Race Spotlight: America’s Finest City Half Marathon
When you sign up for this race be prepared: your friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances ,and just about everyone you know will want to come with you. And for good reason. Dubbed “America’s Finest City” in the late ‘70s by the mayor and by Look magazine, San Diego has lived up to its nickname. With its 40th anniversary this year, America’s Finest City Half Marathon aims to showcase all of the city’s natural beauty though its scenic point-to-point course and lively after race events.
A course can make or break a race. Not scientifically proven but pretty much any runner can attest to it. Whether it’s a 5K or ultra marathon, if the course isn’t orchestrated just right, or lacks interesting views or terrain, oftentimes it can lead to a less motivated run. Which can cause you to not hit your goal finishing time or achieve a personal record. America’s Finest City makes sure that’s not a problem.
The half marathon course is about scenic as race courses can get, boasting views of the San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean almost every mile. Runners are bussed to the starting line at the Cabrillo National Monument (honoring Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the West Coast in 1542) with the bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Runners will continue through roughly three miles of residential neighborhoods leading them down along the San Diego Bay, running past the 19th century Star of India ship. The race then takes runners through downtown San Diego and rises up to the finish, weaving runners around the historic buildings of the 1915 Pan Pacific Exhibition in Balboa Park (a 1,200 acre urban cultural park housing 15 museums and the world famous San Diego Zoo). You’ll feel like a champion finishing right outside of the Hall of Champions Museum in the park.
The success of this course has been proven time and time again as runners have broken countless records in its 40 year history. On the race’s inaugural year Marty Cooksey, Orange, California resident, set an American Record for women in a time of 1:15:04. In 1979, Kathy Mintie then set another American Record, completing the race in 1:14:50. Then in 1980, Laurie Binder of San Diego ran it 1:14:45. The men’s race isn’t short of titles either. In 1981, on a cool, foggy morning, local resident Kirk Pfeffer finished the race in 1:02:55. This record stood for top male competitors around the world for 16 years, until 1997 when Patrick Muturi of Kenya finished in 1:02:51 on the race’s 20th Anniversary.
Reasons to Run
If the views and ideal course aren’t enough motivation to finish the half marathon, race coordinators have a few more tricks up their sleeves. New this year for the 40th anniversary will be a beer garden at the finish line featuring Ballast Point beers and Rubio’s Coastal Grill chips and guacamole (included with your entry fee). Plus, finishers will be privy to live bands and local vendors at the finish line festival.
America’s Finest City Half Marathon is also the last race in the Triple Crown series which recognizes dedicated athletes who commit to completing a trio of scenic Southern California half marathons within the same calendar year. Finishers will be honored with an impressive commemorative medal plus major bragging rights for completing the well known Southern California challenge.
Since the race’s inception in 1978 millions of dollars have been donated to local and national nonprofits like the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation (where the race starts), Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, San Diego Fire and Rescue and Friends of Balboa Park (location of the race’s finish line).
If your friends or family members want to partake in the fun, but aren’t interested in running a half marathon, there is also a 5K version of the race that finishes in the same spot as the half marathon. Plus 5K finishers can still partake in all the finish line festivities, beer garden and all.
On top of beautiful, coastal views and great post race activities, San Diego is simply a place where you want to run. While the race is in late August, the average race day temperature is a cool 68 degrees. Once you’ve made your way through the finish line festival you won’t be searching for things to do the rest of the day.
San Diego is a craft beer mecca boasting over 120 breweries. Finding your favorite brewery sounds like perfect way to forget about sore post race legs. But if breweries are not your thing, San Diego has incredible stretches of beaches up the coast, 70 miles to be exact, each with distinct coast lines and local businesses.
Make sure you sign up soon – this year’s race is August 20, 2017 and it fills up quickly. Spots cap off at 7,000 entrants, with runners representing 44 states and 18 countries. And if you need one more reason to sign up for America’s Finest City Half Marathon, take it from the race organizers who say, “The 40th anniversary will feature 70’s inspired race shirt design and finisher’s medal with spinning disco ball and [we] encourage all participants to bring out their inner groovy for this special anniversary run!”