. There are lots of porta-potties in addition to the beach’s permanent facilities. Mornings in Malibu can be COLD, so bring a jacket, gloves, hat, whatever you need to stay warm. And if you need to check your gear, note that it’s at the western end of the expo area, in the same tent where you pick up your race shirts. If you manage to get an early morning parking spot that’s closer, it might not even be worth walking all the way to the gear check tent.

-The field at the Malibu Half is large enough to feel like an energetic running event, but not too crowded as to be uncomfortable. That means the start corral is easy to get into, and you can find your corresponding pacer group with no trouble at all. In fact, this was one of the fastest wave-starts I’ve ever been a part of. It seemed like everyone was able to cross the start line very quickly after the starting gun.

Course:
-Miles 1-3: If you did the 5k on Saturday, this is essentially the same route. You head southeast on the Zuma Beach Access Road before looping back onto Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) right around Busch Drive. The first 3 miles are the flattest and easiest, so enjoy it while it lasts!

-Miles 3-8: After you run past the Start/Finish line, it’s time for a steady climb that never seems to end. There are gorgeous ocean views for your eyes, but the price is paid by your legs. The steepest climb is around Mile 5, at Meyer State Beach and El Matador Beach, but every downhill seemingly ends with the start of another uphill.

-Miles 8-13.1: The course hits a turnaround at Mile 8, and now you get to do all those same hills again, but from the opposite direction. Again, the steepest hills are around El Matador State Beach (this time at Mile 10). The good news: the “back” of this out-and-back course is net downhill. The bad news: Highway One is a highly trafficked road, and they probably can’t afford to shut down multiple lanes for a race. As a result, the closed course only consists of 3/4 of a full lane (marked by cones to create a small buffer) for outgoing runners and a small bike lane for returning runners. This makes for a very narrow race where outgoing and returning runners can be very closely bunched! To make things worse, the water stations are only located on the coastal side of the road—outgoing runners must cut into the returning lane to get water, and it is a messy traffic jam at every station! As a runner, approaching normal water stations is already a tricky task of grabbing a cup/drinking without slowing traffic behind you. Now you need to worry about incoming traffic too! It’s chaotic.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-The weather in Malibu was clear and great. It started off pretty chilly, around 54 degrees, and rose up to 62 by the time I finished. There isn’t much tree cover or shade, so if your eyes are sensitive, be sure to bring a hat/sunglasses. The amount of water/gels available and volunteer support was absolutely perfect—every time I was just about to need water, the next aid station was coming up right away. But again, I must reiterate that the stations serving two-way traffic can get way too crowded.

Post-race:

-Once you cross the finish line, and grab your medal, a bottle of Qure water, and a goodie bag full of refreshments from the friendly volunteers. The half marathon goodie bag was basically the same as the 5k’s: a banana, a quarter bagel, Bahamii date energy bites (mine was Chocolate almond), Wipala fruit bar (Strawberry/spinach), and a few crackers. The festival was full of great vendors, including Neutrogena handing out lotion and skincare samples. The massage and compression booths were also very popular. I counted two different photo ops: a first/second/third place podium, and a red carpet backdrop along the sand. Both were pretty great!

Swag:

-The 5k and Half Marathon events share the same official race shirt: a gray tech shirt, with the Run Malibu logo in white atop a solid purple forward-facing chevron and a black palm tree silhouette. It’s a nice shirt with nice material, and better-looking than the black variant shown on the race website. The Half Marathon finisher medal is a hefty chunk of hardware. The Run Malibu logo is centered on a purple/red gradient forward-chevron, with palm trees in the background, all encircled by a brushed metal ring. The medal is looped with a ribbon that’s red on one side, purple on the other. Very eye-catching!
If you ran the 5k to complete the Malibu Combo Challenge, the Challenge medal is a circle of purple-orange-blue chevrons, and the Combo Challenge text in shiny chrome at the bottom.
One medal issue: The Malibu Half Marathon was the fourth qualifying race I ran this year in the Golden State Challenge series. Organizers at the race ran out of Golden State Challenge medals because they weren’t given an updated list, and instead provided us an email contact. I’ve emailed several times, and also contacted Motiv Sports, but it’s been a week now, and there’s been no response. Not sure I’m getting that Challenge medal…

Bottom-line:

The Malibu Half Marathon is fun and beautiful race. I would recommend it as long as you’re ready for some tough hills, narrow lanes, and crowded water stations. It’s otherwise a great event with wonderful atmosphere and unbeatable location.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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This was my third go-around with the Long Beach Half Marathon, and it remains a smooth, fast race. The race-day environment is fun, the course is scenic, and it’s a … MORE

This was my third go-around with the Long Beach Half Marathon, and it remains a smooth, fast race. The race-day environment is fun, the course is scenic, and it’s a reliable fall classic that I really enjoy and recommend.

Expo / pick-up:
-After spending last year in the open-air plaza outside the Long Beach Convention Center, the race expo and packet pick-up returned inside to the Convention Center’s Hall C. There were more vendors and sponsors than before, and I appreciated the free, official plastic tote bags we got upon bib pick-up. It’s handy for all the samples, shirts, etc. at the expo, and a useful way to remember the event throughout the rest of the year after you go home! I also liked the booth selling race-day parking, which I think was new. It’s a huge time-saver, and makes the race-day morning much easier. I wasn’t thrilled with the official merch on sale, however. It was hard to find tech shirts with the official Long Beach logo, instead of cotton-poly blends. Maybe it’s just me, but sweat-wicking features are so important on running shirts.

Parking:
-Tip: instead of panicking and wondering where to park your car on race-day morning (all the while nervous that you won’t make the start-line on time), you can pre-purchase parking either online or at the expo. It makes your morning less stressful! The designated parking lot right outside the Convention Center is conveniently close to the start/finish area, right across from Shoreline Drive.

Pre-race:
-The start area began near the corner of Shoreline Drive and the Rainbow Lagoon, and stretches back all along the Marina Green Park. There were plenty of porta-potties, with a higher concentration near the start. Gear check was also available in the Park’s lawn area, along with merch sales and shirt pickups. If you’re doing the Half, be aware that the Marathon and Bike Tour begin an hour earlier. There are other racers speeding through the area and/or finishing, so make way for them if you’re further east on Shoreline Drive near the finish area.
-The start corral on Shoreline Drive was divided by pacers holding up signs, but it was so crowded that it spilled into the hilly Marina Green park to the south. I wish the corral was organized slightly better to allow all racers to gather on the road rather than being pushed up the hill. I couldn’t step into the corral on the road until the first wave had already crossed the start line.

Course:
-Miles 1-5: Here the crowds are the biggest, right out of the start line. From Shoreline Drive, you loop under Ocean Boulevard, navigate twisty turnarounds near Long Beach’s famous piers and shipping industry, and go over and under bridges. The Queens Way bridge here is the steepest elevation change on the course, and you have to climb it twice. At least you can get it out of the way early!
-Miles 5-7: This section includes many of Long Beach’s most popular landmarks including the Aquarium, Shoreline Park, the lighthouse, Rainbow Harbor, the Marina boats, and the best views of the Queen Mary. This was probably my favorite part of the race since it feels less like a race and more like a sight-seeing tour!
-Miles 7-10: A straight, flat stretch along the beach with sand and crashing waves on your right. It’s pretty, but after a few minutes, the view of the beach pretty much blurs into the background since it doesn’t change much. This portion is also the least shaded, provides the least water/aid support, and had the smallest spectator crowds. It can sometimes get annoyingly hot here, but this year the cooler, overcast weather made it easier.
-Miles 10-13.1: The turnaround onto Ocean Blvd, into the Belmont Shores neighborhood is a relief. The crowds and aid stations are back. The city is back, some shade is back again, and local businesses, residents, and running clubs are out to support you! There’s a small hill around Mile 11, but it’s so gradual I barely noticed it due to the crowd noise. I got an extra boost of energy throughout this stretch— extra thanks to the official and unofficial snacks (some folks with donut holes), fruit (orange slices), and other refreshments from volunteers. As the course merges from Ocean Blvd onto Shoreline Drive, the crowds in the final quarter mile make it so much fun, and it’s a great way to finish the race.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-It was luckily a cool and overcast day, with temperatures ranging from 65 F on race-day morning to 70 F when I crossed the finish line. The cloud cover made for a comfortable run, especially along the unshaded beach. It also made it easier to enjoy all of Long Beach’s sights without having to squint if it were a hot, sunny day. Water and volunteer support was solid, but I really wish there was another aid station around Mile 8 or 9 around the beach.

Post-race:
-Cross the finish line and you’re funneled into the finish festival in Marina Green Park. Wind-down with an assortment of refreshments: True Moo chocolate milk, a banana, Snyder’s mini pretzels, a Bob’s Red Mill bar, an organic Jam Bar, and cans of Liquid Death water. I almost declined the water because when you’re exhausted and slightly disoriented, you really don’t expect to find water in the form of cans. Beer, energy drinks? Sure, but when your brain is on auto-pilot at the end of a race, you’re usually looking for water served in bottles or cups. The finish festival also featured several food trucks, a Michelob Ultra beer garden, merch sales, photo ops, and more, all along the marina waters.

Swag:
-The official Half Marathon shirt was a black tech shirt, with a blue/green city graphic on the front. The Long Beach marathon logo is centered in the front, as well as up top on the back. It’s a nice design, and a huge upgrade over last year’s cotton blend shirt. The Half Marathon medal is a chunky piece of black metal looped in a light blue ribbon. City buildings in green and purple form the backdrop of the medal, while a blue palm tree and blue Queen Mary ship surround the Long Beach logo in the foreground.

Bottom-line:
The Long Beach Half Marathon is a fun fall event with wonderful sights and energy—whether it’s your first race or a repeat, I heartily recommend it!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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The Surf City 10 (formerly known as the Surf City Sundown) is a bright and sunny fun run. Enjoy pleasant views of Huntington Beach along a fast, flat course. Expo … MORE

The Surf City 10 (formerly known as the Surf City Sundown) is a bright and sunny fun run. Enjoy pleasant views of Huntington Beach along a fast, flat course.

Expo / pickup:

-Packet pickup was staged in an outdoor setup along Pacific Coast Highway. There were individual tents for bib pickup, shirt pickup, and merch sales. Sponsors and exhibitors each had their own booths where you could sample all sorts of supplements, sports drinks, sunglasses, and health goods. Two big green Surf City backdrops were also available for photo ops.

Parking/Pre-race:

-The corner of PCH and Main Street serves as the Surf City 10 start line. Your best parking options are garages up Main Street, public lots along PCH, or the garage for the Pacific City shops. The start-line and expo area had plentiful rows of pot-a-potties closer to the beach, in addition to the pier’s own facilities. A gear-check tent was available near the expo area as well, but I didn’t use it. Pacers in the start corral were helpful in dividing up pace groups.

