Thursday, April 4, 2019

Encinitas Half Marathon Race Recap

Sunday morning the hubby and I ran the Encinitas Half Marathon. Although this was the third year of the race (but the first year of adding the 5K distance), it was our first time running it. I actually won two free entries from a giveaway a couple weeks back, but obviously that will have no bearing on my recap because you know I've always gotta #KeepItReal.

If you follow my blog (and didn't just stumble across this recap when doing research as to whether or not you want to register for this race in the future), you probably saw that on Saturday the hubby and I went up to Orange for a IRL #TeamSparkle Virtual 5K Meet-Up. We left our house around 7am and didn't get home until after 12 noon due to traffic (we live just south of Camp Pendleton and because of the military base there are no exits for quite a few miles, which means if there is any type of slow-down or delay there is no way around it... you just have to sit and wait it out).

We were missing Kristen (who flies in the day before Ragnar) so Allison jumped in for her ;) 

Once we got home we ate some lunch, took showers, walked the dog and had to head down to the Expo to grab our bibs for the race. The Expo was at the Encinitas Community Center and let's just say it was small. There were maybe eight vendors jammed into a small room that also held bib and participant shirt pick-up. The goodie bag (filled with a mug, Kashi bar and flyers that go directly into the recycle bin) was outside on a patio because there was no more room in the inn. (The race does offer race day pick-up, but it costs $20 per person, which was not worth the convenience in my opinion.)


After we grabbed our stuff, it was time to head home so we could take a breather after going, going, going since waking up. While the hubby was relaxing, I got my #FlatCarlee together to make sure I had everything I needed. (I saw a picture of the medal a few days before the race and decided to build my race day outfit around the color scheme.)

The goal for this race's #FlatCarlee was to match the race medal ;) Yellow PRO Compression socks, Limited Edition Mermaid Sparkle
Athletic Skirt
, homemade trucker (felt and hot glue are magical), yellow Handful sports bra, Nathan handheld, PROBAR BOLT chews,
tank from Graced by Grit, elite Road ID, blue and white QALO silicone wedding bands, navy Momentum Jewelry wraps, yellow
MudLOVE inspirational band
, COROS APEX Multisport Watch, and Brooks Ghost 11 (with navy Shwings).

Seeing as this race is in our backyard, we didn't have to get up crazy early to get there, but with 6,000+ runners we had to keep parking in mind. Our game plan was to leave by 6:15am so we could get to Encinitas around 6:30. We figured we'd park in a nearby neighborhood rather than trying to fight for a spot in one of the lots near the start (and it worked out perfectly). {PS They did offer shuttles but we didn't use them.} We hoped to be parked around 6:45 so we could walk to Moonlight Beach where the start/ finish line was to meet-up with some friends before the 7:30am start time.

Our plan ran smoothly and on the walk over to the start we actually were able to use some of the port-o-potties at one of the aid stations we went by (no lines and seemed like they hadn't been used - SCORE!). When we got over to the start area it seemed to be a bit of a cluster and I'm sad to report the sentiment stayed that way for much of the day...


The Moonlight Beach parking lot is not overtly large and they had it chocked full with lines of port-o-potties (although there seemed to be a decent amount, the lines were insanely long from when we arrived until well after we went to our "corral"), vendor tents, a billion and a half runners, etc. Since this was my first year running this race, I'm not sure if this is how it has been in years past or if the popularity of the race has increased exponentially and they've outgrown the space.


When 7:30am got closer, we made our way to the start line... Well, we tried... Like I mentioned, the area was pretty jammed packed and the way the starting line was set up, the corrals were a nightmare. There was supposed to be a wave start, but they didn't have the waves clearly defined (although it was helpful that there were pacers in the hordes of people so you could sort of line up with the correct pace... if you could squeeze through the crowd). It was a hot mess.

People, people everywhere!

Since the hubby and I weren't "racing" (I ran 24 miles on Friday and he was dealing with hip issues), we decided not to fight the mass of runners, but wished our friends who were shooting for PRs luck and told them to keep inching forward.

Ready to make the most out of whatever this race gives us!

Soon enough Rudy and Fitz (love hearing familiar voices at races) were counting us down from 10 and we were off!


