Overall Rating
Overall Rating (2 Reviews)
3
(2 Ratings)(2 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
3
SCENERY
5
PRODUCTION
3
SWAG
2.5
There is only one place in the world where you can visit an immigration station, the remains of military installations AND experience 360 degree views of San Francisco and the surrounding sights — Angel Island! Follow up the Angel Island 5 Miler & Half Marathon with a picnic or sightseeing … MORE
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    amandasava FIRST-TIMER '16

    I wasn't expecting much from this race, but I've always wanted to run on Angel Island so I didn't much care! I did the 5 miler, which was a beautiful … MORE

    I wasn’t expecting much from this race, but I’ve always wanted to run on Angel Island so I didn’t much care!

    I did the 5 miler, which was a beautiful loop up to the the summit and back. It was pretty much all trail (a little asphalt at the beginning and the end) and had easy switchbacks all the way up and down – so even though there was a nice bit of elevation gain (800 feet or so) it never really felt like it. The 5 mile course pretty much stuck to the Sunset Trail which offered nice amounts of sun and shade as well as AMAZING views pretty much the entire time.

    The only minor complaint would be the lack of support. There was no aide station for the 5 mile race and only one stop for the half marathoners (which isn’t really enough on a hot day and tricky course). The pre-race email was very clear on carrying your own water, so I had it covered – I’ve just never not had an aide station on a short race.

    It was the inaugural race for them and they are a new race company so I’m hoping that next year will be better – because, yes, I probably will be back!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    2

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    Lani FIRST-TIMER '16

    I'm not going to kid you here; this is a very simple race with a pretty low-tech operation. You get no timing chip or timing mat, and -- GASP -- … MORE

    I’m not going to kid you here; this is a very simple race with a pretty low-tech operation. You get no timing chip or timing mat, and — GASP — you get no finisher’s medal! That’s a rarity these days, when every dinky little race offers some kind of bling.

    But the race organizer is very good at communicating exactly what you’re getting with this race; it’s pretty plain with nothing fancy… but, in turn, you get to enjoy some of the BEST views in the entire Bay Area!

    PRE-RACE DETAILS

    Your race registration fee includes round-trip ferry transportation from Tiburon to Angel Island and back (your race bib serves as your “ticket”). Not only that; they reserve a ferry just for race participants before the race, and you get access to the island well before the public shows up.

    Bib pick-up is offered only on race day, starting an hour before the ferry leaves. There’s no issue with crowding though; for the 2016 race there were only about 100 people between the 5-mile and half-marathon races.

    When you pick up your bib, you also get your race shirt. The shirts we got were from Greenlayer (who prints a lot of race shirts). It was a single-color silk screen but I was pretty happy that they went with a nice shirt. This one will get regular rotation in my workout wardrobe.

    The race organizer and all the volunteers actually ride the ferry out with you. What this means is that it takes them 15-20 minutes to physically set up the start line. Again, nothing fancy here, but the start is in the open picnic area near the visitor center at Ayala Cove.

    They didn’t have an official gear drop; they just told us we could leave our bags on nearby picnic tables. We left our bag on a table our friends were already using, since I felt bad just hogging up picnic tables when we weren’t going to be there for a while. Since they don’t have a lot of spare volunteers, they don’t have anyone minding your gear bag, so if you’re the type to get paranoid about people stealing your bag, make sure not to leave valuables in it.

    THE COURSE

    Both the 5-mile and half marathon races start next to the picnic tables near the visitor center at Ayala Coven then go up the bike path. The path opens up onto Perimeter Road, which both races turn left onto. About 3/4 mile up the road, the 5-milers head up onto North Ridge Trail. I believe the course then takes Sunset Trail (not sure, since the race webpage has a map of the trails without all the trails labeled, and I didn’t do the 5-miler).

    The half-marathoners continue on Perimeter Road all the way around the island, back to the start line area, then head back up the bike path. Instead of turning left on Perimeter Road, the half-marathoners cross the street here to head up Sunset Trail going in the opposite direction of the 5-milers, and this is where the trail portion of the race starts.

    The half course then goes onto Fire Road, which appears to be the main unpaved trail that goes around the island (above Perimeter Road).