Course:

-The Surf City 10 course is a real out-and-back, a straight shot that goes north up the Pacific Coast Highway, then returns along the same route. The first 2.5 miles go past hotels, shops, and houses on your right, and Huntington Beach, including the Pier, on your left. You’ll encounter the most crowd support in this stretch—not as much as the bigger Surf City Marathon/Half in the spring, but it’s still encouraging. At Mile 2.5 you begin a comfortable and flat stretch with Bolsa Chica State Beach on your left, and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve on your right. You hit the turnaround at Mile 5 right before Warner Ave and begin your return. The beach views around the Bolsa Chica area were quite muted because parking lots full of RV trailers formed a low wall between you and the actual water. You’ll just have to settle for sunny weather, blue skies, and the sea breeze instead to power you through—it’s a real bummer, oh the horror! Miles 7 to 8 deliver the slightest bit of elevation gain, then flatten out as you race to the crowds at the finish line.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-The race is called the Surf City 10, and the course serves you beach views for over half of the course, with plenty of that California ocean breeze and palm trees. The best views are near the start and finish, near the Huntington Beach pier. Volunteers were great, and hydration stations were plentiful at Miles 2, 4, 6, 8, and thankfully at Mile 9 too! Gu was also available at around Mile 6 I think. Race day was clear and sunny, with temperatures starting in the upper-60s and ending in the low-70s. There was little to no cloud or tree cover, so the sunlight felt harsher in the second half. A hat or sunglasses would be helpful.

Post-race:

-Goodies at the finish line include a finisher medal, banana, pH Alkaline water, an organic Jam Bar, and a Bob’s Red Mill bar. The post-race festival by the beach is perfect for pictures, especially at the two big green Surf City photo backdrops. It’s also fun to walk along the pier with your medal(s) and hear the clanging in rhythm to the waves crashing below. If you need further hydration, the Michelob Ultra beer garden is a great spot to celebrate.

Swag:

– If you thought a Surf City race would feature surf board medals, you would be right! The 10 Miler medal is a vertical surf board in sea foam green and white, with silhouettes of waves and the Huntington Beach pier, looped in a green ribbon. The surf board medal folds in half to (1) make it more display-friendly on a flat surface, and (2) serve as a bottle opener! Very cool. The race shirt was a short-sleeve shirt in sea foam green, with the Surf City 10 logo centered in yellow, and wrap-around side panels in a lighter shade of green that connect into a wave graphic on the back. It’s a very neat design. The shirt material isn’t the typical tech poly of most race shirts, but a poly/rayon blend. It’s softer and comfier at the cost of slightly less moisture-wicking.

Bottom-line:

-The Surf City 10 is a fast and fun race along the beach. It’s not as big or rowdy as its Marathon/Half sibling in the spring, but I actually enjoyed this one just as much! While I miss the unique sunset vibes of the Surf City Sundown variation, I can understand the planning/lighting/logistical difficulties of organizing that. Surf City 10 feels like a great little race with a charm of its own.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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The word “epic” can get over-used, but the Big Sur International Marathon? EPIC! Epic hills, epic beauty, an epic, unforgettable run. Expo / pick-up: -The expo and packet pick-up was … MORE

The word “epic” can get over-used, but the Big Sur International Marathon? EPIC! Epic hills, epic beauty, an epic, unforgettable run.

Expo / pick-up:
-The expo and packet pick-up was conveniently located at the Monterey Conference Center in downtown Monterey, just across the street from the Monterey Marriott, and a block or two away from Fisherman’s Wharf. Masks were required upon entry, and the organizers handed out free N95 masks at the entrance. Very nice. Race bibs and shuttle bus tickets were distributed in one ballroom, while shirt pick-up and merch sales were in a larger, adjoining conference hall. If you pre-ordered merch online (*raises hand*), there was a separate table just for that, helping you avoid the LONG check-out lines. If you visit the expo on Saturday, there’s also a series of race clinics providing tips on racing the course, health/nutrition, and running in general.

Parking/drop-off:
-Highway 1 is closed to all traffic the morning of the marathon, so all racers were required to take free shuttle buses to reach the start line, with scheduled departures between 3:30 am and 4 am (!). My 3:45 shuttle departure time from Downtown Monterey meant a super early morning alarm and breakfast. Oof! 😅 Masks were required for the bus trip, and volunteers were once again handing out free masks at the pick-up point. Once you’re aboard, everyone pretty much settles in for a snooze—there’s not much else to see or do during the hour-long, pitch-black trip down Highway 1 to the Big Sur Station start area.

Pre-race:
-The Starting Area at Big Sur Station was a crowded, no-frills setup. Water (hot and not) and coffee were available, but no snacks or bananas if you’re counting on that. Seating was also very limited. I ended up sitting my behind on the cold pavement in the parking lot for a few hours. The number of porta-potties was just barely enough, but the lines got VERY long as we got closer to the start time, and the cramped space meant the lines would tangle confusingly. Given the cold morning weather, almost every racer took advantage of gear check. Gear check was available at two separate locations, one closer to the parking lot, and one closer to the VIP area. It felt like the entire start area was more cramped than it needed to be, especially with the number of racers that morning, but it ultimately wasn’t a big deal. The announcers did a good job of getting us hyped as we approached the scheduled start time.

Course:
-Emoji course review: 🙂🌲🌊😍⛰🥁😣🌉🎹😄🌊😍😓⛰😣🍓☺⛰😖😐😨⛰😒😤🏃‍♂️🏁🎖😂😃

Miles 1-5: The exciting burst out of the Big Sur Station starting chute is immediately followed by an easygoing downhill ramble north on Highway 1. The crowds don’t disperse as quickly as they might in other races because Highway 1’s two lanes are narrower. It’s a pleasant run among tall redwood trees. The morning air is crisp and the constant shade gives you a gentle chance to get used to the tight groups of runners. There aren’t the usual huge crowds of roadside supporters, but as you pass by campgrounds, gas stations, and schools, the locals do show up to cheer you on.

Miles 5-10: A little past Mile 5, grassy fields emerge with cows grazing warily, hefty green hills rise on your right, and you begin to catch sight of the Pacific Ocean on your left. With no more trees to shield you, the wind picks up. A series of rolling hills kick in, pushing you upwards, and it feels like the real race is finally beginning! The impressive Point Sur Lighthouse, sitting atop a giant lump of rock, is quite eye-catching at around Mile 9. But it’s nothing compared to the sight of Hurricane Point, looming in the distance. Hurricane Point is one of the most infamous landmarks of the Big Sur Marathon, and what’s intimidating is that Highway 1 approaches the monstrous hill from a perpendicular angle, so you can see the shadowy ascent in all its glory from miles away. Then the course swerves right for a downhill dip at Mile 9.5, giving you a half mile reprieve so you can anticipate the big hill that’s just about to come. It’s the anticipation that builds dread.

Miles 10-15: The climb! Hurricane Point is tough! 500 feet of elevation over 2 miles is no joke! And it can feel slightly overwhelming. But because every former runner and every race review mentions it, and because you’ve already been eyeing that hill for more than 10 minutes, you somehow feel mentally prepared. Halfway up, the sound of taiko drums is a welcome encouragement, and help you kick into another gear. You gotta really keep pushing to reach the peak at Mile 12, but conquering that hill feels wonderful! It’s an exhilarating downhill run for almost 2 miles after as you leave behind the dark shadows of Hurricane Point. Your legs feel good, sunlight returns, and the ocean views are spectacular. You have to stop for selfies with the iconic Bixby Bridge at around Mile 13, then enjoy the playful tunes of the Piano Man and his shiny Yamaha piano right after crossing the bridge. 🎹

Miles 15-20: The breathtaking scenery just doesn’t end. You get mile after mile of rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and blue-gray waters as far as the eye can see. The rugged terrain of Garrapata State Park accompanies you on your left and right. You just might zone out and achieve quiet serenity. It’s a blur of beauty, but all that comes at a cost of rolling hills: ups and downs, ups and downs, relentlessly sapping your energy. Your eyes are happy, but your legs are heavy.

Miles 20-25: The course slowly veers away from the water and winds back towards civilization. Houses sprout up here and there. You enter the Carmel Highlands and its extremely banked roads, giving your feet another tricky obstacle to conquer. At this point, you’re tired of the constant changes in verticality, so why not throw in some lateral challenges as well! Local crowd support ticks up around here, thankfully. You’ll need all the help you can get as you continue tackling hills like the ones near Yankee Point near Mile 22. All the minor elevation gains around here take a tough toll on your quads and feet, and this stretch might be the toughest of the course. It’s for this reason that the Dole strawberries around Mile 23 are the sweetest, most delicious strawberries you’ll ever taste in your life. I swear they’re juicy red drops of pure heaven just when you think you’re on death’s doorstep. These babies zapped my leg cramps and gave me a better boost than any Gu packet ever has!

Miles 25-Finish: Looking at the course elevation map, I knew there were a series of hills towards the end of the race. The problem is that there are so many that you lose track of when the next big one kicks in. Just when I thought I was clear, the final hill at Mile 25 seemed to emerge out of nowhere. With a gain of less than 100 feet, the hill is a small fraction of bigger hills earlier in the course, but its location is masterfully designed to crush what remaining legs and spirit you have left. This is the first time I’ve ever audibly groaned in frustration during any race. I glanced at the hill, then at my watch, did some quick math, and saw my goal time slipping away. 😫 It takes an exhausting push to make it to the top, and I coasted on the downhill momentum for quite a bit. And then… the finish line! The end of the course came sooner than expected, and I love when you can see the finish line and hear cheering crowds from a distance. After so many miles on a quiet race, the sound of rowdy cheering is so rewarding. It gave me a huge mental boost and propelled me into a strong final sprint!

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-Highway 1 is renowned for its gorgeous coastal scenery, and getting to experience it on foot is an amazing experience. Yes, the hills are grueling, and the support crowds are minimal, but the course is so magnificent that nothing else matters. I didn’t even notice that I forgot to turn on my headphones until Mile 14—that’s how overwhelming it is. I also liked the hand-painted mile-markers featuring locals, sponsors, and random characters. It added a quirky, home-made feel to the race! The course is notoriously windy, and there were certainly moderate to strong gusts, but it was manageable. Temperatures began in the low 50s at the Big Sur Station start, and reached around 60 F at the Carmel Crossroads finish.
Having only run prior marathons with 20+ stations, I was initially worried about the course only having 11 aid stations, but this was just the right amount given race day conditions. There was plenty of water and Gatorade Endurance, as well as Gu and fruit at later stations. This year, the race organizers also partnered with HydraPak to promote a cup-less race for those willing to participate. The first 4,000 runners pledging to race cup-less were given reusable HydraPak SpeedCups at the expo to use instead of single-use paper cups at each aid station. I was worried how this would work in practice, but there were multiple volunteers at each aid station with wide-mouth pitchers ready to refill your cups. For a race like Big Sur, this is a fantastic way to reduce paper waste and encourage sustainability.

