AFC Half Marathon
San Diego truly is a lovely city. But, does it really deserve the moniker “America’s Finest City”? The organizers of the half marathon this past weekend seem to think so and use that slogan as the race’s namesake. Regardless of whether you agree with this bold appraisal of San Diego, this race was one of the finest I have participated in.
The course is challenging and scenic. Many of San Diego’s most popular tourist spots are featured. The race starts at Cabrillo monument and meanders through Point Loma. We then traversed Harbor Island, passed the airport, wandered through downtown and finished in Balboa Park.
Let’s talk about the finish in Balboa Park. It is home to the famous San Diego zoo, museums, and gardens. Here’s the catch. It is well above downtown; to get to the park one must go UPHILL to get there. So, at mile 11 of this primarily downhill and flat course, the road turns upward and stays that way for 2 miles. How inconvenient, one might even say inconsiderate! Even though I studied the course profile and am familiar with the streets of San Diego, the last 2 miles of the race were still a shock to the system.
My race strategy was calculated in anticipation of this rude placement of such a steep incline. I had to run the first 10k fast and bank some time to make up for whatever I would lose on the uphill. This type of racing is counter to my usual “go out controlled” race plan.
I reached the 10k mark in 36:12 which is the fastest 10k I have run in as long as I can remember and I hit the 10 mile mark in 59:05. At mile 11, I was 65:05 and was thinking a sub 78 was possible. And then I hit the hill. I felt incredibly strong and ran it well, but, all I could manage was 6:30 pace for the next 2 miles (I felt better when I heard that the lead men went from 5:05 pace to 5:50 pace on that section). I did cross the line with a 35 second PR (78:26), which means this year I have shaved 60 seconds off of my half marathon time.
I was quite distressed, though, when I was running down the finish chute and I heard the announcer say “Here comes Joanna Zeiger. I recognize that form anywhere!” I know that this does not mean I looked smooth and gazelle-like, but rather, I looked like my regular spastic self. This is quite disheartening considering I have worked very hard on my run form with the hopes of eventually blending in.
I was lucky to receive an elite entry for this race. This afforded me two huge benefits. The course is point to point and all racers are required to take a bus from the finish to the start. Lining up with 8000 people can be chaotic, so I was incredibly relieved to find out that there was a bus for the elites leaving from the host hotel, which is closer to the start line. Yes!
That little perk was nothing compared to the private staging area with 3 porta-potties. That meant short lines and clean bathrooms that never ran out of toilet paper. After my experience at the Boulder 70.3 aid station, I will never take a clean porta-potty for granted. That particular porta-potty met with an unfortunate circumstance that to this day I cannot figure out how it happened. In fact, much discussion ensued amongst the volunteers, all of whom went to investigate, about how this occurred. Evidently, somebody had a very upset stomach and had terrible aim and ruined the porta-potty for the rest of the day. The point being, I really appreciated the presence of unsullied bathrooms, especially since we were at the start a full hour before the race began.
I have run 4 half marathons this year, 3 of them in San Diego. When it comes to racing, San Diego is America’s Finest City!