REVIEW: SHORELINE HALF MARATHON
As most distance runners know, July is not the prime month for races. Summer vacations and summer heat limit the number of races available around the country. And since the San Francisco Marathon conflicts with ComicCon this year (yup, the geek side of me wins out there) I was desperately looking for a local SoCal race. And with that I chose the Shoreline Half Marathon/10K/5K, a 2nd year race located in Ventura. Definitely a race on the small side (big contrast to the Peachtree Road Race I ran last week with 60,000 runners) all three races combined feature less than 1,000 runners. This year’s installment had about 570 people running the half marathon distance and I decided to give it a look see.
Registration for the Shoreline Half Marathon was definitely on the inexpensive side with rates only getting to $75 right before the start of the race (no race day registration). What really made the cost reasonable was a 30% discount courtesy of raceshed.com (check ’em out) for a limited number of early registrants. In the end, the race only cost me in the neighborhood of $45 a real bargain in these days of ever-increasing registration costs. In regards to packet pick-up, participants could grab their bibs and shirts the day before the race at the Sport Authority store in Ventura.
But like many participants, I opted to save the drive and pick-up my packet on race day (no additional cost). And since I arrived early on race day, I only waited about 5 minutes in order to get my stuff. The lines got longer as the start time approached, but they moved quickly.
It was about an hour drive from the valley along the 101 to get to Ventura and the start location. As for parking, you did have several options. You can either park at the Crown Plaza parking structure for $8 (some businesses do validate). I also heard you could park at the nearby fairgrounds for $5. I did arrive early on race day and was able to snag one of the cool beachside parking spots (along with the surfers) for a minuscule $2.
The Shoreline Half Marathon provided its participants with a tech running shirt (manufactured by A4) dark blue in color, featuring the Shoreline logo on the front and race sponsors on the back. The shirt was the same for runners of the half marathon, 10K and 5K and is a decent if unremarkable looking shirt. It should be noted that the race also gave all of the race participants a water bottle sporting the race logo, a nice gesutre.
The finisher’s medal for the race was on the small side (guess we’re getting spoiled with our bling) featuring the race’s logo and connected by a plain yellow ribbon. One disappointing fact is that finishers received the exact same medal regardless of whether they ran the 5K, 10K or half marathon. I understand it’s a cost-saving measure, but it’d be nice in the future to see them differentiate between the races, even if it just means different ribbon designs or different colors on the medal. One additional nice touch from the race is the inclusion of free digital race photos (taken by Santa Barbara Pix). While there were only a few photographers on the course, I did manage to find a start and finish picture along with one more of myself on the course.
The Shoreline Half Marathon features a rather circuitous course (especially for the half marathon runners) that travels along the beach and up through a nearby neighborhood. The course itself is only about 6 miles long, meaning the half marathon runners needed to complete two loops (with an additional spoke added on the first lap). A huge map near the start line displayed the course layout and the race officials explained each race distance route in detail. Given the windy course, I was a little nervous that we might make a wrong turn, but volunteers were situated to make sure we didn’t go awry.
The course did cut across a few streets with traffic, but police were stationed at each intersection and the runners always had the right of way. One bit of a headache was the beach portion of the race had us running along on the bike path, which wasn’t closed to the public. While most people steered clear of the path that day, you did have to meander through some non-participants, especially near the start and finish line. The course itself was basically flat with the exception of two hills leading near the 101 freeway.
The course was most enjoyable as we ran along the beach (dodging people notwithstanding) and fairly scenic around mile 6 as you ran fairly near the water and could see the surfers en masse trying to catch waves. The section of the race through the nearby neighborhood (and featuring one turnaround) was rather unremarkable.
A note about weather conditions, as the July sun was rather brutal at times and the course afforded little shade… be prepared to cook out there.
Course services for the race were in keeping with its size. Water and Gatorade tables were present about every 1.5 miles and Gu’s were available at two of the stops. While there were only a limited number of volunteers on the course, they were working hard and seemed to be able manage things fairly well. Basic mile markers were visible on the course, but the only digital clock was at the start/finish, so be sure to bring a GPS. One thing worth noting is the race was timed, although there were only sensors at the start/finish so runners were on their honor not to cut things short. EMTs were located at various points on the course and I did notice a few support people riding around on bicycles making sure runners were okay.
Fan support for the race was minimal save for a group of people cheering at the start/finish line, although I did see this one lone spectator at various points during the race (he was traveling to different places on a bike) and I applaud his enthusiasm and support.
FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY
Pretty basic at the end, as you were handed your medal once you crossed the finish line and were directed into the gathering area. The race booth featured some water cups and orange slices, but not much else. A few goodbyes to fellow racers and then I made my way back to my car.
It’s a little hard to compare this race to other races, given that it was by far the “smallest” race I’ve completed in 2014 and felt like a Mom & Pop store trying to compete against Target for your business. Given the big production connected to other races (expo trips, parking headaches, huge throngs of people) I did appreciate the easy access and intimate feel. And while it was far less polished than other races, the people involved with the race definitely gave it their all. Given that I only paid $45 for the half marathon, it felt like my money was fairly well spent, especially if I consider it more as an organized and glorified training run than a full-fledged race.
One detriment to the race is it’s located in Ventura, the same area as the Ventura Marathon (which runs on September 7th). Running two races so close geographically in less than two months might be overkill and I think people will lean more toward the larger race if they need to choose between the two.