Category Archives: Race Review

REVIEW: SHORELINE HALF MARATHON

Shoreline Bling.

Shoreline Bling.

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.

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REVIEW: THE PEACHTREE ROAD RACE

Optional Peachtree Race Bling.

Optional Peachtree Race Bling.

July 4th means different things to different people. But for the folks in Atlanta, Independence Day always begins with a bang courtesy of The Peachtree Road Race. Started back in 1970, the race originally featured 110 runners. It’s gotten a bit larger over the years. It now reigns as the biggest 10K in the entire world with a field of around 60,000 participants. This year’s edition featured 57,170 finishers with winning times of 28:25 in the men’s division, 32:16 in the women’s division, 20:30 for the men’s wheelchair division and 23:17 for the women’s wheelchair division (some very very fast athletes). An additional twist this year had Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi starting dead last in an attempt to see how many people he could pass as a way to raise money for charity (FYI, he passed over 22,500 people).

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REVIEW: SAN DIEGO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MARATHON

So Cal bling.

So Cal bling.

Started back in 1998, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half Marathon is the inaugural race in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series of races owned by Competitor Group, Inc. That race series has grown considerably since then and is truly international, currently with 28 races slated on the calendar. But San Diego is their flagship race and attracts almost 30,000 runners (and spectators) to the Southern tip of California each June.This year’s race again featured both the full marathon (16,850 finishers) and half marathon distances (5285 finishers) with an optional relay in the half marathon distance. Having run the half marathon back in 2010, I was anxious to re-visit San Diego (a beautiful city) and take a crack at the full 26.2.

REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP

As many runners know, costs for races in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series tend to be on the expensive side, so it’s best to register as early as possible. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series does offer discounts, such as the regular “$13 off on the 13th of the month,” so be sure to check Facebook and other social media (as well as their website) for savings. Another interesting (and more recent trend) for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series is the introduction of “Tour passes” and the “Tourpass 3-pack.” I opted for the 3-pack and for $199 (plus an additional fee) I got three domestic races of my choice. I chose San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. If you run numerous races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, it’s worth checking out.

As for packet pick-up, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon utilizes the convention center, which is easily accessible and located on the water near the Gaslamp District. In another month and a half the convention center will be overflowing with fanboys as it hosts the annual San Diego ComicCon, but it’s perfectly suited for the race Expo. Parking on site was a pricey $15, so if you don’t mind walking, you can find cheaper rates at parking meters and lots along the Gaslamp District (it’s also a worthwhile chance to check out the local sights). The expo itself is definitely one of the bigger and better ones out there, featuring a large variety of vendors showing off their latest goods. It was quick and easy to pick up your bib and T-shirt, giving you plenty of time to wander about the expo sampling the samples and to pick up some good runner’s swag.

TRANSPORTATION/PARKING

With the race basically being a point-to-point affair, it takes a little planning to decide how you want to get to your destination. Since the race starts at a park on Sixth avenue, parking is hard to come by. Your best bet is to park at Qualcomm Stadium (or another lot away from downtown) and take the trolley ($6 for a day pass) to Fifth Street. I caught the “special line” trolley near my hotel that took us to the trolley stop nearest the start line and had the chance to chat up fellow runners en route. You other option is to pick a hotel near the start and hoof it. Either way, expect a bit of a walk to get to the start (consider it a warm-up). Since the race finishes near Petco Park, you can have your friends/family opt to meet you down there (just be sure they’re aware of congestion and road closures).

T-SHIRT/MEDALS

You look good in red.

You look good in red.

The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon featured a single shirt for the marathon/half marathon distances. This year’s shirt was red and designed by Brooks and fit pretty true to size. The race medal featured Petco Park as well as some of San Diego’s classic architecture. While the shape and size of the medals were uniform across the two distances, each race featured a different color scheme. The full marathon was primarily green and orange with a blue ribbon, while the half marathon utilized yellow and blue along with a yellow ribbon. It’s a nice medal, but I’ve seen better from Rock ‘n’ Roll in other races. I also liked the colors on the half marathon medal more than the full. I guess it felt more “San Diego” (if you get my drift). Oh and for those people who plan to run numerous races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, remember you are eligible to earn additional medals in their “Heavy Medal” series. You can check the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series website for details. Note: even if you get a Tourpass or Tourpass 3-pack, you still need to register for the heavy medal program separately in order to qualify (a bit of an oversight on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s part).

