There are half-marathons held somewhere in California — and especially Southern California — virtually every weekend of the year. A good guide is http://www.HalfMarathons.net. What follows is a look at some of the region's most popular half-marathons and running organizations that offer training programs.
First-timers will do well to choose a big race — with plenty of support, such as portable bathrooms and water stations — and a flat course. Choosing a half-marathon that is being staged alongside a full marathon also means less pressure to finish by a particular time so that streets can be reopened to traffic. Final tip: Arrive early to accommodate traffic, parking and bathroom lines.
Here are seven of Southern California's most popular half-marathons:
2013 Long Beach ICB Marathon & Half Marathon
The half-marathon takes runners along a mostly flat scenic course with waterfront views. This race is particularly friendly to walkers and slower runners, and is known for its outstanding volunteer crew. Water stops are frequent, and the outbound course takes racers past plenty of beach-side accommodations where competitors can use a real bathroom — so preferable to portable toilets.
Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles
This half-marathon takes place right before Halloween, which means plenty of costumed competitors to take your mind off your feet. Participants are expected to finish within four hours. The mostly flat course starts and ends at L.A. Live, which doesn't make for the most scenic route but does mean plenty of parking. Still, arrive early, because traffic can snarl as race time nears.
Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon & Half Marathon
The rare race held on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, it makes a nice excuse for a getaway weekend. (Sunday races pretty much dictate that Saturday is a rest day.) Bonus: When you finish the rolling coastal course, you'll be in one of the most picturesque places in America. There is one "major" half-mile climb near the end. Walkers are welcomed.
Malibu International Marathon & Half Marathon
You'll want to incorporate some hill training for this one. The half-marathon race traverses some of the most beautiful coastline in Southern California, with rolling hills marking the final six miles before finishing in Malibu. This is another race that requires early arrival; shuttle buses take runners to the starting line.
Divas Half Marathon
Men are allowed to register for this race staged in and around Ontario, but this is one half-marathon dedicated to girl power. Translation: Expect a sea of pink racing outfits, tutus and tiaras. That said, organizers ask racers to stick to a course time limit of 31/2 hours, which translates into a 16-minute pace, pretty brisk for walkers. Blissfully flat course.
Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon
Feb. 2, 2014
You'd be hard-pressed to come up with a flatter, faster more scenic route than the one that starts and ends near the Huntington Beach Pier, a.k.a. the symbolic backdrop for Surf City USA. An ideal race for beginners and walkers. Plan to arrive extra early, because beach-front parking goes fast. And the farther you park away from the finish line, the longer you have to walk after the race. As with Long Beach, racers here will appreciate the ability to use real bathrooms.
Orange County Marathon & Half Marathon
May 4, 2014
This race is friendly to walkers and slower runners, boasts plenty of race support and some scenic ocean views. But one of the big advantages of this race? The parking. Participants park at the O.C. Fair & Event Center, which means easy in-and-out parking and plenty of bathrooms when you arrive. Competitors take shuttle buses to the start.
Many races offer their own training programs, and you can find out more at race websites. Here are three popular Southern California training programs that aim to take you from couch potato to half-marathoner — and even marathoner:
Los Angeles Leggers
Training takes place along Santa Monica Bay and is tailored for 7-minute-per-mile runners to 18-minute-per-mile walkers.
His famed run/walk training programs are held throughout Southern California, including in Long Beach and Ventura and San Diego counties.
The popular chain of running shops hosts running programs in Brea, Monrovia, Mission Viejo and Fountain Valley (which takes runners up and down Orange County's stunning shoreline.)
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