Here's where I have to put a BIG disclaimer. Because this race is so close to where we live, I run the majority of the course during my long runs. With that said, I realize I'm probably a little bias when it comes to this race because I can (and do) run this area for free at least twice a month - so you may want to take what I have to say with a grain of salt ;). Even still, I gotta #KeepItReal, especially with the pretty penny of registration (when I registered it was $125 for the half).


Let me start off with the positives for the race. First, the views are GORGEOUS! I mean, it's why I run Encinitas so often. Running on the 101, with the Pacific Ocean to your west, it's hard to beat! We're blessed with such beauty all around us!


Next, the spectators were great. The race start was a little later than other races (not starting until 7:30am), so I felt like that gave folks time to have breakfast and their morning coffee before rolling out to cheer on the runners. I felt like there was decent crowd support the majority of the way (and we even saw a bunch of friends out spectating).

Photo bombs are the best... (PS This is a son of our friends' so it wasn't completely random, but
awesome just the same!) Which one is the #CardiffKook?!

One of the aid stations had some motivational signs after it - always appreciated!

My one and only character stop!

Third, um.... third.... the medals were awesome. I loved the color of them, the size was substantial and it include a few fun Encinitas features (although, I donate my half marathon race medals to Medals4Mettle so I won't be keeping it).

With the hubby's tight hips that we had to stop and stretch a few times, the warm temps and the rolling hills, we were
very proud with the time we were able to finish with! It was my 52nd half and the hubby's 18th! 

Unfortunately that might be where the pros for this race end... Now, don't get me wrong, if you were using this as a racecation (it's hard to beat the San Diego area) or if you were in town already and wanted to get in some miles, this wouldn't be the worst race in the world, but because I'm local and can run here anytime I want, the cons were rough.


First, the course was way too narrow (and this was after the big cluster at the start line with a poorly executed starting area and corral set-up). I would say unless you were running sub-1:40 or so, the width of the course was not adequate for the number of runners. The majority of this course was out and back sections, which meant the runners were sharing a lane (or a lane plus a bike lane) of traffic so the street could still be open to traffic. There were cones to dictate where runners should be, but often because of the large quantity of people, they would be spilling into the other side (where oncoming runners were). I'm not sure if spreading out the wave start would help this or if the race should consider looking into the possibility of closing the roads so the runners could spread across the entire area rather than being stuck into sharing such a small space, but I know I felt like we didn't have enough room to run comfortably for most of the race.

Not sure if hubby was trying to mimic my face or was silently screaming after not having much room to run...

Next, the aid stations were rough. Don't get me wrong, I love volunteers (and recommend each and every one of us volunteers at races to give back to the running community), so this isn't necessarily directed at them, but I still have to say it. With 6,500 runners, we need more tables (and therefore volunteers) at each aid station. I felt like there were an adequate number of water stops, but there weren't enough folks there to hand out the cups. The hubby and I ran with handheld water bottles, but it started getting pretty warm once the sun came up so he wanted some electrolytes at a couple of the aid stations. At the ones he tried to stop at there was maybe one or two people handing out the electrolytes (so he ended up passing them without even realizing it). He also wanted to fill up his handheld later in the race and ended up having to grab cups off the table to pour into his bottle because there was no one with a jug to refill him. If you know the hubby, you know he is not one to get easily flustered, but he was pretty frustrated with this for the entire race.

The official aid stations may have been less than stellar, but the unofficial Otter Pop stop
at one of the local churches was AMAZEBALLS! Thanks Light Church!

Also, the post-race party was more of a cluster as well. Apparently where they held it was new this year (it was in the Bazaar Marketplace). Let's just say the theme of overcrowding held strong to the end. Not only was it packed, there wasn't a convenient way to go to it from the finish line. Most people we saw were crossing the course (while people were still running) and then a lane of traffic. There were no signs or directions given on how to safely (and properly) get there, so it just seemed like runners were doing what they wanted to get there. (At least the hubby enjoyed the free beer he got.) Since this was the first year of having the festivities in this location I'm not sure if they'll do it there again in the future, but if they do be prepared to have to worm your way through the crowds to find friends or wait in a line for a post-race brew.

Although we did enjoy the photo booth...

