Disclaimer: I received a free entry into Monterey Bay Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
This was my second and final half marathon of 2017, and I have to say, I think my favorite half marathon to date. The race was in beautiful Monterey and Pacific Grove, so how could you not love it?! Going in I was a little concerned about the hills because me and hills weren’t really friends last year, even though I love running them.
The course started on Del Monte Ave near Monterey Bay Park. It was a great location to start – easy access to the start line, plenty of space to warm up and it was easy to find your corral. The announcers at the start were great. They got they crowed hyped, make jokes, and created a great race start vibe. We started the race by running around El Estero Lake, and started off with beautiful views right away. I wasn’t 100% sure what my plan for race day was going to be, which isn’t a great strategy at all, but I wanted to see how I felt. The first couple of miles I was conservative, waiting for those hills to see how I’d feel.
Just after mile one we ran through a tunnel and headed towards Pacific Grove and the first hill. The tunnel was a fun experience, there were colored lights & music and a few people in costumes. I love seeing/experiencing things like that, unique aspects of a race that make it stand out. After the tunnel we got to run through Cannery Row, another really cool and unique experience! As you head into PG there were more people out there cheering us on, and ocean views for days!! At mile 3.5ish was the longest and steepest hill of the race. I easily tackled that hill, passing just about everyone (thanks to my weekly hill repeat training!) My only issue was about half way up the hill they had the runners move to the right to let a truck through. I don’t know what was going on but I’m sure there was a good reason for it. I highly doubt a race would do that without a good reason. However, running up a long, steep hill then being told to stop and run around a truck was a disappointment. Had it been the flat part of the course that would have been easier to do. I was just annoyed because I was killing that hill and this incident really slowed me down. But there was a good down hill right after this uphill, so hopefully I made up time there 😉
Near mile 5 I started feeling good so I decided to pick up the pace and see if I could run a 1:48 – it wasn’t likely given my first 5 miles were 8:30-8:20 but I thought I’d try. As long as I ran faster than San Jose (my first half of 2017) I was going to be happy. The half marathons I ran last year ranged from 2:17 – 2:08 so if I could be in the 1:50 range I would consider that a successful race. I picked a good time to pick up my pace because that was the time the elites started running by. It gave me a boost of energy watching them speed by me! I usually don’t like out and back courses but when you have an impressive elite field and ocean views, an out and back really isn’t a bad course to run. Miles 4 – 11.5ish you are along the coast the whole time. Running in PG was my favorite part of the race – minus the headwind. But I loved having the community out there cheering us on. At the turn around, right before mile 8 is where we had a really large crowd. It as at this point things started to get hard for me.
I had a moment where I thought, maybe I’ll slow back down and just take it easy. I don’t need to try to race…then a man came up to me and told me he had been using me to pace him the whole way. He said I really looked like I knew what I was doing and asked if I ran a lot. I let him know I’d run many races but never this course. He told me this was only his second half and he was running much faster than he thought he’d be able to, then thanked me for that (even though it was mostly his hard work, I’m sure). I told him that was good to hear and he actually just encouraged me not to slow down. So from about mile 8 – 12 we kept passing each other, encouraging each other along the way. Finally, at the last mile he came up to me and told me his previous half was a 1:57 and he was hoping to get at least a 1:55, and asked if I thought he could do it. We were on pace to hit a 1:49 so I told him go for it, he was definitely going to beat his previous time. I tried to keep up with him but my legs were done. I came in about 20 seconds after he did and he waited for me at the finish. He gave me a high five and thanked me again. I thanked him as well because he pushed me to keep pushing myself – even if it wasn’t intentional.
I usually carry my phone with me but I didn’t at this race and I wished I had it so we could have gotten a photo together. But going through the pictures that my boyfriend took of me at the beginning I found him in one!! He really was with me from the start of the race. This photo was before the first mile.
Miles 10 – 13 were tough for me. I pushed as hard as I could and overall, I ran a pretty decent race for where my running fitness is currently at. The last 3 miles were a little crowded but it wasn’t too hard to squeeze by people. These miles were on a bike path rather than the road. We finished near the wharf and were greeted with our medals, food and smiling volunteers.
I only have one negative thing to say about this race…and it’s less negative than I first thought. By that I mean, I hated the race shirt when I got it. I don’t like the color pink and I especially don’t like it when I have to get something pink because I am a woman. The race shirts and medals for the women were pink. The men got a cool green/yellow color. When I was in line to get my medal the volunteer told me I was in the wrong line and pointed me to the pink medals. But the more I look at the shirt the more I like it, it is actually a decent pink color. I do LOVE the medal – and I’m not even a medal person. They are hand crafted by local artist, Kathleen Kelly.
Other than that I LOVED this race from start to finish. It was well organized, the volunteers were great, the community was supportive and they had great cheer stations. I also noticed they had sustainability stations (at least that is what I am calling them) and volunteers at each station telling you where to put your trash. They had bottle refill stations on the course, and instead of a bottle of water at the finish they gave you a small cup…because let’s be honest, those water bottle ends up half full in the trash. One of the sustainability volunteers let me take her photo – such nice volunteers at this race! I love that more and more races are focusing on going green!
Thank you to the peeps at Big Sur Marathon Events for putting on such a great race! I had a wonderful time and I might make this race a yearly to do race. It was just that good!
You can check out my race review on BibRave.com