    For the half participants, Perimeter Road is 5.5 miles, and the unpaved trail portion is 7.5 miles. Perimeter Road is a big paved street on which there are cyclists, tour trams, and Segway tourists (yes, I’m not kidding; when they passed me, I raised up my hands and yelled, “YOU’RE CHEATING!” — which got a chuckle from them).

    Essentially, the half race is half paved, half trail. The paved portion isn’t all that great, except that there’s a ton of benches, and the view is breathtakingly spectacular. Did I mention that the view is great? As you go around Perimeter Road, you are treated to a 360-degree view of the entire Bay Area, and it is a REAL treat. Sutro Tower? Check. Golden Gate Bridge? Yep. Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge? Check check. Oh hey! The Pink Triangle they just installed earlier in the morning for Pride Weekend is also right up there by Sutro Tower!

    As long as the weather’s clear on race day, you are in for a treat! Take lots of photo stops and take selfies to your heart’s content along Perimeter Road.

    When you get back to the start line after the paved portion, you get to your first aid station. And by that, I don’t mean a “first aid” station where you see a medic. This is your first and only aid station. But they have some solid snacks (banana bread–yum!), as well as water and power drink.

    WARNING: Bring your own bottle to stay hydrated, because the first loop is 5.5 miles, but the second is 7.5 of no aid station, no water faucet. You are out on your own out there, so carry your own water.

    Once you head up into the trails, it becomes a real trail race. Nothing too technical here, although most of it is single track. And once the ferries start running, you will encounter a lot of hikers. The hikers I passed though, were all VERY friendly and nice. Some of them even applauded and cheered me on as I ran past.

    GENERAL THOUGHTS

    I’m really glad I finally had a chance to run around Angel Island. But now that I have a sense of the trails here, I think I could just do this on my own without signing up for a race. The shirt is nice, but this particular race has minimal support. There WERE definite benefits. Watermelon slices at the aid station were great, the shirt was nice, and the reserved ferry for racers was a big plus. I’ll just have to decide if that’s worth the registration fee.

    That said, this race is worth doing, at least once. The views are spectacular, and doing this as a race is a great excuse! And all the hikers will make room for you to pass because you’re there wearing a race bib. Win!

    One word of caution: If you are a slower runner or a hiker/walker, I am going to strongly encourage you to sign up for the 5-miler instead of the half. That Perimeter Road is really boring if you have to walk it (and the course doesn’t veer off of it, so you won’t have time to go visit all the interesting structures like the immigration center), AND because it’s paved, it gets pretty warm. Worse, you have to keep watching out for the tour trams.

    If you do the 5-miler, you get to go right up to the trails, and in my opinion, that’s where it’s far more interesting. And you get PLENTY of time to finish the 5-mile race while the half folks are still out running.

    There’s one other reason I recommend the 5-miler for the slower folks. If you are a slower half marathon participant, you risk coming back to the finish area… and the finish line might be gone!

    I was scheduled for a long run this weekend, so after I finished the race, I went back out and ran Perimeter Road again. As I was coming back from running the additional 5.5 miles, I happened to come upon a lady who was on the last bike path portion of the course, still wearing a race bib. I asked her if she was finishing the half, and she said she was. So I told her we could finish up together! As I was running down towards the finish line, I saw…. no finish line. I raised my hands and said, “We got a finisher here!!! Finisher here!!!” hoping to catch the attention of the official race folks who must surely still be sticking around (right)… but nobody around the picnic tables looked up. Hmm…

    So it turns out, all the race folks had packed up and left! Fortunately for this person, she had her cell phone, and her friend was waiting for her at the cafe by the ferry stop, so all was well.

    I looked at my watch and saw that she finished at about 3 hours 50 minutes. That’s slow, but I know plenty of folks who do walk/run intervals who finish about that time. So I was a little surprised that there was no one left, since the instructions never mentioned a cut-off time. I’m also glad she hadn’t fallen and gotten hurt or something… maybe a race director can tell me if this is considered normal? I didn’t know races left runners on the course.

    So if you’re on the slower side, sign up for the 5-miler. You get to enjoy the best views and will get back in plenty of time to enjoy the watermelon slices and banana bread!

    …and take lots of pictures!!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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