Post-race:
-After you cross the finish line, celebrate with your awesome medal and smile for the MarathonFoto photographers ready to snap your picture. The immediate finishing chute provides you with water, Gatorade, and bananas for a quick refreshment. Once you navigate into the finisher tent, you can pick up a cardboard tray filled with a bagel, chocolate milk, banana, apple, orange, potato chips, and an oatmeal cookie. Delicious! I love it when races pre-package the snacks and give you something to hold all those snacks. Of course there’s also a beer garden, hot soup, and merchandise for sale at the finish festival. I love that the finish area is set in the Crossroads Carmel shopping center. It means there are plenty of lunch options, and also plenty of parking for friends and family.

Swag:
-The marathon race shirt was a long-sleeve tech shirt in light olive/sea foam green. It featured the race logo on the back, accompanied by a whale. I believe the other race distances (21-miler, 11-miler, etc.) had similar shirts, but featuring different animals (dolphin, otter, etc.). The finisher medal is quite unique! Instead of the typical shiny metal disc, the Big Sur Marathon medal is made of baked clay, with what looks like a wooden carving of a sunset across the Bixby Bridge. All the medals are apparently hand-made, and the Big Sur logo is hand-painted in blue. The medal is then looped with a leather cord. I love this medal so much, and it perfectly matches the nature-first vibes of the marathon. I have no experience with clay medals, so I do worry about durability against scratches and falls, but I’m doing my best to cherish it!

The Bottom Line:
-The Big Sur Marathon is epic beyond belief. It’s a grand, gorgeous, and memorable. It’s a special, special race. Run it if you get a chance—I still can’t believe that I got to do this!

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4

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This was my first time running the San Diego Beach & Bay Half Marathon, and it was a blast. If you like running by the beach, by the bay, by … MORE

This was my first time running the San Diego Beach & Bay Half Marathon, and it was a blast. If you like running by the beach, by the bay, by bodies of water, then this is a fantastic race for you!

Expo / pick-up:
-Bib pick-up was easy and convenient at Road Runner Sports’ San Diego HQ. Registration, bib pick-up, and merch sales were at various tents in the parking lot. Shirt pick-up was inside the store, where you could browse through all the running gear you could ever want.

Parking:
-Off the I-5 Sea World Drive exit, I tried parking at the Sun Runner Parking Lot (closest to the start area), but despite arriving over an hour before the 6:30 start, the lot was either full or closed. We were redirected to the South Shores Parking Lot, closer to Sea World. The lot was large, but the walk to the start area was far—almost 1.5 miles—and a bit dark since it was so early in the morning. I kept checking Google Maps’ walking direction to make sure I was heading in the right direction towards the Tecolote Shores Park start area. I think a couple more lights and/or signs would’ve been helpful along the path.

Pre-race:
-After the dark, lonely walk from the parking lot, once you arrive in the start area, the race-day energy is really great— up-tempo music, lots of runners, and even a dude walking around on stilts! It’s very refreshing. Port-a-potties were plentiful, but here’s a tip: don’t line up for the first bunch near the playground. Instead, keep walking north past the start line, past the crowds, and there are way more facilities with shorter lines. The starting chute was nicely divided by anticipated finish time, and runners were released in waves.

Course:
-If I could summarize the race course with emoji, it’d be any one of the water emojis: 💧 💦 🌊. You’ll enjoy great aquatic views for almost 70% of the course.

-Miles 1-3: You burst out of Tecolote Shores Park, running west on Sea World Drive and then W Mission Bay Drive. The adrenaline sustains you for a few minutes before you realize you’re not seeing any water—just pavement, parking lots, and the perimeter fences of Sea World. What’s going on? Was the course overhyped? False advertisement? Don’t worry, this is the longest bit of the course with no waterfront views. Just settle into your rhythm, the best is yet to come. At around Mile 2.5, you start climbing a bridge across Mission Bay Channel (one of the few uphills on a very flat course), and the nearly endless views begin!

-Miles 3-6.5: Here, the course traces Mariner’s Basin, where a number of sailboats are docked, before curling up South Mission Beach. Running along Mission Beach is fun because you’ve got sand and waves on your left, and shops, inns, and the rides (roller coaster!) of Belmont Park on your right. You’ll have to dodge some early morning beach-goers here, but many are also cheering you on or watching in awe at the mileage you’re crushing!

-Miles 6.5-9.5: At around Mile 6.5, you cut eastward from the beach back towards the various mini-bays of Mission Bay like Sail Bay and Fiesta Bay. Grab some water and energy gels at Mile 8.5. This stretch of the course stays flat and scenic, delivering bay waters on your right, and lots of houses and vacation rentals on your left. One big benefit of running past all the waterfront housing is the endless window reflections— it’s a great chance to check your running form so you keep looking good!

-Miles 9.5-11: The course scenery shifts a bit as you run past some marshy wildlife preserves, then through some residential areas. Mile 11 turns into De Anza Cove Park where the colors in sightlines go from gray, to green, then blue waters once again. The support station here offers cold, wet towels, and it’s a welcome relief.

-Miles 11-13.1: There’s something very relaxing about the final stretch of the race. It’s not intense or full of momentum, but it is a perfect fit for this race. You get to run past Mission Bay Park and the Mission Bay Resort, with the bay views all around you again. It’s a great feeling that carries you through to the grassy finish line at Tecolote Shores.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-This is one of the loveliest, and most scenic courses I’ve ever raced. It’s so pleasant, with varying views of the beaches and bays constantly giving you something new to marvel at. The best part is that the views could have been even better! The weather did not cooperate at all—no blue skies, just blue waters, as it was a cool, overcast day. Race-day temperatures started at around 61F and ended around 63F for me, with light breezes here and there. The aid stations were fully adequate, with enough water and electrolytes. I thought the cold towels at Mile 8.5 were a really nice touch. I also want to give a shout-out to the pace runners from Beast Pacing. Their bright neon yellow shirts were easily visible, and the pacers I came across were very vocal in calling out paces, and encouraged us when we were slightly ahead or behind target paces. Kudos!

Post-race:
-Cross the finish line, smile for photographers, and grab your medal. Post-race goodies included just the customary banana and bottle of water, though it would’ve been nice to throw in a granola bar or something more carb-y and chewy as well. If you want liquid carbs, I suppose that’s what the beer festival was for, and there were plenty of vendors and food trucks in the post-race park area. In contrast to the early-morning pre-race trek, the long walk back to the South Shores parking lot felt much less intimidating in the sunlight, especially when you’re celebrating with food, water, and your medal. The path to the parking lot unfortunately did intersect with the finale of the 10k and 5k course, so that was a bit tricky to navigate.

Swag:
-The half marathon race shirt came in dark blue, with white outlines of the Belmont Park roller coaster, palm trees, and beaches. It’s simple and nice. The finisher medal draped around your neck looks like a stylized California license plate. It’s got a purple/pink/orange/teal sunset background, a roller coaster and bay graphic, looped with a blue ribbon. The colors definitely stand out in my medal collection!

The Bottom Line:
-I really enjoyed this race! I love running by water, and this is the most water I’ve ever run by. I’m really looking forward to running again next year, because with just a tiny bit more sunlight, I think this race is gonna be even more spectacular.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3

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The City of LA provides a wonderful course filled with iconic landmarks and neighborhoods for the first 20 miles. It’s such a shame that the organizers tack on a poorly-plotted … MORE

The City of LA provides a wonderful course filled with iconic landmarks and neighborhoods for the first 20 miles. It’s such a shame that the organizers tack on a poorly-plotted final 6.2 miles at the end, including a demoralizing out-and-back finish.

Expo / pickup:
-For the second straight year, the expo and packet pickup was held at Dodger Stadium instead of the LA Convention Center. The outdoor setting is more energetic and festive. Parking is free, and it’s also a nice preview of where you’ll start the marathon on Sunday. The “Double Play” registration (5k on Saturday, Marathon on Sunday) was so much smoother this year. Instead of three separate registrations, all you had to do was register for the two races and you’d be automatically given the “Double Play” registration.

Parking:
-Instead of taking the shuttle on race-day morning, I was dropped off at Dodger Stadium (Golden State Gate). This was fast and convenient the morning-of, and saved me an extra hour of sleep. This is a great option if you’re able to secure transportation after the race from the Century City finish line—there’s no official transportation from Century City back to Dodger Stadium after.

Pre-race:
-Windy! While Dodger Stadium wasn’t chilly temperature-wise (low 50s an hour before start), the winds were very frisky and caused some discomfort if you weren’t properly equipped with jackets, blankets, or customized garbage bags. An extra layer was handy and also more do-able this year since the organizers brought back race-day gear check after last November’s glaring omission. Thank goodness! No need to buy the over-priced Hospitality package just to store your items. Pre-race snack tent featured bananas, Quantum Energy Squares, and water. Port-a-potties were plentiful, but there were hardly any portable faucets. Bring your own hand sanitizer just in case?

Course:
-This year’s “Stadium to the Stars” course ending in Century City can’t compare to the “Stadium to the Sea” course last used 2 years ago when it concluded by the ocean in Santa Monica. Let’s hope the McCourt Foundation and the City of Santa Monica learn to compromise and play nice again. In the meantime, the first 20 miles are still iconic and enjoyable.

-Miles 1-5: It’s a mad, crowded rush out of the starting line! One thing I noticed this year was the rows of port-a-potties along the early route in Dodger Stadium. If you’ve been cooped up in the starting chute for nearly an hour, here’s your last chance to do your business! Out of the stadium, the first few miles wind through Chinatown, Downtown LA, Little Tokyo, past Olvera Street, Bunker Hill, the Civic Center, Disney Hall, and the DWP building. This stretch features the most buildings, most turns, most (small) hills, and the tightest streets for the course, but it’s very memorable. The best part is the epic taiko drums giving you a boost up the hill around Mile 4 on 1st St!

-Miles 5-10 : After all the Downtown twists and turns, the course settles into a pleasant run through Echo Park and Silver Lake. There’s a big climb to start, then it quickly flattens out into wide streets. There aren’t as many major attractions, but the architecture here is historic and unique. The cozy, quieter neighborhoods make for a smooth run all the way to Little Armenia.

-Miles 10-15: Say cheese, you’re in Hollywood! Enter a long, flat, turn-free journey down Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. The crowds grow rowdier, music gets louder, and landmarks on your left and right start to look familiar: the Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower, Grauman’s Chinese Theater. And the parade of movie/series billboards along the streets are a constant reminder you’re in the capital of entertainment—Moon Knight! CODA! Power of the Dog! The Girl From Plainville! The Mitchells vs the Machines! This year, the Marathon just happened to intersect with the week of the Academy Awards. Several blocks around Dolby Theater are surrounded by scaffolding and glitzy decorations, ready for red carpet festivities. Slow down for a selfie with the super-size golden Oscars statues, this doesn’t happen very often. But today’s the marathon, YOUR marathon—and YOU’RE the star! Eyes on the real prize, keep those legs running! Dance through West Hollywood and keep it moving.

