The Surfer’s Path Half Marathon takes place in Santa Cruz, CA. The crown jewel of the Golden State, Santa Cruz County welcomes runners with an enchanting blend of nostalgia, natural beauty and invigorating activities. The event starts at the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and travels along the coastline past …
The Surfer’s Path Half Marathon takes place in Santa Cruz, CA. The crown jewel of the Golden State, Santa Cruz County welcomes runners with an enchanting blend of nostalgia, natural beauty and invigorating activities. The event starts at the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and travels along the coastline past world famous surf breaks. The finish line celebration takes place on the beach near the Santa Cruz Wharf. Participants receive surfboard medals and surf inspired finisher shirts.
An ideal destination event, participants can experience a quintessential California vacation. Create a memory that you will treasure forever by achieving your athletic goal in this picture postcard setting. Surfs UP!
Beautiful course with some hills
The views are spectacular. This is a smaller race, so there won't necessarily be a ton of people around you/spectating. A bit hilly. Website and pre-race communication was not great, … MORE
The views are spectacular. This is a smaller race, so there won’t necessarily be a ton of people around you/spectating. A bit hilly. Website and pre-race communication was not great, but race-day logistics were fine.
26 Miles of Incredible Scenery!
What an incredible race! The scenery was crazy! There was not a boring mile in the entire race! There were beautiful views along the entire course. Some of the highlights … MORE
What an incredible race! The scenery was crazy! There was not a boring mile in the entire race! There were beautiful views along the entire course. Some of the highlights were the boats in the harbor, the waves along Pleasure Point, the lighthouse, and I think my favorite part of the race were the dirt trails out along the cliffs at Wilder Ranch and through the state park. Overall a really great event!
Enjoyed the course
First time running this race. I chose the to run the Capitola Half. The Capitola Half Marathon consists of a 13.1 mile run from Santa Cruz to Capitola and back. … MORE
First time running this race. I chose the to run the Capitola Half. The Capitola Half Marathon consists of a 13.1 mile run from Santa Cruz to Capitola and back. The event starts at the legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and travels east along the coast. The route takes runners past the Santa Cruz Harbor, Moran Lake and Pleasure Point as it makes it’s way to the City of Capitola. Following a loop through Capitola Village, runners will retrace their steps back along the coastline, continue past the Boardwalk, and make a left turn after the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf to the finish on Cowell’s Beach. At the 7am start, it was foggy and cool, but the soon the sun peeked through and burned off the fog. It turned into a lovely day. I thoroughly enjoyed running along with views of the ocean and the sites.
Aid stations were place about two miles apart. Most had water and sports drink. I think I only saw one or two that had some gel product, so if you need any fuel along the way be sure to bring your own.
We finish on the beach and run about 50 yards on the sand. You are given a goodie bag full of finish line food and your medal. The medal is very small. If you are running the race for the medal, don’t. If you are running for great scenery and fun, this is a nice race. You also receive your gender specific tech tee at the finish.
I had a nice time and I’m glad I did this race once.
Marathon with a split personality
TL;DR VERSION: Surfer's Path Marathon and the Capitola Half Marathon are held at the same time, along the same course that starts and ends by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. … MORE
Surfer’s Path Marathon and the Capitola Half Marathon are held at the same time, along the same course that starts and ends by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The marathon has a split personality; the first half, that runs with the half marathon, is a much larger race, but it shifts gears radically at the halfway point, and turns into a lonely weekend run. If you’re trying to choose between the marathon and half, go with the half.
The names may seem confusing (“Are there two races? Why are the names so different?”), but both races are held on the same day, start at the same time, and use the same course (most race events with different distances, but which start at the same time, have the same name, differentiated only by the distance; otherwise, most of them are on sequential days but not held simultaneously).
To make matters more confusing, the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitol Half Marathon both start by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, although neither race has “Santa Cruz” in its event name.
The half marathon is considerably bigger and more popular than the marathon, but marathoners get to enjoy the feel of a large race for the first half of the race. The start line is right on the main street, but the finish is on the beach on the north end, past the pier.
