Monterey Bay Half Marathon Race Recap

The Monterey Bay Half Marathon #MontereyBayHM in mid-November is a Running Lushes favorite and the 2017 race did not disappoint.  Here are our thoughts from the race last weekend!

Monterey, CA  is a very scenic ocean front town most famous for its historic Cannery Row, striking views, the Monterey Bay aquarium, and most recently where Big Little Lies was filmed. It is a 2 hour drive from San Francisco and is the perfect race destination and weekend getaway.

Race Communications, Expo & Swag

  • Excellent pre-race communications, including all race weekend specifics, maps, timing, etc.
  • Finisher t-shirts:  The shirts are Asics brand and are a high quality long sleeve; however, the women’s version is hot pink. We are not sure why the race felt the need to have gender specific colors.  The men’s version was a neon yellow, which we would have preferred over pink as it makes a good visible shirt for night running.
  • Finisher medal: As per the tradition of this race, the medal is clay with artistic sea lion.  We like the unusual look of the medal, but be careful because unlike a traditional medal, this one can break!  Also, this year the medals were also gender specific and the women’s version had pink trim, and the men’s had yellow.  Not sure why the race organizers felt the need to match the medals with the t-shirts, and we encourage them to move toward a less traditional girl color such as pink for future races.
  • The expo is relatively small, but well organized.  Some of our favorites were there, such as Nuun, The Santa Rosa Marathon, and Fitletic, but we would have liked to see additional vendors and a larger expo.

Race Start, Corrals and Pacers

  • The start of the race is very near the downtown hotels where many race participants stay, which makes it very convenient. The start time is a little early, with the Elite Women starting at 6:50am.  The elite men and women are clock timed, and the women were given an approximate 9 minute lead before the elite men started the race. The corrals are well marked and appear to be flexible.  There were no race personnel watching which runners went into particular corrals.
  • There were numerous individuals pacing the race and they did an excellent job.  The pacers were well organized and did a great job maintaining the pace in their groups.  And they had enough pacers in the large pace groups to have pacers in the front and back of the group.
  • The Honor Guard presentation and the singing of the Star Spangled banner at race start is especially moving given that the race takes place on Veteran’s Day weekend.
  • The race announcer did a great service to the runners by reiterating proper race etiquette, such as how to slow down or stop on the course, how to go through water stops, etc.  Running Lushes are huge supporters of proper running etiquette, and our observation was that participants followed the suggestions!

Race Course

  • The course runs through downtown Monterey, through the historic Cannery Row, through the town of Pacific Grove and then out and back along the Monterey Bay coast line.  The view of the ocean waves cresting on the rocks, sea lions sunning on the beach and the picturesque boat harbor are absolutely breathtaking.  However, it is surprisingly challenging as it features rolling hills the entire way!
  • Along the course, you’ll find well-stocked water stops (with both water and electrolyte) and 2 GU stations.  The course is supported by local volunteers and entire town of Pacific Grove comes out to cheer you on.   You’ll find plenty of entertainment along the way — bagpipes playing at sunrise, the pianist playing Chariots of fire in downtown, the Brazilian dancers, the multiple DJs, bands, cheer squads, the Taiko drummers at the turnaround, penguins and fish cheerleaders and even the Flintstones!
  • There is a fairly long tunnel in the beginning of the race, and running through it is an interesting experience.  It is dark, but illuminated with neon lights inside.  There is a strong echo and we found that between the dark and the echo, it made for a dizzying experience.  In addition, one of our runners lost their GPS signal while inside which threw off her pacing for the race — she was a bit disappointed when she thought she had PR’d based on her sport watch timing.

Finisher Zone

 

  • The finish line is in the marina with picturesque views of the harbor.  There was good signage that indicated 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile to race end and it was nice to be able to see the Finish sign as you came down the final hill.
  • The runner end zone is very well organized and big enough for runners to finish, get their medals and walk through without getting in the way of other finishers.
  • The finisher zone is in a plaza with a central stage and had a great party and race community vibe.  You are able to see the elite finishers receive their prizes, as well as the entertainment (the band was excellent).
  • Food and snacks are plentiful!  There was hot soup, Lagunitas beer, cookies, juice, chocolate milk, bananas and chips.  And unlike some races, they provide a snack box to hold your food, which is great when your hands are full!
  • Unfortunately, there was no non-beer alternatives at end of race.  We loved the options last year when Barefoot had pineapple mimosas.  Let’s bring them back please!
  • Live tracking appeared to have some issues.  There was a significant lag between when runners hit the various timing pads and when the notifications were sent.  It took nearly an hour to receive the “live” tracking finish notification after actually crossing the finish line.

Overall, this is a beautiful, challenging race and destination worthy.  You should definitely consider putting this race on your 2018 race calendar. The Running Lushes will look forward to seeing you there!

Resources

There are great food, bar and hotel options in Monterey and the surrounding area. However, Monterey is fairly small so it is recommended to make reservations in advance to ensure you aren’t going to experience a long wait to eat the night before the race!

Eat:

  • Paluca Trattoria – on the wharf and has traditional italian food and nice wine list. We had excellent service by Heather (who would make an excellent Running Lush by the way)
  • Cibo  – is a good choice for pre-race carb loading and good for larger groups

Drink:

  • Peter Bs – sports bar and restaurant with traditional pub fare and features Bloody Mary and beer specials.  It is right at the finish line but can get loud inside during game times.
  • Crown and Anchor – traditional English pub right downtown with good food and full bar, read..Bloody Marys
  • Alvarado Street Brewery – we did not go here, but was on our list to try based on their menu and extensive beer list. Plus they had a full bar for Bloody Marys

Stay:

  • Portola Hotel and Spa – Nautical themed hotel which is also the Expo location. It is centrally located for this race, clean, and comfortable beds. The warm cookies and friendly lobby staff were nice touches. We did find it loud during the night with noise coming from the street outside so something to consider with room location.
  • Monterey Marriott – this is a great location and a good choice if you can get the race rate.
  • Casa Munras – this hotel is a little further from the race activities, but still walkable to downtown and the start line.  It is clean and good economical choice for this race.

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