-Miles 15-18: Zip through one of the most famous zip codes in the world: Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Here, the glamour shifts from billboards to the fancy storefronts and windows. The elevation drops a bit, and things get quieter. Focus on your running… and not on the luxury goods you see on Rodeo Drive, where items cost slightly more than your race fee!

-Miles 18-22: Towering glass skyscrapers mean you’re nearing Century City. Just past Mile 18, you start to see elite runners returning from the out-and-back portion on the other side of the street. It’s slightly thrilling to see them approach the finish line. But slightly demoralizing to realize you still have more than 6 miles to go. Crowd support here is great because it’s close to the finish line. So you keep going, and going, and the elevation gain from Miles 19-21 just sap your legs… where’s that turn-around point? Is it around this corner? No… This corner? Still no… It feels so paradoxical and unnatural that you’re running further AWAY from the finish line to get to the end. The crowd support thins out significantly around the Veterans Administration area, especially around the 405 and crossing that awful uphill bridge. Quiet and lifeless just when you need energy the most. Ugh.

-Miles 22-26.2: Finally hitting that Brentwood turn-around point is a relief. The crowd support here is loud and commendable. But memories of the last wretched 4 miles are about to become a crushing reality again. You did the “out”, now you gotta go “back”, on aching legs. It’s brutal, and not helped by the fact that there’s only one official water station in the final 4 miles. I appreciate many of the unofficial support stations from spectator groups, but it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting each time. I dodged one station offering beer (not now!), and picked up a cup of red liquid from another, ready to gulp it down… only to almost choke on all the crushed ice that I wasn’t expecting after hours of pure water or pure liquid Nuun. Note to race organizers: we need more stations down the final 4 miles!

-The out-and-back is not fun, and it combines with a lackluster final stretch towards the Century City finish line. You run down Santa Monica Blvd, with huge crowds and what feels like the finish, and then the course makes a sharp right-turn onto Avenue of the Stars. You go for another 0.1 mile or so, and the course just… ends. It feels anti-climactic not being able to see the finish line from a distance. You don’t get to build any speed for a final burst. Instead, you’re forced to slow down for a turn, and the finish line seems to drop down out of nowhere. Since we can’t see the finish line, I think it’d be helpful if the organizers added a few distance markers counting down the final 500 m, 250 m, then 100 m, in succession to build some anticipation. The former Santa Monica finish line felt amazing because you could smell the sweet ocean air about a half mile out, hear the crowds, see green palms and blue waters. All these signals made your brain kick into overdrive for a furious sprint to the finish line. For next year, if we can’t get back Santa Monica, I’d recommend shortening the out-and-back by a quarter mile or so, and add that to the Avenue of the Stars after the corner-turn for a speedier finish.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-In terms of on-course scenery, there are so many iconic LA landmarks. It’s hard to beat Dodger Stadium, Chinatown, Disney Concert Hall, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and the Oscars. The weather during race weekend was great: a brief few days of cool clouds after a hot week. Race day temperatures started in the low 50s and ended in the upper 60s. I think more aid stations are needed in the final 4 miles, and some entertainment/crowds around the 405 and VA area would be much appreciated. Other than that, water and support felt great for most of the race.

Post-race:
-Finish the race, grab your medal(s), wrap up in a foil blanket, and pick up some snacks. Post-race refreshments included bananas, Qure water, Teddy Graham crackers, pretzels, Ritz crackers, Cheez-Its, Quantum energy squares, peanut butter + cheese crackers, animal crackers, and more. If you have the energy to smile, there are multiple stations where you can pose with your medal for the FinisherPix photographers. One thing I didn’t like was that the finisher chute along Avenue of the Stars was definitely shortened compared to last year. They moved up the medical tent and gear check trucks so the chute ends abruptly at Constellation Blvd. Last year, there was another half a block of Avenue of the Stars where you could stretch, relax, and pose for pictures. This year, you’re quickly rushed out of the finishing area and squeezed into the official exits near the beer festival. I’d like a little more time to breathe after a marathon, this feels too hectic.

Swag:
– The 2022 race shirt came in navy blue, with palm tree and runner silhouettes in light blue/red/white. It’s colorful and an upgrade from last year’s light gray design. The finisher medal is a round, solid chunk of silver, with a blue backdrop highlighting silver stars, palm trees, Dodger Stadium, and the LA Marathon logo. If you run the 5k, then then you’ll also earn the Double Play medal: a rounded rectangle of silver, split diagonally with images of the 5k and marathon on each half, colored in red/navy/light blue. The backs of both medals feature the McCourt Foundation logo, along with a blank spot to etch your finishing time.

The Bottom Line:
-The first 20 miles of the LA Marathon are really strong. Strong enough that I might consider racing again. But the organizers really need to do something about that finish. Bring back Santa Monica! Please. But if you can’t, then eliminate the out-and-back. LA is a wonderful city, offering so many world-class sights and sounds. Why ruin the course and make us trudge through the same 3 miles twice at the end?

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3

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Surf City is a great run by the beach. It’s fairly flat and fast, and features nice (though somewhat repetitive) views of the beach. Expo / pickup: -This year’s expo … MORE

Surf City is a great run by the beach. It’s fairly flat and fast, and features nice (though somewhat repetitive) views of the beach.

Expo / pickup:

-This year’s expo and pick-up was an outdoor setup along Pacific Coast Highway. There were large, separate tents for bib pickup, shirt pickup, and merch sales, making for a convenient experience. Smaller tents housed the sponsors and exhibitors, followed by some photo ops including a surfboard/wave display that wasn’t working yet while I was there on early Friday afternoon.

Parking/Pre-race:

-Because the start line is near the southern corner of Huntington St and PCH, your best parking options are public beach lots up and down PCH, or some private parking garages at Pacific City or the Huntington Beach Pier. The start-line and expo area had plentiful rows of pot-a-potties for taking care of business. Apparently, there was gear-check according to the race website, but I didn’t see or use it this time. The start corral was clearly divided by pace groups. My only quibble was that the 5k and marathon events started earlier than the half, so there were many returning 5k participants crowding the area outside the corral as well. Not a big deal, and depending on your outlook, it either adds to the chaos or enhances the racing atmosphere!

Course:

-The Surf City Half Marathon course is an out-and-back, with the vast majority on the Pacific Coast Highway. Miles 1-3 head north on PCH, with hotels, shops, and houses on your right, and Huntington Beach, including the Pier, on your left. Crowd support is strongest in this stretch, I saw lots of signs! Around Mile 3, you take a right turn onto Seapoint Street to head inland, up on the highest inclines of the course through some residential neighborhoods (my Strava noted a 4% incline for about tenth of a mile). This portion of the race was also the narrowest since you’re going from the wide-open highway into smaller streets, and at the same time sharing the route with the full-marathoners. You make a loop near Overlook Park, and head back down Seapoint Street, returning to PCH just ahead of Mile 6. Miles 6-8 are a flat stretch with Bolsa Chica State Beach on your left, and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve on your right. It’s a pretty cool experience to run with 2 different bodies of water on either side of you! The water stations and turnaround at Mile 8 are a signal that you’re about to begin your long trek back. Miles 8-11 were probably the toughest because the sun is starting to shine higher and harder, your legs start to weigh more, and the second steepest “hill” kicks in at Mile 10.5. There was no cloud cover at all, and it made me regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses. Miles 11-13 are the home stretch. The familiar surroundings and the return of crowd support really gives you a boost. It’s a flat, straight shot all the way to the finish line, and it’s a great ending to the race.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-The course’s greatest strength is the continuous views of the beach. On the other hand, the particular view of the beach doesn’t vary for miles. It’s the same type of beach, at basically the same angle, with only the intensity of the sun increasing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very pretty view of the beach, but the monotony adds to the grind in the second half of the race. Hydration stations serving water and Nuun were adequate, and the volunteers were awesome! Crowd support in the 3-4 miles near the start/finish line was great, but it got quieter for much of the beach stretches, especially coming back. Temperatures at the start line began in the mid-50s. It was a very clear, cloud-less day, so by the time I finished the race, a sunny 65 degrees felt quite hot and harsh on the eyes.

Post-race:

-Finish-line goodies included your finisher medal, bananas, Dole fruit cups (mandarin orange, or mixed fruit), Qure water, True Moo chocolate milk, Bob’s Red Mill: Bob’s Bars, Power Crunch protein bar, and coconut water. Having the post-race festival by the beach is pretty ideal for pictures and celebrating. Beer garden was sponsored by Michelob Ultra.

Swag:

-Running at Surf City, you just know your medal will be cowabunga cool. It features a horizontally oriented wooden surfboard, painted light blue with orange/navy stripes, and looped with an orange/red/navy ribbon. Race shirt was a long-sleeve tech shirt in a gorgeous shade of aqua light blue, centered with the Surf City logo and a sunset/palm trees/waves graphic. I love the colorful design, especially since last year’s event went with a boring navy shirt… in cotton—useless for moisture-wicking! My only nitpick with the shirt is the “2022” text is thinly outlined, and not colored in. It’s barely visible in some photos and I’m worried the outlining will crack or crumble after a few washes.

Bottom-line:

-The Surf City Half Marathon is a really fun and well-organized. You get a fast and flat course, and the views are all about the beach, for better or worse. I’ll definitely be back!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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If you love a cool breeze, beautiful coastal views, and steady hills, you’ll love the Carlsbad Half Marathon. Expo / pick-up: -This year’s expo and pick-up was at the Holiday … MORE

If you love a cool breeze, beautiful coastal views, and steady hills, you’ll love the Carlsbad Half Marathon.

Expo / pick-up:

-This year’s expo and pick-up was at the Holiday Inn Carlsbad. The parking lot was packed. Shirt pick-up was quick and easy in one of the ballrooms, while sponsor exhibits and merch sales were available in the hotel’s outdoor courtyard. I was there within an hour of opening on the first day, and race merch selection was already a bit sparse, especially when it came to sizing. Bummer!

Parking/Pre-race:

– The start area was located along the southwest corner of the Shoppes at Carlsbad, along Marron Road. One of the nice things about staging the start/finish at a mall: all the parking you could ever want. The same applied to port-a-potties as well, plentiful. Gear-check was offered for an additional fee (boo!) but because the staging area is so close to the parking lot, I think it’s just as easy to access stuff from your car. Still, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re relying on alternate modes of transportation. The start corrals were nicely spaced out along Marron Road, and divided by wave numbers and pacing groups.