COURSE

Race around the park.

Race around the park.

As mentioned before, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half is a point-to-point race with both distances starting in the park at Sixth Street and ending near Petco Park. Unlike most other races that feature different distances, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll has an almost entirely different course for the full marathon than it does for the half. The races both share the first two or so miles before splitting and then the full marathon doesn’t connect to the half marathon course until the last few miles. If you want to know more about the half marathon course, please check with one of the other reviews for more specifics as I’ll concentrate on the full course.

Unfortunately, for all of it’s positives, The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon’s biggest glaring weakness is its course. If a marathon is supposed to “represent” a city, it should really give you the feel of the city. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles (and plenty of others) present courses that take you near city landmarks or and through well-known neighborhoods. I did not feel like I was seeing the best of what San Diego has to offer. While we ran past Petco Park early on and did a stint through little Italy, the course felt more like it was just trying to meet the 26.2 mile requirement as opposed to tapping into the heart of the city. It would have been great to run along near the water (which we didn’t) or through more downtown streets. Instead, we spent a lot of the race running parallel to the freeway, going through nondescript city neighborhoods, along bike paths and then spending several miles running on the 163 freeway.

In addition, we didn’t always have the street to ourselves as traffic was flowing in the opposite direction and we were herded onto one half of the street. At one point we were basically pushed onto the bike path and had to decide whether to navigate that or jump onto the curb. Also, at one point the runners had to duck under the tape barricade as all of us somehow ended up on the opposite side of the barricade (it seemed to be set up a little askew). For a big city race, this was definitely NOT indicative of a major race. I love the city of San Diego, but this course does not do it justice. And for a “flagship” race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll series should be able to do better.

I do know the course for the race was changed in 2010 and then again in 2013 to its current configuration. Well, it desperately needs to be changed again.

COURSE SERVICES

Another bit of a letdown here.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll series prides itself on bringing music to the masses by offering up bands throughout the course. It’s a nice idea on paper that doesn’t always pan out so well in practice. Runners were treated to local bands throughout the marathon, although the quality of the groups varied greatly. I did enjoy the musical interlude (I took my headphones off whenever I approached a live band) but this little treat also backfired at one point. During the mile-long killer hill at the 20-mile mark, runners saw a sign that said the “mile of music.”  So I figured we’d have a great group or groups to help us power up that large incline. Nope. Instead, runners were treated to an unmanned truck with some speakers loaded on the back blaring DJ music. Woo-hoo. If you’re touting yourself as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series let’s get some more “real” music out there.

Rock 'n' Roll baby.

Rock ‘n’ Roll baby.

Again this is the Rock ‘n’ Roll series crown jewel race, so you figured it’d be overflowing with support. Not so much. Early on during the race there were plenty of water stations and gatorade stations… Gu was also available at intervals along the course. But the services seemed to be in shorter supply in the later stages of the race (and basically non-existent during that uncomfortable stretch on the freeway). And while I didn’t need them during the race, there did also seem to be a shortage of porta potties along the course. I will definitely give kudos to whoever came up with the idea of handing out cold water sponges… this happened twice in the second half of the race and was a welcome touch. Medical services were fortunately present throughout the race with numerous tents, cyclists and “running guards” checking up on racers. I also saw a few EMTs whipping around on electric scooter contraptions… I briefly considered grabbing one and whizzing to the finish line.

Mile markers were present and properly marked off (a problem for some other races) and each mile marker did have an accompanying digital display (although the glaring sun made some of them hard to read). One bit of a personal gripe has to do with Rock ‘n’ Roll’s runner tracking. We’ve come to expect runner tracking at all but the smallest races, but it seems wrong to charge runners $5 so their friends/family can receive text updates… especially when most races do it for FREE. And if you’re going to charge me $5, then the service should be top notch. The last runner update was at the 20-mile mark, which is almost 45 min- 1 hour from the finish. Since most of us have friends or family waiting on us, how about a text at the 40K or 25 mile mark to give them a heads-up that we’re almost there and they should start looking at the finish line to see us. Seems like R ‘n’ R dropped the ball on this one.

FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY

Now for all of its shortcomings course wise, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon does know how to throw a party. The finish line was stocked with plenty of treats for runners (gatorade, chocolate milk, fruit, cold water and snacks). I just wish they gave us a bag to gather our goodies. Oh, and also present were the ice cold/soaking wet hand towels which feel like a bit of heaven after pounding pavement for 26.2 miles. Gear check was fairly well organized and there was a decent area for runners to re-unite with their family/friends. And for those who wanted to hang around afterward, there was a cool concert playing over by Petco Park. Unfortunately, the timing of the show seemed to favor the half-marathon runners so us full marathon runners either need to get considerably faster or get a friend to tape it.

RECOMMENDATION

Sure, not every marathon is going to be a grand slam event, but I do have to say that I was a bit disappointed with the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. If this was a new event or a smaller race, I would have easily forgiven some of its shortcomings. But this race is the cornerstone of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. They’ve got plenty of experience in putting on races (so kinks should be worked out) and the prices they charge should help guarantee an A-level experience in ever part of the marathon. Unfortunately, the weak course layout gives me pause about running the full marathon here again. I really like visiting San Diego and welcome any opportunity to head south and check it out (even worth dealing with that icky traffic on the I-5). But the gang at Competitor Group really needs to take another crack at that full marathon course. Perhaps the half marathon is the way to go as the course may be the better of the two and at least I’ll finish in time for the concert at the end.

RATING: C+

REVIEW: THE OC MARATHON

OC Bling!

OC Bling!

Come on down to Orange County for the annual running of the OC Marathon. Celebrating its tenth anniversary and sponsored by US Bank, the race celebration featured several events, including: a full marathon, half marathon, 5k and kids fun run. On a beautiful first weekend of May (a little warmer and sunnier than originally forecast) an announced record 22,000 overall participants lined up to have fun and pound pavement in and around the heart of the OC. At the forefront were the marathon (2211 finishers) which started before dawn and the half marathon (10,345 finishers) which commenced shortly afterward. Having run the half marathon in 2013, I was looking forward to seeing what the full marathon course had to offer.

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REVIEW: HOLLYWOOD HALF MARATHON (4/5/14)

"Hollywood" and "Challenge" bling!

“Hollywood” and “Challenge” bling!

“Hooray for Hollywood!” This past Saturday morning saw a “premiere” like none other as over 10,000 racers lined up outside of the famed Chinese Theater to take part in the 3rd running of the Hollywood Half Marathon/10K/5K. Started back in 2012, this race happens just a few weeks after the Los Angeles Marathon and utilizes some of the same course. For those of us who pounded the pavement at the LA Marathon, this race serves as a nice follow-up and a second chance to hit the streets of Hollywood. The race raises money and awareness for local homeless youth shelters (a very worthwhile cause) and has a very positive vibe about. The Hollywood Half Marathon/10k/5K features a combined start for all three distances, meaning the beginning of the race has the feel of a bigger city event. In 2014, over 5700 entrants ran the half marathon (making it the most popular distance) while the 10K and 5K each had between 2100-2300 participants.

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RACE REVIEW: 2014 ASICS LOS ANGELES MARATHON (3/9/14)

LA Marathon Medal

“City of Angels” bling.

“I love LA!” Yes indeed. Randy Newman’s “unofficial” city anthem got plenty of play this weekend at the start of the 2014 Asics LA Marathon. An annual tradition since 1986, this year’s race featured a “sold-out” field of 25,000 runners dashing along the popular “Stadium to the Sea” route. Other events included the “Big 5 LA 5K” on Saturday as well as the option to run the marathon as a 2-person relay (handing off at the midway point). This year’s race also featured two unexpected twists to give the race a little “added drama” (and boy does this city love drama). First off, this year’s race coincided with “Daylight’s Savings Time” (“Spring Forward” everyone) robbing us of an hour of much-needed pre-race sleep and guaranteeing that everyone set numerous alarm clocks to ensure they didn’t oversleep. In addition, “Mother Nature” decided to overdo things a little (okay, a lot) on the California sunshine, but more on that later.