Although the half marathon is pretty big, there is still a pretty small town feel to the race, and you notice it most at the bib pick-up area. Everyone, for both races, picks up their bibs at a pavilion by the beach in the town of Capitola. It would be a lot more convenient if they would offer bib pick-up in Santa Cruz, but it feels like they want to try to help the local economy by forcing participants to go there outside of the actual race. It certainly worked for us these past two years. Since it’s *SUCH* a pain to find parking right near the beach, once you find parking, you want to spend a little extra time wandering around. There isn’t a whole lot to see there, so we wind up getting lunch, or stopping for coffee. Capitola is a nice little beach town but it gets completely inundated, so be prepared to wait for parking, or park farther away at the official public parking lot a few blocks away.
The course starts at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, heading south. The course navigates through Santa Cruz for a few miles until it gets out of the heart of town, and settles into a very nice path parallel to the shoreline. The route then winds into the hamlet of Capitola, where a mini loop threads around the main downtown area (near where you picked up your race bib the day before). You then head back northward again, passing slower runners as you start heading back to Santa Cruz.
If you’re doing the half, you run past the Beach Boardwalk, past the pier, then take a left turn onto a short path that leads to the finish line. If you’re doing the full version, you don’t turn. Instead, you keep going up, from Beach Street to Cliff Drive. At this point, the feeling of the race changes drastically. Where the course used to have course marshals and safety cones, the back half of the marathon lacks most of this, especially along the shoreline stretch. You stay along this road for three miles until you reach Natural Bridges State Park, at which point you move away from the shoreline and start running on narrow paths, including some unpaved portions that are relatively flat and non-technical trail.
This segment, which includes some out-and-back as well as a loop, totals about seven miles, and adds a completely different dimension to the race. There is one portion, as you and start heading back, where you can see the beach below. As I was running past, I saw a perfect wave–glassy, tubular–great surf! The view was breathtaking, and was the best scenery in the entire race (at least for me).
The aid stations are pretty plentiful, but are pretty basic. Most of them just consist of folding tables and volunteers offering cups of water or sports drink. A few of them also had energy gels.
One big issue is that there is no signage letting you know that an aid station is coming up. This means you could wind up on the wrong side of the street and either have to run across, or skip an aid station. A big standing easel with a sign that says “AID STATION AHEAD” on the side of the road that the station is at, would go a long way (especially if there was a big sign saying if they had gels at that station).
The stations were placed in locations that were convenient, but they were not easy to remember. They were located at miles 1.5, 3.8, 5.5, 7.3, 8.7, 11.6, 13.3, 14.8, 16.5, 18.8, 21.5, 22.8, 24.4, and mile 26 (yes, 0.2 miles before the finish line…why?!?). There’s really no easy way to know where these are in advance. If they are at least at the same place as some mile markers (like “mile 3, mile 5”), you could.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love aid station volunteers. They are out there because they want to help, and I have done my own share of aid station volunteering. The issue was never with the volunteers. It’s that the aid stations were hard to find, had no signage, and except for a couple of places where you kind of assumed they HAD to have an aid station, almost impossible to predict. This was particularly true once you headed to the full marathon segment of the course, after the half participants finished.
All participants get an event- and gender-specific tech tee. The design on the back was the race logo and the year, and it differed depending on the race you signed up for. The front of the shirt said Surfer’s Path on the left chest area, which was strange, because that was not the name of the race for the half marathon. It would have been better if it had the name of both races on the front.
Unfortunately, this year’s shirts were all white, so I won’t be wearing this anywhere. As soon as you sweat, you can see through these white shirts, and they don’t provide much SPF either (plus, white tech shirts get stained so quickly and they are generally hard to get totally clean and white again, and let’s not even start on those ugly arm pit stains).
Race finishers get a pretty nice looking medal with the race logo. The logo includes a surfboard. Unfortunately, the finisher’s medals are pretty small (maybe only about two inches in diameter?). I am not a fan of those huge pizza pan-sized monster medals, but these are definitely on the smaller side.
If you were drawn to this race because of the surfboard medals, be warned that these are not like the famous surfboard medals from the Surf City Marathon down in Southern California.
The overall winners and age group winners actually get some really nice plaques (the age group ones look like wooden VW vans). Unfortunately, here again is another sign they have a tight budget; they only recognize age groups in 10-year, rather than 5-year increments (so a 30-year-old has to compete against a 39-year-old in the same age group).
Before I talk about AFTER the race, I should mention the actual finish line. It’s the same for both the marathon and half. You turn off the street down a path that opens up to… the beach. As in, fine sand. Yes, you and your tired legs/feet get to run the last 20 yards or so of the course on dry, fine sand. I always think there’s something just a little bit sadistic about this.