Course:

-The Carlsbad Half Marathon course is an out-and-back, with Miles 1-2 breaking away from the mall, through some residential areas, and over the 5 Freeway. This early portion feels slightly crowded and has the narrowest paths, including a turnaround where State St and Carlsbad Blvd intersect. This was my least favorite part of the course. The race feels like it REALLY begins at Mile 3, as you finally get to run with lovely views of Carlsbad State Beach. The sun, the water, the sea breeze, everything starts to come together as advertised. Unlike some other coastal runs I’ve done, most of the Carlsbad Boulevard route is elevated above beach-level, so you get an unobstructed view of the water. It’s very nice! There are constant rolling hills every mile or two that make for challenging ups and fun downs. Just before Mile 7, you hit a turnaround that takes you back on a parallel road, so you see much of the same beaches but from the opposite direction. From there, you’re basically re-tracing the first half of the course, with a few minor tweaks including skipping the early turnaround, and ending at the corner of Marron and Monroe.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-As mentioned above, the scenery is great! Miles 3-10 run along the coast, and the elevated road makes for soothing views. No complaints about hydration, as there were water/Nuun stations every mile or so. Race officials did email us a few days before the race that the official gel supplements had been delayed, so that was a bummer, but not a big deal as I was self-fueling. Crowd support was good, including DJs, local bands, run groups and businesses, and got better as the race extended later into the morning. One thing I noticed during the race was that since runner names were pretty prominent on the race bibs, random supporters could more easily cheer on random runners by name (instead of “Let’s go, Runner 101!”). It’s a fun and unexpected feeling! Race day weather was cool and pleasant, starting in the upper 50s at the start line, and going into the mid-60s by the time I reached the finish line.

Post-race:

-Finish-line goodies were conveniently pre-packaged in brown paper bags—I appreciate this because (1) Covid concerns, (2) faster to grab just one bag instead of stopping at multiple stations, and (3) there have been way too many post-races where I’m stumbling, exhausted, and trying to juggle water and snacks. The refreshments included: bananas, Qure water, Hollandia chocolate milk, Partners sea salt crackers, Chewy granola bar, Dole oranges fruit cup, Organifi drink mix. I also picked up some Suja coconut protein drinks from one of the vendors. Post-race festival outside the Shoppes featured live music, a beer festival, massages, food trucks, and tents for sponsors and merch sales.

Swag:

-The Carlsbad Half Marathon race swag this year was pretty nifty. I liked the finisher medal, featuring just the race’s new, circular red/orange/yellow sunset and blue wave logo in the front. Flip the medal around for the event name, date, and info in silver, all looped with a blue ribbon. Race shirt was a white, long-sleeve tech shirt with the same colorful race logo front and center. Bonus: a black, long-sleeve jacket with a corner chest Carlsbad logo, and thumb-holes in the sleeves. There were a few undone threads on my jacket, but it’s still pretty nice!

Bottom-line:

-The Carlsbad Half Marathon is a really top-notch race, with elevated coastal views, strong production/support, and great energy. I had a great time and can’t wait to run it again!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5

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The Half Marathon at the San Dimas Holiday Running Festival is a wonderfully jolly run, with a course that’s more challenging than it seems Expo / pick-up: -Race-day bib & … MORE

The Half Marathon at the San Dimas Holiday Running Festival is a wonderfully jolly run, with a course that’s more challenging than it seems

Expo / pick-up:

-Race-day bib & shirt pick-up on Sunday morning was encouraged by the organizers. There were multiple tents set up for info, registration, etc. but I found the pick-up process to be very smooth. Remember to have the QR code they email you a few days before the race. I think you could probably also get your bib early if you also participated in one of the Saturday 5k or 10k races?

Parking:

-This was my first time at this race, and I wish I had gotten there a little earlier because parking at Bonelli Park (a hefty $12!) filled up quickly. I ended up parking along the southeast shore of Puddingstone Lake/Reservoir, and having to trek over half a mile to the start line near the southwest shore. You’d think a runner wouldn’t complain about an extra half mile, but it makes a difference on a super cold morning! The irony is that I avoided hitting the road early because it was so cold, but then I ended up having to spend even more time walking in the cold… 🙁

Pre-race:

-The start/finish area was very organized. There were multiple tents for late registration, information, merch sales, running clubs, vendors, sponsors, bib pick-up, and a stage for music/announcements flanked by a giant blow-up snowman and nutcracker. Port-a-potties were plentiful. Gear check was also convenient. I wish the race website or emails had mentioned the availability of gear check because I mistakenly assumed this was a smaller race that didn’t offer it, but it turned out to be a nice surprise! If you’re in the holiday spirit—and why wouldn’t you be?— you can participate in the costume contest about 30 minutes before the race. The start corral was not chaotic due to a smaller field of racers, and it was really fun being surrounded by so much green and red Christmas cheer. My favorite part of the corral was the start archway that sprinkled snow on runners as we crossed the start line. I’d seen pictures of snow on the race website but thought it was a Photoshop effect. I assure you it’s not, the snowfall is real! It’s a lovely little holiday touch to the race. I wish it stayed “snowing” at the finish line too, but it’s probably easier to prep it one time at the start for all racers, instead of having it blast again and again for several hours at the finish.

Course:

-The Half Marathon course is an out-and-back, with the first 5 miles along running paths in Bonelli Park. This portion of the course is full of rolling hills that are trickier than you’d expect because it’s so scenic. Running in the park, you get great views from multiple vantage points of Puddingstone Lake/Reservoir, and all the birds and early morning sun distract a bit from the hills. Miles 5-8 flatten out and trace the airport and raceway outside the park. The dip in elevation is nice, but the long, straight sightlines here felt like more of a mental slog, especially since gray concrete was replacing the park’s greenery. It’s also here where the out-and-back portions overlap more, and as a result the course grew narrower. Miles 8-12 are the return trip back into Bonelli Park, with many familiar sights. My one nitpick with the course was at around Mile 12.5. You cross a small bridge, and come to a hill—at the top of which you can hear lots of Christmas music blasting at the finish line. Your heart skips a beat and you wonder, wait, is my GPS watch wrong, am I already at the finish? Nope! The course immediately swerves right. You actually have another half mile loop to go, and begin climbing the far edge of the hill that eventually takes you to the finish line. This false sense of hope near the end is a bit demoralizing to an otherwise great course. FYI, they announced that the course is returning to the Pomona Fairplex next year. I’m not sure how much that will differ from this year’s course, but I hope they keep as much of the Bonelli Park portions as possible.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-As mentioned before, the scenery around the park, especially the views of Puddingstone Lake, can be very soothing. I would normally quibble with an 8 am start, but the unusually chilly morning had me feeling grateful that the race started later than I’d prefer. I counted 3 water stations—each of which you hit twice on an out-and-back course—and it felt like just enough. Maybe one more would’ve been nice. Since the race primarily took place in a park, crowd support was smaller than it would be in a street race, but I was still feeling the love.

Post-race/Swag:

-Cross the finish line, and you’re awarded a nice round medal with a white snow globe design, and a red Christmas tree truck in the middle. The race shirt featured the same Christmas tree truck design, but on a gray cotton shirt—some sort of moisture-wicking tech material would’ve been nicer. Finish-line goodies included a banana, water, chocolate milk, pretzels, and a foil blanket. Nice! If you ran the 5k or 10k the previous day, you also get a Golden Snowflake medal— something I want to grab next year!

Bottom-line:

-I had a great time at this half marathon. It was a lovely and somewhat demanding course, and the overall event had the feel of a local race but the polish of something a little more special. I look forward to doing it again, and taking a shot at the Golden Snowflake Challenge next year!

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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The La Jolla Half Marathon can be summed up in one word: hills. And if the hills don’t literally take your breath away, then the gorgeous coastal scenery will. Expo … MORE

The La Jolla Half Marathon can be summed up in one word: hills. And if the hills don’t literally take your breath away, then the gorgeous coastal scenery will.

Expo / pick-up:

-This was my first time racing this course and I opted for race-day bib pick-up, so I can’t comment on the expo experience. On the morning of the race, I was initially worried because our shuttle got to the start line before any of the race organizers had finished setting up. However, once I found the correct tent, I was able to check-in and easily grab my bib and pins. One note: if you do decide on race-day bib pick-up, you won’t receive your race shirt until AFTER the race, so keep that in mind when planning your race attire.

Parking:

-As a point-to-point course, you have the option of parking at the Del Mar Fairgrounds start line, or parking at the La Jolla beach finish line and taking the shuttle to the start. I arrived in La Jolla fairly early so street parking wasn’t an issue, then took the shuttle to the start. The shuttles seemed plentiful, and I think they were going out every 15 minutes or so, from 4:30 to 5:30 am. Organizers also checked racers for masks before boarding the shuttle, so that was nice.

Pre-race:

-The start line location at the Del Mar Fairgrounds had some nice advantages. The fair’s Christmas light displays were festive, and in addition to the race-provided port-a-potties, there were fairground facilities available. The early 6:45 am start-time meant the pre-race temperature was in the chilly 40s! Luckily, one of the fairground’s large exhibit halls was available to runners, and we were able to gather there to stay warm. For gear check, we were provided plastic bags, with bag colors based on our bib numbers, and identified with our bib numbers written in marker. It’s a bit basic, and I worried that any sort of moisture would smudge away the marker-numbers. But it ultimately worked, so I guess I can’t complain. For the start corral, there were no distinct corral separations, we just had to squeeze through the crowd and eyeball your position based on pacer signs.

Course:

-The Half Marathon course kicks off with a winding exit through the fairgrounds, before heading south through Del Mar. The first few miles feature some mini-hills through residential streets that are fairly unremarkable. Right after Mile 4, the fun begins. You race downhill on Torrey Pines Road Bridge with beautiful views of Torrey Pines State Beach on your right. Just before Mile 6, the infamous climb up into Torrey Pines State Park begins, and it’s a doozy. There’s more than 400 feet of elevation gain, and it will really carve up your legs and lungs if you’re not ready. Even when you reach the top, there are still some gentle, shaded hills as you go past the Scripps hospitals and UCSD. After Mile 10, it’s time for the descent. You trade in the shady trees and hills for some coastal views again as you approach the La Jolla boardwalk. It stays pretty flat until a small hill around Mile 13. The logical part of your brain says the hill is nothing compared the gargantuan monster you conquered earlier, though your tired legs will probably disagree because you’re so close to the end! Push past this, and it’s an exciting downhill stretch to the finish line.

Scenery/Weather/Support:

-If you’re used to DJs, bands, cheer squads, and large crowds of sign-toting supporters, this isn’t that kind of race. It’s a quieter race with amazing coastal views and hilly terrain that make for one of the most uniquely scenic courses I’ve ever run. Distractingly gorgeous. Hydration support was adequate. I wish there was a water station immediately at the top of the Torrey Pines State Park climb, but I’m guessing park rules may prevent that. It was a very chilly day, with temperatures going from the 40s into the 50s, but clear overall.