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RUN RUN RUDOLPH!

Just a fun little bonus and some food for the ego. I received an e-mail today from Run Racing premiering their new promo video for The Holiday Half Marathon in Pomona.

I happened to see a familiar face wearing reindeer antlers… and check out the :40 mark for some slow-motion goodness. Ho-Ho-Ho!

Run on!

RACE REVIEW: SURF CITY HALF MARATHON (2/2/14)

Short board medal

Surf Bling!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday football fans and you know what that means… yup, time to race. As part of another annual tradition, The Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon kicked off another chapter of their seaside scramble. And unlike the blowout “big game” between Seattle and Denver yesterday, the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon was an exciting time from start to finish. Around 18,000 runners (2332 Marathon finishers/ 15447 Half Marathon finishers) lined up yesterday along PCH at Sunrise in preparation for the race and to gain a 2,000 calorie deficit before heading off to their respective SB parties. Let the game begin…

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RACE REVIEW: ATLANTA HALF MARATHON (11/28/13)

Atlanta Half Marathon Medal

Turkey Bling!

Thanksgiving is an ideal day for race. What better way to kick off the biggest eating day of the year than with a healthy calorie deficit? Knowing that the 2,000+ calories I burned off running would be more than made up for (seconds on pie, anyone?), I signed up for the Atlanta Half Marathon as I’d be in town again visiting family. Besides, it sure beat having to help out in the kitchen (I’m usually relegated to peeling potatoes). This annual race (both Half Marathon and 5K) starts and finishes at Turner Field and gives runners a nice look at downtown Atlanta. This year’s “turkey trek” featured almost 8,900 runners (6,733 half marathon and 2,140 5K) and the 7:30am start time guaranteed you’d be home in time for the feast (and football).

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RACE REVIEW: LA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALF MARATHON (10/27/13)

Rock 'n' Roll Medal

Trick or Bling!

The LA Rock ‘n’ Roll series hosted its 4th annual race this past weekend in downtown LA, featuring a Half-marathon and Mini-marathon (3.5 mile untimed run). Taking place on Halloween weekend, the race definitely brought out some wonderful costumes. I saw everything from a guy riding an ostrich, to several participants of Mario Kart and a plethora of superheroes (DC and Marvel). My hat is off to the lady sporting the Milla Jovovich “Leeloo” tape outfit from THE FIFTH ELEMENT…beware of chafing. The officials said there were 13,000 people running, although according to results board the half marathon had about 7300 finishers. The weather was overcast, but not too cold…actually really good running conditions. Here’s my review about the race’s various components…enjoy!

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RACE REVIEW: HOLIDAY HALF MARATHON (1/15/13)

Holiday Half Medal

Snowflake bling!

‘twas ten days before Christmas and all through the race, the runners flashed smiles… no matter their pace.

For those of us who want to get in a last race before Christmas & New Year’s Eve, the Holiday Half Marathon is a good option. The weekend includes a 5K run/walk and kids fun run on Saturday, culminating with a half marathon on Sunday morning. Centered at the Fairplex in Pomona, the half marathon included about 6300 runners, many showing their holiday spirit. Runners clad in red and green dominated the field, many wearing the free Santa hats and jingle bells given out with your bib. Others donned elf ears and some (myself included) sported a pair of reindeer antlers hoping to run like Rudolph. One other thing of note was the inclusion of the Students Run LA group, which was comprised of thousands of runners. The SRLA group started 30 minutes after the other runners, but some of those speed demons still caught the main pack.

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RACE REVIEW: NEW YEAR’S RACE (1/4/14)

Image of Race Medal

New Year’s bling!

“Should old acquaintance be forgot”… now run! 2014 (the year of the horse, in case you’re wondering) is upon us. And it’s time to make immediately good on that resolution to run more and work off those holiday treats. The New Year’s Race (Half Marathon and 5K) takes place the first Saturday of the New Year and to make things even more interesting, it’s a nighttime jaunt starting in downtown Los Angeles. Last year’s race was the inaugural event and like all first year races, was plagued by a few course and organizational hiccups (aka growing pains). This year’s race featured 5,370 runners (1656 for the 5K and 3714 for the half Marathon) all raring to get 2014 rocking.

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