So, as I'm sure you've gathered by this point, this is a race I'd pass on in the future. Now, I do have to say, I won entries, so we didn't pay to run it in the first place, but unless I received more free entries I probably wouldn't do it. Hear me out, though, that isn't to say you shouldn't. Like I said, I am spoiled because I get to run here anytime I want. If you are looking for a gorgeous North County San Diego race, then you may totally be interested in it, but for me, the cost isn't worth it.

We found this wall on the walk over to the beer garden. It doesn't scream Encinitas, but it screams FUN!

With that said, if you are looking to run this race in the future, one way to make it worth it is to save money... And in one of the nine hundred emails I received for this race (I swear we got one every day for at least the two weeks before the race reminding us of our bib numbers and when the expo would be open), it said if you register for the 2020 race before 11:59pm PST on April 6th you can save 50% (off the price you would pay if you wait to sign up at the expo next year).

Shoot, you don't even have to go to the poppy fields to enjoy the state flower...
The poppies are growing like weeds in the medians in Encinitas!

**UPDATE: Since posting my original recap I have been made aware of the AMAZING work this race company does for the community (in the 11 emails I received between registering and running the race, this fundraising aspect was never mentioned, nor is it predominately referenced on the website where I registered, so I'm appreciative of the folks who mentioned it). They have given over $180,000 to to the community for special needs children, disabled veterans, ocean-minded public art, scholarships, etc. I'm stoked to hear about the difference they're making and obviously the fundraising/ donation aspect is a MAJOR pro for the race. With that said, their generosity does not change the frustrations we ran into during the race. I've heard from a number of folks who love the race and think it’s the best, and quite a few folks who have had the same issues we did and thanked me for sharing my experience. No matter if you love a race or you hate it, you have the right to your opinion (and should be able to voice that opinion as long as you're respectful). I always try to do my best to share constructive criticism and let others know what they may encounter so if they decide to spend their hard earned pennies on an event they're fully aware of what to expect. This race may not be for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for you. (And, shoot, if you do run it, let me know so I can grab my signs and noisemakers to cheer you on!)**

Do you have a hard time paying for local races if you run the route on a regular basis?


Bree at Clarity Defined said...

I’ve never run Encinitas because I did Surfing Madonna the fall before the first Encinitas and I had many of the same complaints about that race as you did about this one (and I figured being run by the same company I’d be frustrated).

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah. How spoiled are you? Would have loved to run that race esp for free. you get in for free and then bitch about it? I for one won't be taking any of your blogs seriously anymore. Could understand if you paid. I heard it was crowded, but your crying over spilled milk. you definitely don't "keep it real". Peace.

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the views along the way! As for being crowded, yep, we all had a a few friends out there to run with. So just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the day : )
After all, this is North County and we all come together to enjoy the day, whatever the day gives us.
All the best on your next race!!

Megan McCarthy said...

This event gives back $180,000 of it's proceeds to help protect the local coastline, special needs youth and much more. I don't know of any other smaller race that does that. Reviews are great to read, but it seems A LOT was overlooked in your review. To say that the bad outweighs the good is just plain odd. All in all, one review really makes no bit of difference anyway. For every 1 person that doesn't like an event, there's 1000 that do. Can't make everyone happy lol.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a thorough review from your perspective. It seems like the criticism comes from the fact that you have a large social media following. To comment so negatively on a race without doing your research and even knowing it’s a charity race, seems irresponsible. Charity races are bare bones for a make the biggest financial impact for their cause! You make the argument that your review is what you’d tell a friend...but your platform isn’t speaking just to friends and there are certainly many who might read your review and make a decision based on a very limited set of facts about the race and your negative opinion. It’s up to you if you feel you have a responsibility to be a conscientious reviewer and present all the facts along with your experience.

Anonymous said...

HAHA 😂 This woman is definitely not keeping it real! One of my friends in the running club gave her a free entry, because she lives in Oceanside and thought she'd have a great time. So, she didn't pay a penny to run in the race. In her first blog, she describes how great of time she had and then in her next blog she writes how horrible it was for her. Really keeping? Hmmm. This woman has quite a reputation for being a bit full of herself in the running community. I'm not a fan and normally wouldn't care to even address this, but being a participant, volunteer and elite athlete I can certainly say, this women is nuttzo 😂