Post-race:

-In addition to a medal, the finish-line goodies included a banana, water, Rx protein bar, chocolate milk, fruit snacks, Hello Panda cookies, pretzels, and an electrolyte drink that was slightly too sodium-heavy for my taste. The post-race festival featured a band, beer festival, and tents for sponsors and merch sales (don’t forget to pick up your shirt and bag now if you did race-day bib pick-up). More importantly, the La Jolla Cove location is hard to beat. Green grass overlooking rocky shores, crashing waves, and some seals along the cove too! If your race ends where a day of world-class sight-seeing begins, I’d say that’s a great spot.

Swag:

-I’m not gonna lie, one of the things that attracted me to this race were the shirt designs from years past that I’ve seen online. This year’s Half Marathon shirt was… well, it’s certainly memorable. I suppose single-color shirts can get boring, but the red/orange/yellow gradient design (With a tree silhouetted in sunset? But it’s a morning race!) is a little more garish than I’d prefer, and not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Del Mar, Torrey Pines, and La Jolla! The Half Marathon finisher medal is more representative of the San Diego coastal vibes: light blue ribbon, with a yellow surfboard amidst a splashing blue wave, and the local Kiwannis logo.

Bottom-line:

-The La Jolla Half Marathon was not anywhere close to a PR course for me, but that was to be expected with so many hills. What did exceed my expectations were the views along the course and at the finish. Just wonderful. I would do this race again, without question.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4

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Parking/ Pre-race: -Parking was a tad confusing in the early morning since so many streets were blocked. However, I was able to find a few good spots near Main St … MORE

Parking/ Pre-race:
-Parking was a tad confusing in the early morning since so many streets were blocked. However, I was able to find a few good spots near Main St and Electric, just north of the starting line. A good number of port-a-potties, and plenty of space to gather and stretch along Main Street leading up to Hennessey’s Tavern. Bib pick-up was quick and easy on race-day.

Course:
-The 10k course is basically a double-loop of the 5k: start/finish from Main St, the majority of the miles along Ocean Ave, with a small detour along a beachside park. It’s a very flat course, so there’s some PR potential if you’re willing to dodge the crowds and walkers. There’s one water station around the 2-mile/5-mile mark. Weather was cold and overcast in the 50s, so any pleasant beach views were very muted.

Post-race/Swag:
-Depending on the race distance you signed up for, the official race shirts came in various basic colors like white and navy blue (the 10k). The shirt design was pretty plain, featuring the race logo in the center. I do wish the shirts were a little more Thanksgiving/fall-themed, maybe coming in oranges, browns, or reds, instead of the whites and blues.
The finisher medal is a solid silver design, featuring the race logo (a leaf? turkey feathers?), with the 10k and 5k medals only differing in the colored ribbons attached.
Post-race goodies: bottled water and some free photo opps.

The Bottom Line:
-A good time if you’re looking for a fun Turkey Trot, would recommend!

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3

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A good race, but registration snafus, combined with frustrating course choices and logistics by the organizers chipped away what should have been a great experience. Expo / pick-up: -I’m guessing … MORE

A good race, but registration snafus, combined with frustrating course choices and logistics by the organizers chipped away what should have been a great experience.

Expo / pick-up:
-I’m guessing due to covid concerns, they shifted the expo from the LA Convention Center to Dodger Stadium this year. Prior to entering the expo, you were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. Great stuff, thumbs up, I appreciate the focus on health. The outdoor setting made for a more energetic and festive environment, at the cost of more sun. This was fine for bib pickup, but hastened my expo-browsing time.

-The bigger issue was the screw-up over my Double Play (5k + marathon) registration. I was bounced back and forth between the 5k, marathon, and registration tents where they claimed I had registered for the “Double Play”, but not for the 5k separately, which the “Double Play” fee supposedly didn’t include. There were at least 10 other frustrated runners facing the same Double Play-but-not-5k issue as me while I was there. I was running short on time, and faced with growing heat and growing frustration, I felt cornered into paying the extra $40 for the 5k just to move on. I still don’t know whether this was a gross bait-and-switch scam by the organizers at the last minute, or just an awful user-interface design on their website. If it’s the latter, why would you sell something called the “Double Play”, then allow users to check-out and pay if it doesn’t even include both the marathon and 5k that’s advertised? At no point was I ever prompted to add the 5k separately at check-out. By that logic, I should have had to add the marathon separately too, right? It’s like selling a fast-food combo, but then later saying, “Actually, you were supposed to add the fries as a separate order”. WTF!

Parking:
-I was dropped at Dodger Stadium (Golden State Gate) instead of taking the shuttle this year. I liked that this was fast and convenient on race-day morning, and saved me an extra hour of sleep. This is a great option if you’re able to secure transportation after the race from the Century City finish line. Basically, you’ll gain a bit more peace of mind in the morning in exchange for the hassle of navigating the post-race crowds to get a ride.

Pre-race:
-The race organizers frustratingly removed race-day gear check this year, and required gear to be checked at the Expo in the days before the race unless you paid for the Start Line Hospitality package. They ostensibly spun this as a covid precaution, but that doesn’t make sense when thousands of people still need to gather in lines for port-a-potties, snacks, water, etc. before the race, and then bunch up in crowded corrals. It felt like a McCourt Foundation money-grab to upsell the Hospitality package. *SIGH* And they got me. They got me because I wanted to keep wearing my comfy jacket, hat, and warm-ups for as long as possible on a chilly morning until the race started. Sure, the heated Hospitality tent featured chairs, water, coffee, bagels, pastries, bananas, Clif bars, yoga mats, foam rollers, private port-a-potties, and a goodie bag with a LAM blanket and bottle. Nice luxuries, but I could’ve gone without all that. I just wanted race-day gear check. Was it worth it? Probably not. Next time, I might just buy disposable warm-ups, and toss them aside for charity like so many other runners there. It’s frustrating because no matter what, I feel like I’m throwing money away. PLEASE bring back race-day gear check!
-Corrals: I didn’t realize I was supposed to receive a sticker on my bib for my assigned corral, so when I tried to enter, I was denied and told to enter the open corral! At the last minute, I had to hustle back to the registration tent to get a corral sticker, then hustle back in time for my corral. Not a huge deal, but these little registration and logistical issues start to add up, especially since I later found out I didn’t get a Double Play sticker either. Grr…

Course:
-I previously ran the LA Marathon in 2020, in what turned out to be the last time the course included a Santa Monica finish. I vastly prefer the “Stadium to the Sea” course over the new “Stadium to the Stars” course that ends with an out-and-back finish line in Century City. But until the McCourt Foundation and the City of Santa Monica play nice again, we’re stuck with this still-great but not-as-amazing tour of Los Angeles.

-Miles 1-5: Coming out of the gate, it felt like a mad, downhill tumble of humanity, just bodies pouring out of Dodger Stadium. The overall participant field was smaller this year, but the crowded rush out of the starting line is a fantastic feeling that I didn’t know I missed so much over the last 20 months! The first few miles wind through Chinatown, Downtown LA, Little Tokyo, past Olvera Street, the Civic Center, Disney Hall, and the DWP building. This stretch probably features the most buildings, most turns, most (small) hills, and the tightest streets for the course, but it’s very memorable. I loved the taiko drums as you struggle up the hill around Mile 4 on 3rd St!

-Miles 5-10 : After all the Downtown twists and turns, the course settles into a pleasant run through Echo Park and Silver Lake. There’s a big climb to start, then it quickly flattens out into wider streets. There aren’t as many major attractions, but I ran my fastest segments here. There’s something about the cozy, quieter neighborhoods that made for a smooth run.

-Miles 10-15: Hello Hollywood! Welcome to a long, flat, turn-free journey down Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. The crowds start to get rowdier, music gets louder, and landmarks start to catch your eye: the Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Chateau Marmont… Oh, and it’s not just the buildings, but the endless parade of billboards that remind you you’re in an entertainment town—Eternals! Red Notice! Ghostbusters! Encanto! King Richard! Finch! House of Gucci! Every major movie studio, TV network, and online streamer has shelled out big bucks to be seen here. But remember, just for today, YOU’RE the star! Keep running!

-Miles 15-18: The glamour shifts from billboards to the fancy storefronts and windows of Beverly Hills. The elevation drops a bit, and things get quieter here. This gives you a chance to focus more on your technique, your form, your breathing… and not on the luxury goods you see on Rodeo Drive.

-Miles 18-22: Century City and West LA killed me last year, so I went into this part wary of “The Wall”, but still confident in my training. Around Mile 19, you start to see elite runners returning on the other side of the street from the out-and-back portion. I felt a slight motivation boost seeing all that speed. But once that subsided, the other factors of the out-and-back started creeping up: you see a water station at the other side of the street but you don’t get to drink from it, hills start to take a toll, you begin looking for the turn-around point (Are we there yet? No… Is it around this corner? No… This corner? Still no…). And then your exhausted brain starts yelling, “Wait, we’re running AWAY from the finish line that we saw? This feels wrong!”

-Miles 22-26.2: Finally reaching the Brentwood turn-around point is a huge relief. The crowd support here is an immense boost, and water has never tasted sweeter than it does at the station here. But remember the rough 4 miles you just went through? You get to do it again, buddy, only with legs that are achier and more cramped than before. Brutal. I trudged through on absolute fumes. Was it just my dead-tired imagination, or were there fewer water stations during the last 2 miles?

-Anyway, as much as I dislike the out-and-back, I also wasn’t a fan of the final stretch towards the finish line because it’s such a momentum killer. Running down Santa Monica Blvd, you approach huge crowds and what feels like the finish, and just then the course makes a sharp right-turn onto Avenue of the Stars. You gotta go for another 0.1 mile or so, and the course just… finishes. It feels slightly anti-climactic not being able to see the finish line from a greater distance, so you don’t get to build up speed for that final burst. Instead, you’re forced to slow down for a turn, and THEN you see the finish line right ahead. It just feels weird. I’m probably being nit-picky, but the old Santa Monica finish line felt amazing because you would start smelling the sweet ocean air about a half mile out, hear the crowds, see green palms and blue waters, then your brain would kick into overdrive for a straight sprint to the finish line. For next year, if we can’t get back Santa Monica, I’d recommend shortening the out-and-back by a quarter mile or so, and add that to the Avenue of the Stars after the corner-turn for a speedier finish.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-There are so many iconic Los Angeles landmarks on this course, it’s hard to ask for more. Weather was perfect, slightly cloudy, starting in the upper 50s and ending in the low 60s. This is one area where a November race beats out the usual March date. Maybe it’s just because I was basically running on an empty tank, and my desperate, thirsty brain was exaggerating the pain, but it felt like there were fewer water/aid stations in the final 3 miles or so? Other than that, water/aid support felt strong throughout.

Post-race:
-The finisher chute along Avenue of the Stars was pretty good. Grab your medal(s), wrap yourself up in a nice foil blanket, and pick up refreshments. My bounty included bananas, Qure water, Teddy Graham crackers, pretzels, Ritz crackers, Cheez-Its (a salty sodium-boost after a race is underrated!), mini Clif bars, peanut butter + cheese crackers, and more! Keep moving, keep munching, keep stretching. I skipped the entertainment and beer garden (presented by Heineken) at the Finish Festival, but it’s a nice option if you want to hang around with friends and family.