You run through the finish line right onto the beach, and you get your (tiny) finisher’s medal. For the last two years, post-race snacks have been given to us in the form of a grocery bag with various snacks in them. I believe the bags and the snacks in them are courtesy of a local supermarket, and they were things like a banana, a granola bar, and small bag of chips.
This beach area is also where they make their award announcement for winners. Unless you’re willing to just plop down on the sand, there isn’t really a lot of space on which to sit and hang out. They did, however, have a massage tent set up.
I ran the Capitola Half Marathon last year and wanted to know what the Surfer’s Path version might be like this year. The main thing you need to know is that the second half of the marathon feels like a totally different race because you are no longer running with the hordes of half marathoners.
On one hand, you might enjoy the solitude and relative quiet after you leave the half participants behind you as you head onto Cliff Drive. However, aside from the periodic aid stations, there is NO SIGN that there is a marathon going on. This stretch is extremely popular with joggers, walkers, bicyclists, and dog walkers. This is THEIR turf, and with the wide sidewalks, they’re used to the area being safe. That means people are often not paying attention, and many certainly won’t care if you’re trying to finish a race. This is mostly just an issue of inattentiveness though, so all you have to do is yell out and let them know when you need to pass. But you will still occasionally run into people who are on their phones and won’t notice. Just be patient. Be careful too, though.
One lady was completely engrossed in a phone call while she was walking her dog, and her dog was sniffing something on the other side of the sidewalk, so the leash was essentially creating a rope barrier across the width of the sidewalk. The leash was hard to see because it was a retractable wire-type, and the other pedestrians even tried to warn her that I was coming through.
So essentially, the back half of the marathon is very lonely, feels unsupported (except for the aid stations), has essentially nobody cheering. There are no course markers or signs, and you’re on your own to have faith to stay on the road. The portion near the northern section is a little better, but the stretch in the middle can get mentally tough.
I never wear earphones during a race, but you might consider wearing one for those really long and lonely stretches. If the weather report says it’ll be sunny, make sure to wear sunscreen as well. There’s almost no shade on this course.
My biggest tip for you though, is to pass on the full marathon, and just run the half. You get all the fun of the race without the boring stretches.
Love running in the fog
I know this was only my 5th 1/2 Marathon but it was my favorite. Packet pickup was Saturday and was nice and easy no lines only a few vendors and … MORE
I know this was only my 5th 1/2 Marathon but it was my favorite. Packet pickup was Saturday and was nice and easy no lines only a few vendors and on the beach in Capitola, what more can you ask for. You received your white “Surfers Path” tech shirt, not my favorite color for a running shirt but it was good quality.
Race day likewise was fairly simple I stayed in Capitola and the race started at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. They had ample parking (for $15) there also seemed to be plenty of street parking for those who wanted to look for it. The 1/2, full and relay all had the same starting time and after minimal fuss and fanfare we started on time at 7:00 AM. I was so happy that it was foggy at start time it could not have been nicer morning to run.
The 1/2 Marathon is an out and back you go along the coast from Santa Cruz to Capitola and then back. I heard a few people mention hills before the race but there was nothing noticeable maybe 25 – 30 ft climb but nothing I would call a hill. The views were great and I found some beaches between Santa Cruz and Capitola that I did not know existed. The aid stations offered water, sports drinks and GU, I lost count how many there were but it was plenty. We were cheered on by plenty of locals as we went through the neighborhoods along the coast and through Capitola I think the early hours may have limited the amount of viewers
The finish was in the sand on the beach not too far past the Beach Boardwalk, the finisher medal was nice. For me this was my PR 1/2 that I had been training for so I could not have been happier with the race. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching the surfers at one of the new beaches I noticed on our run. I am sure I will return again next year.
One of the most BEAUTIFUL courses
Friends encouraged me to sign up and run this race with them, then dropped out when they spent two weeks in Europe before the race, so I ended up running … MORE
Friends encouraged me to sign up and run this race with them, then dropped out when they spent two weeks in Europe before the race, so I ended up running this one solo. What a joy! The scenery was GORGEOUS, the race participants reasonable and although the hills were a challenge, I ended up PR-ing on this race, knocking 9 minutes off my best time! The only funny thing I can say was that the start line starts in the middle of the street and then moves to the beach, so for about 5 minutes I was like “WHERE DID THE FINISH GO???”. This was a fantastic race. Highest recommendation.