San Francisco’s US Half Marathon (The “Other” Half as they call it, as there is also a US Half in November) has a few major pluses and many minor minuses, but overall the race can’t be beat for beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco. In fact, in many ways, this race is far superior to the well-known San Francisco Marathon and 1/2 Marathon.
First plus: Location. You can’t beat running over the Golden Gate Bridge and through Crissy Park for wonderful and exciting views. The view alone keeps your feet moving.
Second Plus: Number of racers. The San Francisco Marathon and 1/2 Marathon attracts almost 20,000 runners and the course is always crowded across the Golden Gate Bridge. With the US Half Marathon, there is enough room to be able to keep your pace – for the most part, anyway. This year had slightly less than 3,000 runners and this seems like an excellent number for the course.
Third Plus: Did I mention the views?
Fourth Plus: Whoever writes for their social media and emails has a great sense of humor and I like their writing style. It’s personal and doesn’t sound “corporate” which is a huge plus. It gives a warm, family-fun feel to the race and the social media engagement in a real, honest way makes you want to support their efforts.
FIFTH PLUS: I saved one of the best pluses for last. It might not seem like much, but getting your results instantly on your smartphone is one of the coolest things ever. Thanks to a QR code printed right on the bib, you can know your finish time and place immediately after you cross the finish line. You simply scan it with your phone and you’ll know just how you finished. No more crowding around boards with dot matrix paper looking and wondering. I wish more races would learn from US Half about this totally cool perk. Kudos to the US Half team for implementing this wonderful feature. I mean, sure we all say we’re just running against our own times and running our own race, but the first thing everyone wants to know… What time time did I finish and where in my Age Group? Once we get that information, then we act all casual about it.
But the US Half also has a few negatives.
First Negative: Water from Trash Cans. Some of the AID stations were using water from plastic-lined trash cans. From what I saw, the volunteers moved the water “buckets” near the tables, which caused some runners to actually dunk their own hands into the water. Despite protests from the volunteers, the water contamination was irrefutable. Fortunately, this wasn’t the norm, but water from fire hydrants or garbage cans (even if plastic lined and even if volunteers wear gloves – which these did not) is simply not acceptable (see my entry on the 2011 RnR Las Vegas Marathon). Too many diseases to catch and I’m glad I had my own water.
Second Negative: They placed the porta-potties after the start. This is a rather unusual arrangement. As the race started there were still huge lines in front of a mass of runners. I’m sure this had something to do with the city and not the organizers, so you can’t hold that against them. It was rather amusing, and not a huge negative, really.
Third Negative: No gu, gels, or food of any kind on the course. This, again, is not the fault of the organizers but rather of the regulatory officials. Sadly, too many runners can’t throw away wrappers in the proper places, and this leads to trash and environmental issues so they banned it from this race. Fortunately, I saw few gu wrappers or other trash other than at the AID stations, so although this is a negative as a runner, I can see why the rule is the way it is.
Fourth Negative (Positive): The SWAG bag is non-existent. I never much liked SWAG bags anyway, as it’s usually full of stuff I don’t need. On the other hand, half of my “emergency runner kit” I carry with me is made up from items I’ve gotten from SWAG bags (samples of pain relievers, band aids, etc). It’s not a huge negative, and some might call it a positive because it reduces needless paper waste. I find it a bit of a negative, but others might call it positive.
Fifth Negative (Positive): Hills. Yes, there are hills. It can be a negative if you are trying for a PR or, as in my case, you’re trying to run after an eight hour forty minute ultramarathon the day before. Of course, most people don’t do something as stupid as I did, and many love hills for the challenge. This could be viewed at best as only a slight negative anyway.
Sixth Negative: Parking. The parking garages claim they were not informed nor approached by the organizers for discounts on this group event. I spoke with the manager of the Anchorage Garage, and he claimed that he was completely unaware of the race. He claimed that, had he known, we would have given a discount to the runners. In case you’re wondering, it cost us $32 to park for four hours, and this is highway robbery in my opinion. Part of that cost could be defrayed with a partnership between the race and the garages which would benefit everyone. In the organizers defense, parking is rarely a priority, so this is nothing new in my experience. Also, for all we know, they did talk to the garages, as the San Francisco garages aren’t exactly well-rated on Yelp, but some sort of discount would be a good thing for future events. The costs just for parking in San Francisco are getting so high that it actually does effect my choices in races.
Overall, this was a fun race, and I got to run the race with some peeps from work. It was also an excellent “cooldown” race for me that pushed my limits in ways I wouldn’t do except in the race environment. And, because of the views, My Girl wants to return in November to run her second 1/2 marathon just so she can see the Pet Cemetery and run under the Golden Gate Bridge.
|Number of Finishers:||2,866|
|Number of Females:||1,512|
|Number of Males:||1,354|
|overall place:||2090 out of 2866|
|division place:||202 out of 246|
|gender place:||1119 out of 1354|