Swag:
– The 2021 race shirt came in light gray, with the big new red/teal/blue LA Marathon logo featured in the middle. It’s a nice design, though not as eye-catching as last year’s light blue shirt. I liked how hefty the finisher medal is. It’s a big, round chunk of silver and blue, with the marathon logo up top, and an illustration of LA City Hall, the Hollywood sign, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I also ran the 5k the previous day, and earned the Double Play medal. It’s a similarly chunky silver medal shaped like a chevron shield, with mini versions of the same LA landmarks along with a mini Dodger stadium. The backs of both medals feature the McCourt Foundation logo, along with a blank spot to etch your finishing time. I’m surprised they didn’t upsell an engraving option for this.

The Bottom Line:
-I had a really great run at the 2021 LA Marathon. I’m not thrilled with the registration snafus (Double Play without the 5k; missing my Double Play, Hospitality, and corral stickers) and course planning (gear check, abandoning Santa Monica, adding an out-and-back, a weird finish line). These are fixable issues, and I hope the race organizers make the proper adjustments because the foundation of the LA Marathon is really strong: great weather, enthusiastic runners, so many iconic landmarks, amazing energy, and unbeatable crowd support throughout the city of Los Angeles. I’m hopeful for an even better race next year.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3

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A fun, family-friendly race through Elysian Park, and a great tune-up if you’re running the LA Marathon the next day. But beware the hills! Expo / pick-up: -Race-day bib pick-up … MORE

A fun, family-friendly race through Elysian Park, and a great tune-up if you’re running the LA Marathon the next day. But beware the hills!

Expo / pick-up:
-Race-day bib pick-up on Saturday morning was available, and seemed to run smoothly, but I picked up my bib at the expo on Saturday. I’m guessing due to covid concerns, they shifted the expo from the LA Convention Center to Dodger Stadium this year. Prior to entering the expo, you were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. Great stuff, thumbs up, I appreciate the focus on health. The outdoor setting made for a more energetic and festive environment, at the cost of more sun. This was fine for bib pickup, but hastened my expo-browsing time.

-The bigger issue was the screw-up over my Double Play (5k + marathon) registration. I was bounced back and forth between the 5k, marathon, and registration tents where they claimed I had registered for the “Double Play”, but not for the 5k separately, which the “Double Play” fee supposedly didn’t include. There were at least 10 other frustrated runners facing the same Double Play-but-not-5k issue as me while I was there. I was running short on time, and faced with growing heat and growing frustration, I felt cornered into paying the extra $40 for the 5k just to move on. I still don’t know whether this was a gross bait-and-switch scam by the organizers at the last minute, or just an awful user-interface design on their website. If it’s the latter, why would you sell something called the “Double Play”, then allow users to check-out and pay if it doesn’t even include both the marathon and 5k that’s advertised? At no point was I ever prompted to add the 5k separately at check-out. By that logic, I should have had to add the marathon separately too, right? It’s like selling a fast-food combo, but then later saying, “Actually, you were supposed to add the fries as a separate order”. WTF.

Parking/ Pre-race:
-Parking was plentiful and free at Dodger Stadium. Lots of port-a-potties, and space to stretch, warm up, and get ready. There were no individual corrals to speak of, but the participant field was small enough that it didn’t matter.

Course:
-The 5k course goes downhill out of Dodger Stadium, onto Stadium Way, through Elysian Park, then up Academy Road, and back into the Stadium. There are more hills than you might expect, so don’t expect a PR on this course.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-The greenery of Elysian Park made the run very pleasant. Cloudy morning in the upper 50s. One water station about halfway through the course.

Post-race/Swag:
-The official 5k race shirt was light gray, with the red/teal/blue Big 5k logo featured in the middle. Same colors and design template as the official marathon shirt. The finisher medal is a solid silver/blue design, featuring the red/teal Big 5k logo and a background of Dodger Stadium. Post-race goodies: bananas, water, and Clif Bar duos.

The Bottom Line:
-Aside from the Double Play registration issue, this is a solid 5k that I wouldn’t mind running again.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon is a fun, high-energy race done right. Outside of Disney events, it’s hard to find many other races with this level of … MORE

The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon is a fun, high-energy race done right. Outside of Disney events, it’s hard to find many other races with this level of atmosphere and support.

Expo / pick-up:
-The expo at the San Diego Convention Center was well-organized with plentiful, designated bib and shirt pick-up stations, as well as a start-corral adjustment table. I appreciated the vaccine/negative test check at the entrance. So many of us race because of health, and it’s nice that they took this seriously. I also loved the clear pick-up bags we got. They’re so handy for carrying all your race and expo goodies, and necessary for gear drop at the longer races. I don’t understand why some races try to cheap out by not giving these bags. Like most big expos, there’s a spacious area for race weekend merch and the primary shoe sponsor (Brooks this year). My favorite pieces of merch were the 5k/Half/Marathon shirts with all the racers’ names printed on them in alphabetical order—the catch being that you had to have registered for the races at least 60 days early. I wish I’d registered earlier, and this neat little perk is something the Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers should advertise more! The San Diego version of the Rock ‘n’ Roll running events is apparently the original, and the expo set up a neat display of all the medal designs throughout the years, as well as all the bonus medals you can earn for completing multiple Rock ‘n’ Roll races. They’re so bling-tastic and do a good job of appealing to all the medal-collecting completionists out there 🙂

Parking:
-Convention center parking for the expo was unfortunately $20. I tried finding cheaper alternatives, but couldn’t find anything more reasonable. For race day, I went with the race-recommended Spot Hero app, and found $20 parking that was a few blocks from the finish line, but a bit farther from the start line. It wasn’t a big deal because so many other runners were also making the same trek to the start line, so every few blocks this long parade of runners would grow.

Pre-race:
-The start line begins at 6th Ave and Quince St, but once you get close to 6th Ave and Laurel St/the El Prado Bridge, the music starts kicking in and the port-a-potty lines emerge (hallelujah!). Gear check was a breeze—remember to bring the clear bags and zip ties from the expo. Just like the 5k from the previous day, runners were divided into multiple corrals—at least 25 corrals, marked by giant guitar picks (get it? Rock and roll?). One implementation I really admired was the staggered corral starts. Most races will release entire corrals are released at once. Then you’re expected to cross the start line on your own timing, and end up navigating a congested, slow-mo stampede from the start? The Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers solved this issue by releasing runners in each corral in 5-sec mini-waves, signaled by countdown lights and horns. This way, you can launch out of the start line into a more wide-open road! I hope this practice becomes more commonplace.

Course:
-The Half Marathon course primarily winds around Balboa Park, through North Park, Normal Heights, and East San Diego, then back to Balboa and Downtown. I think the elevation change can be best described as gentle rolling hills, with a few bigger hills sprinkled throughout—nothing too extreme. The first “big” hill was around mile 3. It thinned the crowds a bit, but I think it came early enough in the course that I felt fresh enough to speed through. The hills before and after mile 10, right as you re-enter the northeast corner of Balboa Park, caught me a bit off guard. They weren’t huge by any means, but tired legs at that point made them a chore! The good news? It’s all pretty much downhill (literally) from that point on! You zoom south through Balboa towards downtown—and with the downhill slope combined with the mental momentum of knowing you’re in the final stretch, it makes for an exciting finish.

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-With a name like “Rock ‘n’ Roll” in the event name, you’d think that music would be important to the race. And you’d be right! There’s plenty of on-course entertainment, including multiple bands and DJs, a drag show, a Johnny Cash tribute, cheer squads, a Ron Burgundy impersonator (I almost slowed down to hear more jokes), and a pretty nifty disco tunnel around mile 12! Water support was strong throughout the course. I think there were port-a-potties, but I was too locked-in to notice. Weather-wise, it was a cool and cloudy day, but not as overcast as it was for the previous day’s 5k, and not cloudy enough to dampen the overall energy of the race.

Post-race:
-Once you cross the finish-line, grab your finisher medal and a great selection of refreshments: water, banana, multiple brands of granola bars, a fresh cookie, chips (salt is an underrated part of recovery!), Gatorade, fruit snacks, and more. You definitely won’t go hungry. Runners are funneled several blocks down Ash St towards the waterfront finish festival. I have to say the finish festival is one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen. There’s an alphabetized family reunion area, gear pick-up, food trucks, photo opportunities, merchandising, Remix Challenge medal pick-up (if you did the 5k), medal engraving, and pick-up plenty of space to cool-down and stretch. All this while music blasts to keep you on your feet if you need. It’s a really festive mood, and the sights are great too because you’re just along the water with several ships sitting in the harbor.

Swag:
-The Half Marathon was a dark blue tech shirt, with multiple San Diego neighborhood signs highlighted in yellow and orange. It’s not as eye-catching as the 5k shirt, but it’s still very nice. The Half Marathon medal is a round replica of the North Park sign in light-blue, with a bright orange ribbon attached. It’s only slightly larger than the 5k medal, which is something I hope they change in the future. If you run the 5k as well, then you’ll get your hands on a Remix Challenge medal: the medal features a record that actually slides in and out of its sleeve! Way cool. Both medals have an outlined area on the back for engraving if you want to record your time or celebrate a PR.

Bottom-line:
-This was my first Rock ‘n’ Roll running weekend, and I had a really great time. The race was well-produced, and full of little details (guitar pick corral signs, corral mini-waves, on-course entertainment, a disco tunnel, an expansive finish line festival, etc.) that set it apart. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego’s got a great energy that really makes you want to run it again.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 5k is a wonderful trip through Balboa Park, and worth running whether it’s your main event or as a warm-up for one of the … MORE

The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 5k is a wonderful trip through Balboa Park, and worth running whether it’s your main event or as a warm-up for one of the weekend’s other races!

Expo / pick-up:
-The expo at the San Diego Convention Center was very well-organized with plentiful, designated bib and shirt pick-up stations, as well as a start-corral adjustment table. I appreciated the vaccine/negative test check at the entrance. So many of us race because of health, and it’s nice that they took this seriously. I also loved the clear pick-up bags we got. They’re so handy for carrying all your race and expo goodies, and necessary for gear drop at the longer races. I don’t understand why some races try to cheap out by not giving these bags. Like most big expos, there’s a spacious area for race weekend merch and the primary shoe sponsor (Brooks this year). My favorite pieces of merch were the 5k/Half/Marathon shirts with all the racers’ names printed on them in alphabetical order—the catch being that you had to have registered for the races at least 60 days early. I wish I’d registered earlier, and this neat little perk is something the Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers should advertise more! The San Diego version of the Rock ‘n’ Roll running events is apparently the original, and the expo set up a neat display of all the medal designs throughout the years, as well as all the bonus medals you can earn for completing multiple Rock ‘n’ Roll races. They’re so bling-tastic and do a good job of appealing to all the medal-collecting completionists out there 🙂

Parking:
-Convention center parking for the expo was unfortunately $20. I tried finding cheaper alternatives on Spot Hero, but couldn’t find anything more reasonable. Race-day parking at Balboa Park, though, was FREE at the Inspiration Point lot. The best part is that the parking lot is less than a 5-minute walk to the start corral. Nice!

