Marathon and a Half really rocks
“So when you adding a half marathon?”As the race director of the old Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, Kari Logan was asked one question more than any other by runners.
Come Sunday, the shorts and singlet set get their wish. In Year 13, the event that introduced the entertainment concept of on-course bands and cheerleaders undergoes the biggest changes since its inception.
No longer just a 26.2-mile block party, it’s now the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & Half. There’s also a new marathon course and a new finish at SeaWorld, moving Logan to say, “It’s almost like an inaugural event.”
Since 2003, the half marathon has been road racing’s fastest-growing distance in the United States. Since 2002, more than 20 new half marathons per year have cropped up on racing schedules.
Despite managing eight other events that now feature full and half marathons, Rock ’n’ Roll organizers resisted the temptation to add a half for years.
“We liked the fact it was a stand-alone marathon,” Logan said.
Plus, there were logistical issues.
Tracy Sundlun, a vice president for the Competitor Group, which owns the event, said by using the old finish at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot “we would have been unable to do this without severely impacting the community. Too many people would have been enclosed by the race.”
When an MCRD barracks expansion forced the race to find a new finish it created the opportunity to include a half marathon.
In January, the expectation was that the half marathon would draw 16,500 entrants to 8,500 for the marathon. Instead, each race has topped out at 15,000.
“(That) shows how loyal our marathon base is,” said Logan.
Last year, the marathon drew 15,189 participants. Even with a typical 15 percent no-show by registered runners, organizers are looking at the probability of 25,000 runners Sunday. That would represent a 65 percent increase compared to last year.
Given that both races start at 6:15 a.m., at the same place in Balboa Park and that the marathon and half-marathon runners will share the road the first four miles, some are concerned about congestion.
“I think runners could run into slower runners given the way the course is set up,” said Paul Greer, who coaches the San Diego Track Club’s marathon and half marathon training programs.
To alleviate congestion, runners will be released in waves of about 750 every 60 to 90 seconds. The first group will start at 6:15 a.m. The last heads off at 7:11.
After four miles, the half marathoners head northbound in the southbound 163 lanes, then west on Friars Road. The marathoners make a five-mile downtown loop before heading onto 163. Separated by cones, the marathoners and half marathoners will cover nearly six miles together on 163 and Friars.
Saying that organizers have used the wave start at least 20 times, Sundlun said, “I am 100 percent confident that the run on the course will feel comfortable.”
Of the 15,000 who signed up for the half marathon, 72 percent are women, 15 percent above last year’s national average. According to Running USA, a nonprofit distance-running organization, in 1985 women made up fewer than 20 percent of half-marathon finishers in the United States.
Why so many women in the half?
“We hear the exact same thing over and over,” said Dawna Stone, publisher of Women’s Running Magazine and the founder of a women’s half-marathon series. “They say, ‘I can fit in half-marathon training and still not take away from my kids, my spouse, my job and still accomplish something so amazing.’ Women who have done a marathon or an Ironman triathlon feel it takes away so much from their daily life.”
Point Loma’s Cameron Cardoza is part of the San Diego chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program. She’s running the half marathon in honor of her aunt, Rosalie Ramirez, who passed away April 10 from lung cancer.
“Women have a sensitive and emotional side,” said Cardoza. “It’s not the run so much. It’s about relieving tension, clearing your head and thinking about things.”
By comparison, men comprised 59 percent of last year’s U.S. marathon finishers. Cheryl Sheremeta thinks there’s a simple reason why women outnumber men at the half marathon.
“Maybe it’s because women have more common sense,” said Sheremeta, who coaches the local Team In Training program.
“Men tend to be a little more aggressive. They don’t want to feel less than. Maybe they’re more inclined to just go for the long distance to appear more masculine, macho.”
The new marathon course will feature some subtle and not-so-subtle changes.
Instead of running around Balboa Park, the course cuts through the park, directly toward the California Tower and Old Globe Theatre, past museums and the Spreckles Organ Pavilion.
Instead of running around Petco Park, it cuts through the Padres’ home, behind the scoreboard and in front of the Park at the Park.
But the 26.2-mile route’s biggest change comes on the backside. At a time when runners figure to be hurting, the last eight miles offer views of Mission Bay. The old course provided far less views of the water.
“You see the water, you see our beaches, you see a whole of San Diego,” said Sundlun.
Added Greer, “I think it’s showing off San Diego at its best.”