Monday, 16 January 2012

Review: Southern California Half Marathon, Irvine, CA - 7 January 2012 (+ meeting a running hero)

It was December and I had my first race of the year all planned....the Brighton Half in February. Then my sister innocently told me that there was a half marathon nearby when we were visiting just after the new year. Hmmmm....another half? The seed was planted and I just couldn't say no!

The Southern California Half Marathon is a race in Irvine, now in its 21st year. One of the official warm up races for the LA Marathon, it is organized by Woodbridge High School to raise funds for their athletics program as well as other participating schools. Irvine is about 15 minutes away from where my sister lives, so it was an easy choice. Plus, there was no cap on participants when meant I could register for the race on the day.

The time change between London and LA is one I'll never get used to. Some visits are better than others but this time I struggled--probably because we were still recovering from Abu Dhabi when we left. I'd been waking up early but the night before the race I just didn't sleep well. I woke up at 3am and couldn't really go back to sleep. Too much excitement!

Plan was to leave at 6am to give us plenty of time to get there and register. I had my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast and then we were off. Traffic was light that time of morning so we got there about 6:20. The race was near the freeway and sign posted, and we were quickly directed into the parking lot.

The registration tent was nearby and I was surprised to find them manned by students! I had forgotten that the race was organized by Woodbridge High School. The teenagers directed me to the various places and then I picked up my goodie bag and t-shirt.

After getting my shirt, one of the parents overheard me lament, "This is a small?! It's still so big!" and laughed. He said that there should be some Youth Large sizes around and very kindly exchanged it for me! Still big but less like a sack on me now!

There were lots of portaloos and no queues.....was able to pop in twice, no waiting!

By then it was the moment I'd been waiting for. No, not the race start...but my first tweetup! I was going to meet not just any running tweeter, but the amazing @runlikeacoyote! When she heard I was doing the SC Half she said she would do it, too! She's not much bigger than me, and she looked so fresh considering she had just run her first ultra only a week ago. I got to walk with her to the start line and start the race with her!

As @runlikeacoyote and I waited for the start, we noticed there were a lot of students. I hadn't really thought about it but they seemed to be everywhere, many of them wearing 'Students Run LA' shirts. I almost felt left out. I later learned it was a program for at-risk kids to train for the LA Marathon--so cool. But I did feel like I was one of the older participants!

After some fanfare (including the singing of 'The Star Spangled Banner'), the race started. Before the gun I told @runlikeacoyote that I was thinking about racing it. But I knew things were iffy given my jet lag and general lack of sleep. From the moment we set off I knew I was tired because I didn't feel that usual spark at the start of the race. So I immediately decided to try and keep a steady, comfortable pace...and go for it at the end if I felt okay.

When I signed up for the race I could see part of it was on closed streets, and when it said "SD Creek bike trail" I thought it would be a little bit like the canal path in Richmond. Turned out the San Diego Creek is dry this time of year so it was more like a reservoir or flood control channel. A large part of the race was spent going back and forth on paved bike trails to each side of the creek. Not the most scenic place, and I lost count of how many times we went around it.

I was able to stay steady for most of the race, and felt good enough at mile 10 to pick things up a little. I decided to increase my cadence by singing 'Son of a Preacher Man' to myself over and over again in my head. At this point other runners and students were getting tired and I started passing people. This always spurs me on and I kept telling myself...THIS IS WHAT I TRAIN FOR!

Once I saw the finish line I sprinted as hard as I could and crossed the line. I already knew that I was not under 2 hours but was happy to finish in time of 2:03:04.

Overall, I was really happy with my run. I felt like it was a good effort considering how jet lagged I was...and that I entered the race at the last minute. Hopefully this means I will be more than ready for Brighton!

I had fun during the race and while I generally don't mind looped courses, I found this one to be very repetitive. I didn't really like running up and down the "creek". Also, while it was great to see so many students out there they kept cutting in front of me to shout at their friends or stopping at inopportune places!

So glad that I did the SC Half, if only to meet @runlikeacoyote. Who by the way zoomed on her post-ultra legs and finished in 2:11!

The race had a lot of energy with a high number of student participants. Well-organized. The route is repetitive with lots of ramps and turns, with few people cheering. Some sections were busy and narrow enough to make passing difficult. Registration fee a little pricey. Worth thinking about if you happen to be in California.

Stats in 2012:
Date: 7 January
Entry Fee: $65 (~£43)
Number of runners: ~4000
Timing chip
Cotton T-shirt
Medals for every finisher


  1. You did really well! There were a lot of turns and dodging the students wasn't easy. Even their mentors were zigzaging all over the place. Still, it was great to see so many kids.

    I am so glad we got to meet and we will definitely race together again. I just need to get a passport. Minor detail. :)

    1. Thank you! Your thoughts mean a lot to me!

      Agree, nice to see the kids out there....I'm sure they will have an amazing experience running the LA Marathon!

      I hope you get that passport soon! You never know what might pop up! :)

  2. I was wondering when you'd get round to doing a new blog post DimRun, well done and good luck for your next half marathon :)

    1. Thanks, John! I'm looking forward to the next one! It's taken be a little while to settle back into things. Are you still doing the trail run?

    2. No, I've decided to pull out of the Belvoir Challenge on account of not doing anything to mess up my 2012 season which training for would affect my feet/ankles even more. Not worried though, I'd rather get to Windermere in good shape :)