Pre-race:
-Speakers loudly blast all sorts of music to keep the energy up. An engaging emcee. Plentiful port-a-potties. Runners were divided into multiple corrals—I counted at least 8 corrals, marked by giant guitar picks (get it? Rock and roll?). You know how at some races, entire corrals are released at once? Then you’re expected to cross the start line on your own timing, and end up navigating a congested, slow-mo stampede? The organizers solved this issue by releasing runners in each corral in 5-sec mini-waves, signaled by countdown lights. This way, you can launch out of the start line into a more wide-open road! I hope this practice becomes more commonplace.

Course:
-Mile 0-1: The race starts near the Veterans Museum, and the first mile takes you past Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Plaza de Panama, Museum of Art, and the highlight: crossing Cabrillo Bridge shortly after sunrise.
-Mile 1-2: The second mile loops around Marston Point, where the scenery shifts from pretty architecture to pretty greenery. A few small hills also begin testing your legs at this point, and the crowds start to thin if you can keep your pace.
-Mile 2-3.1: You briefly exit the actual park and run along the streets with some shops on your left and the NW border of Balboa Park on the right. Then, the course turns back into the park for the final stretch down to the finish line!

Scenery/Weather/Support:
-A nice mini-tour of Balboa Park, but it was an overcast day, so the best tourist attractions were shrouded in clouds—not as picturesque as you may like. In terms of aid, I only remember one water station. That felt like enough, but I haven’t run very many 5ks, so I’m not sure if that’s normal or not. Lots of volunteers, a cheer squad, a DJ on the first mile, and the overall energy was great.

Post-race:
-Grab your typical post-race goodies of banana, granola bar, and water. Nothing too special, and nothing to complain about. There’s a Heineken beer garden too if you need some extra carbs. Finish Line photographers are available if you’re ready to pose with your medal.

Swag:
-The 5k race shirt was a light blue tech shirt, with ginormous yellow “5K” lettering on the front so no one can mistake what race you’re running. Silhouettes of Balboa Park and palm trees fill in the lettering—very nicely-done and it’s a shirt I’d wear anytime. The 5k medal is a colorful, blue-orange replica of Balboa Park’s Museum of Us and the museum’s iconic California Tower. The medal is on the smaller side, but it’s still really nice. There’s an outlined area on the back for engraving if you want to record your time or celebrate a PR.

Bottom-line:
-This was my first Rock ‘n’ Roll running event, and it was a great race that I would definitely do again, hopefully on a sunnier day!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4

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This was my second time running the Half at Long Beach, and it was a blast! Really great environment, smooth and beautiful course, and a new personal best for me! … MORE

This was my second time running the Half at Long Beach, and it was a blast! Really great environment, smooth and beautiful course, and a new personal best for me! Yes! The race organizers also did a great job with vaccine/testing requirements, and held the expo outside this year, which definitely felt safer. The course was the same as previous years, and can be divided roughly into four parts.

-Miles 1-5: the thickest crowds as you navigate twisty roads, multiple turnarounds, and go over and under bridges. The bridge here is the only significant elevation change on the course, so it was kinda nice to get it out of the way early.
-Miles 5-7: all the touristy landmarks including the Aquarium, Shoreline Park, and views of the Queen Mary. This was probably my favorite portion of the race since all the sights made the run easier!
Miles 7-10: in theory, a straight, long stretch along the beach can be soothing, with all that pretty sand and water on your right. But in reality, seeing the same exact sight for multiple miles gets boring real fast. This segment was also the least shaded, provided the least aid support, and had the fewest crowds cheering you on. In my previous race, I suffered the most here, but I think the earlier start time and cooler weather this year made it more bearable.
-Miles 10-13: rounding onto Ocean Blvd, the crowds and aid stations are back. You’re in the city again, in the shade again, with all the local businesses and residents out to support you! I really got a kick of energy during this stretch, and I felt pumped all the way down to the finish line.

-Post-race: a nice-looking medal, your usual combo of snacks (banana, chocolate milk, protein bar, water) and a beer festival if you’re up for it. Organizers and volunteers were really pleasant and helpful!

-Things to improve? I do wish there were more aid stations, especially along the beach stretch. I also was NOT a fan of the shirt this year, going with a cheaper cotton/poly blend (same as Surf City this fall, another Motiv race…). What and WHY? Cotton shirts are an absolute “no” during long runs, and soak up sweat so much easier. These shirts also felt flimsier than your usual tech shirts. Hopefully this changes next year.

All in all, a really great race that I would recommend.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3

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A holiday fun run where you raise money for charity? And a chance to run in a Santa-styled running shirt or a Santa suit? That sounds like a great recipe … MORE

A holiday fun run where you raise money for charity? And a chance to run in a Santa-styled running shirt or a Santa suit? That sounds like a great recipe for a joyous Christmas race! Unfortunately, I only had a so-so experience instead of a jolly, ho-ho-ho time.

Pick-up/Pre-race:
-The pre-race was well-organized, and full of buzzy holiday energy. However, check-in was the first sign that things weren’t great. Despite my registering well in advance, they ran out of Santa running shirts in my size. I was given a shirt one size too large, which didn’t fit at all. They gave me a Santa suit instead, but the suit fell apart on me less than halfway through the race—the belt tore apart, and I had to run with a suit that was flapping in the wind, slowing me down.

Course:
-The course is a nice, flat out-and-back route along the sand in Huntington Beach. The Christmas-at-the-beach vibes and views are great, but it’s not a 100% closed course, so I had to dodge non-runners a few times. It was also hotter than usual for December, and it didn’t help that the race didn’t start until 8 am, giving time for the sun to heat up. Water support was fine, just enough for a hot day.

Post-race:
-Nice festive environment in the post-race, great holiday music, and a few food/coffee trucks for extra refreshments.

Swag:
-The medal is nicely-done, in the shape of a green gift box with red ribbons. The aforementioned too-large Santa shirt was an inexplicably pale pink. I’m not sure why a Santa shirt isn’t a jolly, bright red. I wouldn’t even mind pink if it was a cute, thoughtful pink hue, but this one just looked like a red shirt that was left out in the sun too long, and sun-washed into a faded pink. I’m not even gonna get into the poor-quality Santa suit that disintegrated on me.

Bottom-line:
-On paper, this should’ve been a great holiday fun-run, but in execution, the race was less than ideal for me. The poor/inadequate shirts, followed by a late start and hot weather made for a frustrating experience… These are all very fixable, so I don’t want to be too harsh on a charity-run, but I probably won’t be back for another go.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
2
SCENERY
3
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3

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If you’re looking for a great, themed fun 10k, then the Running Universal Jurassic World 10k is just for you! I did the 5k the day before, but the Jurassic … MORE

If you’re looking for a great, themed fun 10k, then the Running Universal Jurassic World 10k is just for you! I did the 5k the day before, but the Jurassic World medals are so cool that I just HAD to do the challenge to grab all 3!

-Pre-race, pickup: No real expo, but packet pickup was at the Universal Citywalk parking garage, which was well-organized, and included some nice Jurassic photo ops.

-The course: Despite being double the length, the fun Universal Studios Hollywood portions of the 10k race were roughly the same as the 5k: through the entrance gates, right by Hogwarts Castle, past the Jurassic Park ride, then through the Studio Tour areas as well as some backstage portions you don’t normally get to see. To get to 10k, the extra segments of the race are a tiny bit more of the backstage, but most of the extra miles are tacked on through a hilly road right outside the park (running uphill with a rising sun in your eyes isn’t fun…) and then through the Citywalk parking lot (!). This was the least pleasant part of the race, with elevation gains and lots of drab concrete. I wish the 10k course added more through the backstage instead of this route, or at the very least populate this area with more photo ops and theming.

-Post-race: As with the 5k, you get your usual grab-bag of water and snacks, but the finish line is in a festive environment in Universal Citywalk. There are great photo ops with some Velociraptor statues too! The 10k medal is a terrific-looking Indominus Rex medal that’s heavy, detailed, and looks fierce. If you completed the 5k + 10k, then you’ll also get a Velociraptor Challenge medal as well. That tail is sharp!

-Wishlist: The 10k shirt design is the iconic Jurassic Park logo, but printed on a drab light gray tech shirt. I’m not a fan of gray, but I’m probably nit-picking. I also wish there were more photo ops along the course, especially along the road/parking garage section of the course. I’d love to see more characters and maybe even some of the “live” dinosaurs like Blue and the triceratops that show up in the park.

-The Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of themed fun runs, or a fan of Jurassic Park/World, the 10k is a great race, but a bit more challenging and less fun than the 5k.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
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5
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Ever since Run Disney paused (ended?) their events at Disneyland, there was a real costume-sized hole in my runner heart. I was so happy to see Universal fill in that … MORE

Ever since Run Disney paused (ended?) their events at Disneyland, there was a real costume-sized hole in my runner heart. I was so happy to see Universal fill in that void, especially since Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies ever.

-Pre-race, pickup: No real expo, but packet pickup was at the Universal Citywalk parking garage, which was well-organized, and included some nice Jurassic photo ops.

-The course: This is a nice, fun run that takes you through Universal Studios Hollywood: through the entrance gates, right by Hogwarts Castle, past the Jurassic Park ride, then through the Studio Tour areas as well as some backstage portions you don’t normally get to see. The backstage areas are surprisingly hilly, so do be prepared for that, but cheering Universal cast members were so encouraging with their support. It was surreal seeing so many runners dressed as Drs. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm, as well as a couple dino costumes. As always, Jurassic Park >> Jurassic World! There were a handful of photo ops with John Hammond, Ian Malcolm, and some dinos and vehicles, but I do wish there were more. Between the crowds, hills, and photo-ops, don’t expect a PR, just enjoy it!

-Post-race: You get your usual grab-bag of water and snacks, but the finish line is in a really festive environment in Universal Citywalk that puts a smile on your face. There are a couple great photo ops with some Velociraptor statues too! The medal? Incredible-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex medal for the 5k. Seriously, it’s heavy, detailed, and impressive. I have no idea how they plan to one-up the medals in future years, but I look forward to it.

-Wishlist: The 5k shirt design of a T-rex is a nice blue color, but the cotton material is less than ideal, and the print is already starting to fade a bit. I also wish there were more photo ops along the course, with more characters and maybe even some of the “live” dinosaurs like Blue and the triceratops that show up in the park. The only on-course dinos I remember are from the Lost World section of the Studio Tour.

-The Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of themed fun runs, or a fan of Jurassic Park/World, this is a must-do!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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