Overall: 105 / 6,696
Division (M 40-44): 12 / 466
Gender (M): 86 / 3,265
This half marathon was fun. Best of all, it wasn’t too gimmicky, a straight forward half marathon without too much fanfare. I’ve become jaded on many of these larger races, they have become such a huge production, but the AFC Half Marathon pretty much has the basics down – keep the field size manageable, ensure there are adequate port-a-potties, and make getting to the start line easy. From my perspective, they pretty much got these three things right. There were the medals, t-shirts, a small expo, and all that stuff as well, but not all that important to me when I race – just make sure to get the basics right as far as I’m concerned.
The race started at 7 am, but we had to be bused to Cabrillo National Monument from Balboa Park. The buses started running at 4:30 am. I’m not one for crowds and traffic, so I figured I better get there early to find a parking space and catch one of the early buses, but this meant I had to wake up at 3 am. Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep before 8 pm, so got a good 7 hours sleep before having to wake up and felt well rested. My breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee, a banana, and two energy bars. Left the house around 4 am and was in Balboa Park in about 25 minutes. There was plenty of parking next to the zoo and I just hopped on one of the many buses waiting to take runners to the start. After about a 30 minute ride, they drop you off at the start area.
Being one of the first runners to be dropped off, it gave me some time to look around the park. If you ever come to San Diego, I would highly recommend you visit Cabrillo National Monument, provides an awesome view of the bay and downtown San Diego. The start area was not fancy, a parking area lined with port-a-potties on both sides and another holding area for runners. The holding area provided some fluids, a bag drop-off, and mellow music. There seemed to be plenty of port-a-potties, I was able to use them about three times without too much of a wait.
Had to wait around for an hour and a half before the start, but it seemed to go by rather quickly. The weather at the start was chilly (mid-60s), but humid. I’d prefer it be colder, but it is about the best you could expect for an August race and it was overcast the entire race, which was great. There are no corrals, so you pretty much can find your own place. I was a little concerned about this, but was able to get close to the front, so no issue at all.
The start of the race was pretty uneventful. After playing a recorded national anthem, they opened the gate to line us up at the start line and then the MC shot a starter gun and we were off. I was initially going to start at around a 7:00 to 7:30 minute pace the first couple of miles, but ended up just running with the people around me, clocking off a 6:53 and 6:50 for the first two miles. The next three miles were all downhill, so I figured this was the opportunity to bank some time and clocked off 6:35, 6:09, and 6:40 for miles 3 to 5. Then the course becomes flat for the next 6 miles and I settled into a pace that I thought would be sustainable – 6:47, 6:48, 6:48, 6:42, 6:40 and 6:47 for miles 6 to 11. At this point in the race, I’m feeling it a bit, but still feel okay. Then there is the huge hill which seemed much longer than what the race’s web site indicated and went on forever – about 1.5 miles long. People who were looking strong during the race started walking, but I was determined to keep moving forward, but did slow down – 7:19 and 7:10 for miles 12 and 13. Around the 12.5 mile mark, you enter Balboa Park and the course thankfully flattens out again with a nice downhill at the finish and I was able to finish strong.
After the finish, you get your medal and refreshments. I guess there was an awards ceremony and entertainment planned, but I only stuck around for 10 minutes and started the hike back to my car. Didn’t realize it, but the finish line (close to the Hall of Champions building) and the zoo parking lot are probably a good mile apart. I actually didn’t mind the long walk since it was a good cool-down opportunity and it avoided the traffic, but for some reason thought it would be closer.
Organization: The organization very good. Picking up your number and getting in and out of the Expo was a bit tricky since you had to park in a congested dirt parking lot about a half mile down the street from the tent Expo. I got there early, so it wasn’t too bad, but not sure if everyone is of the same opinion. The Expo was small, didn’t really stick around to see much, basically got my number, t-shirt, and bag and left. In and out within 10 minutes. Looked like there were plenty of bus shuttles waiting to take you to the start line. Appeared to be adequate port-a-potties and the lines weren’t bad – at least 40 minutes prior to the start. Plenty of fluid stations, although for a half marathon, I usually never take any and didn’t for this race either. Volunteers were great!
Weather: About as good as it gets for an August race, 63 degrees, 94% humidity, overcast, and almost no wind.
Course: The course is unique, very fast up to mile 11, then a very long and difficult hill toward the end. You’ll need to try and save some gas for the end, it seemed to break some runners who ended up walking. Also, if you are unlucky, you could be held up by a trolley crossing your path downtown, which could be irritating if you are on track for a PR. Fortunately, I just missed it during my race.
Fan Support: The fan support was small along the course, although the support was pretty good once you entered Balboa Park.
Entertainment: Not much, although it looked like there was a stage for a band at the finish area.
Overall, I really liked this race – course has character, is well organized, and relatively low key. Although not a PR, it was my third fastest half marathon. Will definitely put this on my list to run next year.