- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other
- Road Race
- Event Website
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This is my second time running Surf City, and it certainly delivers on the name! This course runs up the PCH, offering white sand and ocean surf for a majority of the race!
I ran the 2020 Surf City Half Marathon (a month before COVID hit) and had a blast, so I opted to run it again. This time I took on the Cowabunga Challenge, running the Surf City Beach Mile the day prior. I had originally anticipated being unable to attend the expo, so I paid the $25 for race-day pickup. Since I ended up attending and no longer needed the paid pick-up, I spoke to a volunteer at the Solutions booth and they were able to refund me the pick-up fee! Surf City offers one of my favorite expos in SoCal, and I was excited to attend this year. Due to COVID, the expo was scaled down a bit, and took place outside in the parking lot rather than inside the main event tent, but still had plenty of offer! There were photo ops, product samples, merchandise booths, live music, and even collection of vintage VW vans on display! Runners who registered for the race received a really nice shirt as well as a durable, fun reusable tote bag (these things really hold up!)
The following morning on race day, I arrived with my friend and we padded our schedule with time to look for parking. We were able to find free parking, but it was a bit of a hike away from the starting line. We ended up arriving to our corral with about 10 minutes to spare. Rather than assigning corrals in advance, runners were self-seeded into various waves, marked with large signs of anticipated finish times. These corrals were JAM PACKED. We were body-to-body for a few minutes, and due to COVID, I opted to pull my neck bandana off and wear it as a makeshift mask until we were released and able to spread out.
This race weekend offers three main events for runners: the 5k, half marathon, and full marathon. The marathoners were released first, starting at 6:30a to give them ample time to clear the first part of the course. After that, the 5k started at 7:00a, followed by the half marathoners at 7:45a. This would be fine, but with the summer weather still lingering, temperatures were HOT by 8, which made the half marathon a very steamy run. This race is usually run in February, and last year the cooler temperatures kept this race breezy and very enjoyable! Ideally, it would have been nice if the 5k and half marathon had been able to have a side-by-side start, with the course split for the first 1.5 miles until the 5k turnaround point, allowing for an additional 45 minutes of significantly cooler temps for the half marathoners before the sun comes out. (A girl can dream!)
Similar to last year, this course starts by Huntington Beach Pier, heading north on the PCH before turning right on Seapoint and climbing the first (and really, only) hill, making a large loop in a residential area before returning down toward the PCH. From there, the course turns right and continues north, entering what, in my opinion, is the hardest part of the course. This loooooong straightaway is, honestly, the whole "mental game" of running is really tested here. It's flanked with large sand dunes on either side, and while the ocean views on one side is beautiful to see, the opposite side is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which is pretty barren and empty (unless you're super into wetlands?). This stretch is void of trees, so be prepared to SWEAT into overdrive! After heading north for a while. runners turn around and follow this same path, skipping the previous turn and running straight back to the start.
Perhaps I didn't notice it until I was looking for one, but, while there were plenty of water stations throughout the race, it seemed like there weren't as many medical tents as I was expecting, especially in the heat. Many runners who get overheated or need medical attention during this race often need assistance on the long straightaway, as it offers no shade., I only saw one medical tent on this section of the run. If I could change anything about this race, I would add one more medical tent along this straightaway.
Previously, the course was lined with local bands to play festive music for runners as they passed by. This year, most likely due to COVID, there were no official band stages, but there were a ton of spectator groups spread out along the course to wave signs, and a few even had drums to play!
Runners received a finish filled with fanfare, as locals and volunteers lined the course to cheer on the athletes! Volunteers were everywhere, handing out medals as well as plenty of fluids and snacks. Runners also received a free beer voucher for the Finish Line Beer Garden! All runners had to have their IDs on hand in order to receive a wristband for entry into the garden, so be sure to have it with you, if you don't already carry it with you during the race! The expo is also open post-race, with all the photo-ops a fitness influencer could desire!
- BEWARE THE HEAT! Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Wear sunblock! Slow down if need be!
- If you are a runner that relies on medical tents for things such as BioFreeze, or band-aids, keep your eyes peeled and stop at them if you get the chance, because there are few opportunities to do so on the long stretch!
- If you are able to attend the expo the day before, take the opportunity! It's a great way to get hyped for the weekend and get into the Surf City spirit!
- This is a crowded starting line. Even as a vaccinated runner, I would recommend bringing a bandana (I use mine as a cooling towel during the race) as a makeshift mask since it was impossible to socially distance.
- Build in extra time to park and walk to the start -- unless you are there early for the marathon, do not expect to find parking anywhere close to the starting line.
- Don't forget to bring your ID with you as you run if you want to participate in the Beer Garden!
With two Surf City Half Marathons under my belt, this race is a fun way to embrace the surfing spirit of SoCal and the excitement of big races! Be prepared for the challenging straightaway, and the heat, but the payoff is so great with beach views and cold beer!