April 1, 2012

Santa Cruz Half Marathon

We ran the Santa Cruz Half Marathon for the second time. We first ran it in 2010. This year there were nearly 4000 runners that participated. There was a half marathon and a 10k. We picked up our race packet at a local running store two days before but had to wait for the finish before getting our shirts. Two years prior it had been cold and windy with rain welcoming us at the finish. This year it looked like it might be the same or worse. We camped at the nearby New Brighton State Beach the two nights before the race and saw rain on and off during that time. Surprisingly on race morning the sky was clear and there was no rain in sight. We packed up all of our gear and made the 20 minute drive to the race. The start was only a few blocks away from the Boardwalk as it had been in the past so we knew to leave extra time to navigate through the traffic and find parking. We parked in the designated lot for the Boardwalk, paying $12. We made our way towards the start just a short walk away. Although it was a little cold being by the coast, the sun was out and we were hopeful that the rain would stay away. As we approached the start we saw masses of people standing in lines and then realized that they were waiting for porta potties. Unfortunately the porta potties had been placed along the block leading to the start so it was really congested. We waited our turn then tried to get as close to the start line as possible but there were just too many people and there was no organization. Glad it was chip timed. As in years past, the course started out on a street along the coast. The street was wide but with the unorganized start it took a while to maneuver around slower people that started ahead of us and walkers.  After a couple of miles it quickly narrowed and stayed that way for most of the course. The course had a few rolling hills and was mainly an out and back route with one loop in Wilder Ranch State Park. Once in Wilder Ranch the paved road was replaced by gravel and dirt and we had to be careful not to twist an ankle. The dirt path through the park was the narrowest part of the course making it difficult to pass other runners. There were also several large puddles on the trail since it had rained so much the days before. We could definitely feel the wind when running close to the coast but the views were spectacular. Once out of Wilder Ranch we re-traced our steps back towards the Boardwalk. 
Back on the wide street it seemed that it was open to car traffic but there weren't signs or volunteers directing us out of the street so we continued on the street itself. The finish seemed very abrupt as we made a sharp right turn only a few steps from the finish line which is on the beach itself. Having the finish line on the beach is nice in theory but caused us to get sand in our shoes and socks and slowed us down. Once at the finish we received our medals and then picked up our shirts. The race shirt is made of technical fabric which we like much more than the typical regular cotton shirts so it was a pleasant surprise when we picked them up. Water and sports drinks were handed out at the finish line and booths were set up on the beach with food including bagels, granola bars and fruit. Although the ocean breeze kept the area cool, the sun was out the entire time, we didn't get one drop of rain during the race. The course and views are nice but organization at the start could be improved.

Race Website
Race Results