Review: SD Half Marathon at Petco Park

Ugh, how'd that Dodger fan get in my picture?

I ran the inaugural SD Half Marathon at Petco Park a week ago Sunday. Here's my review. It's a week late.

Registration

Online registration was a piece of cake. I was one of the first 500 to sign up last Fall so I entered for the low price of $60. I was lucky. In the last decade race entry fees have more than doubled as their popularity grows. If you missed out on the early entry, the prices jumped to $99, then to $109 and finally to $150 on the day of the race. As a comparison most other half marathons in the city are in the $60-$80 range.

The Expo

I'll admit that I usually don't spend a lot of time at race expos. I like to do a hard target strike. I'll usually want to park, enter, get my bib and exit in the least amount of time possible. But since the expo was at Petco Park there was more reason to hang around and less reason to rush.

The location was plus, because Petco Park can easily handle the cars and foot traffic that goes along with 7000 runners. They were charging $10 to park in the lots which seems crazy just for an expo, but fortunately there was plenty of street parking if you knew to look.

All the vendor's booths were set up along the main concourse so there was plenty of room to move. Sometimes these expos will take place under tents or in small shoe stores that can't handle parking or thousands of participants bombarding them at once.

The actual bib pick up was easy, if you had your number it was just a matter of signing your waiver and waiting a few seconds for them to check your identification. With your bib you received a nice looking dark blue technical t-shirt and a gear bag.

They had presenters on top of the visitor's dugout. While I was there, they had a couple going over the route and the race's doctor who threatened volunteered to treat injuries with a class 4 laser.

Pre-Race

The race started at 7 am on the day that you set your clocks forward coming off daylight saving time. So really it was 6 am and pitch black outside. I wonder if the event organizers realized this when the date was set. Again, street parking was easy because it was Sunday and free, but you could also pay to park in the lots if you preferred.

Runners will appreciate the fact that not only did the race organizers have about 50 port-a-potties outside, but Petco Park and it's bathrooms were open as well. That meant you didn't have to wait in line for more than a few minutes.

It was weird being inside the ballpark with only the concourse lights on. It felt eerie and the field looked ominous.

Once outside the race start was split into about 15 waves. They had a separate gear check line for each wave, so dropping off you layers of clothes was simple and only took a moment.

As I dropped off my gear I was approached by Pad Squad Erin from below my eye level. I was startled. She was running with Pad Squadders Courtney, Elizabeth and Rob. Rob was quiet and stoic. Courtney seemed calm and confident. Erin was cold. Elizabeth seemed the most excited since it was her first half marathon. At one point the race announcer tried to coax some cheers from the runners, "Only 5 minutes until the start! Let's make some noise runners!" Elizabeth was the only one that cheered. I laughed.

The Course

The SD Half Marathon boasts a scenic 13.1 mile course and an epic finish in Petco Park. The race starts between Petco Park and the Omni on Tony Gwynn Drive. It then cuts through downtown to Harbor Drive. It runs through a rental car lot, which was easily the least scenic portion of the race. All of this was very similar to the America's Finest City Half, only the opposite direction. Alongside the airport we ran until we made our way to Liberty Station. From there we turned to travel back towards downtown behind MCRD. The same course that the Rock n' Roll marathon use to travel. Then it was uphill for about a mile into Hillcrest and then a long steady decline from Balboa Park to the ballpark that allowed you to really pick up speed.

I didn't think running onto the field would be the "epic finish" they foretold, but I was wrong. Even though I'd been out on the field countless times for Fan Fest, it was a completely different experience running through the gate onto the field to a cheering crowd. It. Was. Epic.

Post Race

Immediately passing through the finish line at home plate we were presented our finisher's medal by local Marines and Sailors. We walked and limped our way around the circumference of the field and out through the centerfield fence. Once on the concourse again, I took advantage of a free massage. About 15 masseuses rubbed down sweaty dudes with their bare hands. It was kind of gross, but I tried not to think about it.

After resting for a bit we were invited to Celebrate San Diego and treated to inspirational speeches from Team USA's Meb Keflezighi and some other guys I didn't recognize. The post race concert featured Lifehouse, but I didn't stick around for that.

Conclusion

This race was extremely well organized which was really impressive considering it was their first time. The race volunteers were all helpful and knowledgeable. The course itself was mostly flat and fast. My only complaint was that the course wasn't really that scenic after leaving downtown, but part of that was due to the marine layer. The finish was epic. Overall I'd highly recommend it, but sign up early before the price increases.

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