UPDATE (Oct 2016):
This year’s USA Half Marathon Invitational has been canceled, and registrants should expect to receive a refund from the organizers shortly. RaceRaves is not associated with this event in an official capacity, so please do not contact us about refunds.

One crisp morning at the Running USA Conference in New Orleans this past February, I had the chance to run alongside and chat with Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray. We talked Boston of course, and I took the opportunity to ask a question that had been on my mind for several years: “Have you ever considered a Boston-type ‘qualifiers only’ race for the half marathon distance?”

His response at that early hour was like verbal caffeine: “Funny you should mention that…”

Now, nearly three months after our conversation, McGillivray’s team at DMSE Sports has unveiled the details of its new USA Half Marathon Invitational. The inaugural event will be held on November 21 in San Diego, the hometown of 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi. And in fact the event’s management team includes HAWI Management, of which Meb’s brother/agent Merhawi is the founder and owner. Rounding out the management team is California-based Superhero Events, producers of the Hollywood Half Marathon and the Awesome ‘80s Run.

Billed as “America’s fastest runners, competing in America’s finest city” and held just down the road from the home of the “World’s Fastest 5K”, the USA Half Marathon Invitational is a welcome throwback, a rebuttal of sorts to the glut of untimed fun runs & adventure runs springing up around the country. According to the website:

With so many fun runs, mud runs, and color runs being launched nationwide, we noticed a decline in the production of competitive endurance events in the United States. This race was developed to encourage recreational runners to set new goals and challenges for themselves. The USA Half Marathon is the first ‘Qualifiers Only’ half marathon, designed for elite, sub-elite, and competitive runners.

As such, registrants have a choice of two divisions, each with its own distinct qualifying standards: “Sub-Elite” and “Competitive.” Boston Marathon RD Dave McGillivray Though the qualifying standards for this year’s “Competitive” division (see below) aren’t nearly as rigorous as those for the Boston Marathon, we anticipate stricter standards in the future, once a baseline of qualifying times is established and demand for entry quickly outstrips the limited number of slots. 

So this maiden voyage is a great opportunity to experience the race before word spreads and its popularity inevitably soars.

If the chance to be part of the inaugural event isn’t incentive enough, America’s Finest City will also be offering some of America’s finest swag, with every finisher receiving a 3” x 4” medal emblazoned with the USA Half Marathon eagle logo (medal voyeurs, click HERE for a sneak peek), plus a Boston-esque official qualifiers lightweight diamond mesh running jacket in lieu of the standard race t-shirt. And for the speediest among us, prize money will be available to the top three men’s and women’s finishers, with awards being presented to the top three finishers in each age group.

The event also includes a US Open Mile fun run that will be neither chip-timed nor scored, though all finishers will receive a US Open Mile finisher’s medal.

Registration is now open at $95 for the half marathon and $10 for the mile. At the time of registration, half marathon participants must provide a qualifying time achieved between Nov 1, 2013 and Nov 1, 2015, and a link to results for their qualifying race.  The half marathon field is limited to 5,000 runners, and there’s little doubt the race will sell out well before race day. So if you’re interested, register soon or don’t say we didn’t warn you.

We love the idea of half marathon aficionados having their own signature event governed by qualifying standards, and we look forward to watching (and chasing) some of the nation’s fastest runners in one of our most beautiful cities. All within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean.

Needless to say we’ll be in San Diego on November 21… hope to see you there!

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Men's Half Standards_RR

Women's Half Standards_RR


4 thoughts on “The “Boston” of Half Marathons

  1. This caught me by surprise; I had no clue something like this was in the works. Hopefully over the years it too will achieve the same allure and prestige as its longer counterpart. However, those timing requirements are definitely lax. They'll definitely get tighter as the event grows in popularity — in order to be on par with Boston, I'd have to run a 1:25. So I guess maybe now is the time to run it before it becomes impossible (see: London, Tokyo, etc.).

    1. Thanks Dan, you fall comfortably in that enviable speedy zone between "sub-elite" and "competitive". And we'd have to agree that with a field size limit of 5,000 runners, this race has "future registration lottery" written all over it. It's not often runners have the chance to get in on the ground floor of a cool new event like this, so no better time to run San Diego than this year!

  2. It is going to take more than qualifying times to match Boston.  But if they put on a good race (and I think we can trust the race director to do that), and get some fast times (and with the running group in that area it could happen) I think they will be off to a good start.  True the initial qualifying times are nowhere near what Boston requires but I don’t see that as a problem.  All in all I think this is a great idea, actually long overdue. 

Your turn – what do you think?