This last Sunday, I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon! It was my first time doing this race, and it was on my schedule as part of my training for Tucson.
My friend Chris and I went down to the expo on Friday to pick up our race packets. So we got our bibs, timing chips, and race tee shirts. The shirts are a nice, short-sleeved tech shirt. Pretty cool.
We (Myself, Chris, and Karen- who is Chris' wife and my good friend) drove down Saturday night and stayed at a hotel near the start. I have heard from a bunch of people that this race is notorious for being a zoo, traffic-wise, race morning. We had dinner and hit the sack.
Sunday morning came, and it was beautiful. The start line was fairly well-organized, there were pacers denoting which runners should be at that point in the pack. This is a huge race, there were thousands of people. (A quick side note- if you are doing this race and tend to need the port-o-potty beforehand, get there early. The lines were atrocious.) The sky was gorgeous! It is a really pretty area, right by the Aquarium of the Pacific, tons of palm trees and a view of the bay.
Chris and I jogged to the start from the hotel, then stretched out. This was my first time to warm up for a race. Since I was running this race for time,(I generally tend to run more for the experience, take photos along the way etc. Training to try and qualify for Boston has been very different!) I followed all of Chris' advice. He is an excellent, experienced runner. So when he said to warm up, I did it!
Start lines in general tend to annoy me - the blaring announcer, the loud music......this was pretty much par for the course. As a very happy surprise, I found some friends at the start line! Isabel, Flint, and Eric, who are folks that I have run with many times. It was nice to be able to chit chat while waiting for the start.
Miles 1-4 sort of flew by, taking in all the people, getting warm, finding a rhythm. I tried to stay with a pacer, but he kept speeding up and slowing down too much for my taste. This race is quite crowded, and you have to weave through quite a few people at the beginning.
Around mile 5 you run on the boardwalk. There is a beautiful view or the Queen Mary with some water fountains shooting up around her. I do have to admit, I really regret not taking a picture of that. It was gorgeous. But I tried to remind myself that taking photos was not my goal for the day.
As the next few miles progress, you run on the beach on a sidewalk/bike trail that is very narrow. This was a bit tough, because you again had to pick your way through the crowd. One REALLY great part on this trail, however, was seeing Karen at mile 7!! I saw her from quite a way off and it was so motivating to have her there cheering!
You get off the bike trail around mile 9. At this point, I was getting tired. I know Long Beach is touted as a flat course but I felt like there were still small rolling hills, and uphills at the end. When I hit mile 10, it is a substantial uphill. I really had to push to maintain my pace. It seemed like the course remained mostly uphill until around mile 12.5 or so. There was a guy at mile 12 with a sign that said, "it is all downhill from here!" I was thinking, "yeah buddy, I've heard THAT one before......"
Miles 10-13 were very much a mental challenge for me. I know 3 miles seems like a short distance, but I had to constantly talk myself out of letting my pace dip down. Right before mile 13, the course veers to the left and you finish on a nice, solid downhill. I could see Karen at the side of the course right before the finish, and it was a great feeling knowing I could stop running soon!
The finish area was typical......they herd you through the finish line, give you your medal, offer a finish photo with the race backdrop......etc. They had some NASTY coconut water at the finish....ugh!! I was thrilled that Karen had a Coke waiting for me, I had gotten nauseated the last mile and it settled my stomach.
Overall I think this is a good race, the aid stations seemed well-stocked, the shirts and medals were nice, the start and finish seemed organized. I didn't feel like it was a super easy course, but that could be because I tend to prefer a hilly course to a flat one. I think the weather was nice, maybe a bit warm at the end but pretty.
Next up on the race calendar..... Nike Women's Marathon!