Race Report: Santa Barbara International Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

welcome banner at Earl Warren

 Day 1: Packet Pick Up  

Over the course of the last couple days the Santa Barbara International Marathon & Half Marathon  has had a fair share of frustrations and excitements. Perhaps some of the frustrations come with being more familiar with larger races and the set up of the race expo & packet pick up.

race shirt & bib w. “RUN4WILL”

The first impression walking up to the Earl Warren Showgrounds was, “this is pretty different, easy parking, maybe get in and out very quickly.” Well perhaps this could be something that could be done pretty quickly except for a few minor items. The first, bib pick up was done by numerical order rather than alpha order, so I had to first figure out my bib number then get to the correct area. The second, was picking up the shirt was across the expo, so there was no progressive line where you went from bib pick up to t-shirts, it was get your number and walk through the expo to get you shirt. Then the third thing, was the “runner” info was at the front of the expo, by the entrance. Typically in other races I would get my stuff together first and then look to see if there were any questions unanswered. In this case there were a couple questions I had to I had to venture my way to the beginning. The people at the info booth were very nice, but not very helpful. My question was simple, “is there a shuttle from my hotel (a host hotel on their website) to the start of the half marathon?” None of the volunteers at the booth knew the answer. By the time I got to the expo it was around 4:30 pm, 6 hours after the expo had opened. Surely I couldn’t be the only one wondering that question.

Nonetheless, packet pick up was completed. Yes, parking was easy to get to and for the most part painless but still a bit unorganized if you ask me.

Half Marathon Morning: PRE-RACE

The hotel which I stayed at, Santa Barbara Ramada Limited, did a great job for runners that morning. They opened up the breakfast area at 5:30 am to accommodate to the early morning runners. From what I could tell, they typically open the breakfast up at 7:00 am for guest. However this weekend their facility was full of runners, some 6,000 runners took part in the half marathon, with around 3,000 runners taking part in the full marathon. The breakfast was simple but yet well stocked for runners. I was able to get what I normally need before a long run just like at home. My cup of coffee along with a toasted cinnamon and raisin bagel.

Breakfast provided for a little morning entertainment as runners started to grab their breakfast. One guy who was near me in line as I waited for my bagel to toast gave me a good chuckle. He was loading up his plate with some eggs, danishes and a bowl of cereal. He commented out load, “I normally don’t eat breakfast like this at home, but since I am running my first half marathon, I need to load up.” Well sir, I hope that strategy worked for you. At one point I was contemplating looking for this guy at the start line to run along with him to see how that strategy went. I really wouldn’t do that, but there was a sense of curiosity that did kick in.

sporting my #SFM2012 shirt at the start

After my morning bagel and cup of coffee, Bethany and Donovan dropped me off at the half marathon start area which was located at the Page Youth Center, just 2 miles away from our hotel. The starting area for the half marathon was pretty easy to maneuver through, along with the spacious area runners got to hang out there were plenty of port-o-potties for any pre-race bathroom trips. The half marathon start also played various types of music and provided the runners with some early morning entertainment with a pretty decent MC. In this staging area there was plenty of room to warm-up and keep your gear. As the race time started to near, 7:15 am start. The MC encouraged wave 1 runners to make their way to the starting area. As we made our way up we were able to drop off our gear at the gear check in. One thing I liked about this gear check in was they did not waste plastic bags. In fact they provided you a bag tag that you zip tied onto your stuff before turning it in.

Once I got in goods turned in and took in my final pre-race food (this race I tried a new product to me Energy Bits). I sorted my way up to the front, where I got a couple more warm-up strides in and just hung out awaiting for it to all go down. Up at the front of the pack, I was fortunate enough to meet and be interviewed by The Marathon Show host Joe Taricani. We talked about the beautiful weather, as it was a bit cold but the skies were blue. He also talked to me about my pace for that race, and my goal in December to qualify for the Boston Marathon by running a sub 3:05 at the upcoming California International Marathon. Along with meeting Joe, I met other runners from California who had some pretty ambitious goals for the half marathon. I hope they all got their goal for the day. I was only able to chat with one of them at the finish where he wanted to run a 1:35 and was able to get in at 1:32:50.

After a butchered bagpipe version of God Bless America, there was a pretty cool fly over by 3 F-30s to start of the race. However, the bagpipe again butchered a the “CHARGE” song before we took off, 15 minutes later than scheduled.


Off went the horn to start us on our way. The start of the course was pretty flat in fact downhill for most of the first mile. I ran the first mile a littler quicker than I wanted to and hoped that this wouldn’t cause me any issues at the end. Mile 1 was completed at a time of 6:30. Moving into miles 2, 3 and 4 the course was pretty empty as far as supporters, we moved into their recreational trail in and around some of the housing developments. These miles seemed to be where I wanted as far as pace, but I was still feeling really good except for the need to find a quick port-o-pottie stop. These miles I ran with splits of 6:50, 6:28, and 6:30.

As I got closer to the mile 5 marker which was still on the recreation trail, I found a quick stop moment. This stop cost me a few seconds as I ran mile five at a time of 6:55. I was still feeling good at this point as most of the course as a simple rolling hill with more drops than climbs so I was not complaining at this point. I knew I would have to “make a move” to make up for some time before I hit the 10 mile mark as that is where the largest climb starts. So from 6 through 10, I ran splits of 6:43, 6:49, 6:32, 6:22, and 6:19. I was feeling very good at this point and then started doing the math in my head what I needed to run the final 3.1 miles at in order to set a PR (previously 1:27).

So I got to the hill at this point and saw runners in front of my starting to struggle up the hill I decided to kick what I had and gut it out over the course of the next mile. Mile 11 was my slowest mile and my only mile which I was over 7 minutes, I ran it at 7:17. So at this point we make it to the top of the climb and are welcomed with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. This view would stay with us for the final 2.1 miles. As I started the downhill towards Santa Barbara City College where the finish was, on my mind was I need to run sub 7:00s to PR. I did more than run sub 7s. In fact I ran the final two miles with splits of 6:09 and 6:08. I finished inside Santa Barbara City College with a clock time of 1:26:33.3 and a chip time of 1:26:28.7 (6:36/mile pace). This finish was good enough to finish 18th in the men’s 30-39 age group and 49th overall. Just to show how competitive my age group was , 18 of the top 50 were males 30-39 years old with first, second and third overall all coming from this age group.

While awaiting the final results and watching other half marathoners finish. Runners were allowed to hang out on the field inside the Santa Barbara Community College Stadium. During this time we were treated with another fly over with the same three F-30s that flew over us at the start. Even with unorganized packet pick up, and the 15 minute late start, I still enjoyed myself at the Santa Barbara International Marathon & Half Marathon. This might be one that I will visit again and perhaps run the 26.2 miler in the future.

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