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Remember the Malibu Marathon? What made it work…

So back in November I ran the inaugural Malibu Marathon. It took me a while, but I really wanted to give a recap of the race from a ‘race’ perspective, instead of from a participants perspective. I think being an inaugural race is tough, you don’t know how many people will sign up, you don’t know how everything is going to flow and no one has ever ‘raced’ the course before. For Malibu, there was an option of a half marathon and a full marathon. I opted for the full to work on completing my marathon maniacs status. We started off traveling to the Expo which was a little hard to find if you were not familiar with the area and the directions were not helpful. That being said, the expo being in a beach parking lot with no rain was pretty spectacular! It was right on the beach and you could see the finish line right by the expo which was cool. They had a course map and some booths up. It was actually an expo that I wandered around at a little bit and talked to a few people. Since the race was smaller, there weren’t hoards of people stampeding each other for samples of GU, which was nice. Made my time at the expo much more enjoyable for the twenty minutes that I was there.

Then we had race morning, this was a bit of a sticky situation. There was no clear direction to where to load the buses and the volunteers just told us where we couldn’t park but not necessarily how to get into the parking lot to load the buses. Once we drove back down the street we had come from about 3 miles, we entered the Zuma Beach parking lot and then drove all the way back down to the bus area. We grabbed our race stuff and loaded up on the bus. Another adventure. The buses really had no where to turn around so up a steep hill we went and that is where the bus driver hit a curb on the side of a mountain. We were all a little jumpy at this point and there may have been some shrieks when the bus hit. This being my first point to point and bus riding experience I was just wondering what the heck was going on.

Finally we arrived at the starting line where there were regular bathrooms and port-a-potties. The port-a-pottie to runner ratio was about 1 for ever 5 to 7 runners. The lines were not long and everyone was mingling about and very friendly. The regular bathroom line for the women was much longer, and I ventured over there to change out of my capris into my shorts. The starting line area was alright, but it seemed that the race started directly next to a stable? So the dirt and horse smell wasn’t exactly appealing, but then again, my high school was located directly next to horse stables so my nose seemed to adjust quickly to the surroundings.

The first mile was a little windy throughout a really random area, but the race has to start somewhere right? It wound around and then we were into the ‘farmland’ area that the course described. There were VERY few spectators along this course, as in about maybe 10 that I saw repeatedly throughout the course. The course was very safe and there were more than ample people riding around for safety purposes which I liked as well. Since the race was much smaller, it was different running with so few people around. Right around mile 8 to 13, the course is fairly boring, but you know that you are approaching the beach area and what lies ahead of you is exciting and beautiful. It seemed in the beginning of the race, until the half marathon mark, there were not as many aid stations as there were at the end, but after the 13.1 mark, there were ample volunteer stations and they were appropriately staffed as well. There were many VERY nice volunteers out that day, and even though the course support wasn’t existant, there were many very nice volunteers and helpers trying to make the race special.

Another aspect I noticed, and since I visit them often, was the lack of port-a-potties along the route. I noticed that if there was one at the aid stations, there was just that, one. I also noticed as the race went on they became scarcer, which is a little odd, because if you get sick, you are going to get sick as the race goes on. I know it was a smaller race, but it seemed that there could have been a few more thrones out there for the runners.

I cannot give enough praise for the volunteers though. They were so cheerful and the aid stations were WELL stocked with water, the course drink, gus, gels, oranges, everything. It was great and they were so encouraging, and I think that really allowed the race to go faster towards the end when I was sputtering out of energy. The course support got a little larger after the half marathon starting point and it was cool to meet up with the half marathoners half way through the race because there were some lonely areas of the course in the beginning.

Another thing I noticed about this race is that it was very photographer friendly. They had tons of photographers out on the course and I really liked that aspect of the course, because no other marathon am I going to have FIFTY pictures of myself running, none the less running in a tutu.

The finish line is right along the ocean in the beach parking lot where the expo was held. It was pretty and well blocked off. Running along the street with a lot of cars for an extended period of time is kind of weird, but I never felt unsafe at all.

Once crossing the finish line, there was the same small expo that was set up the day earlier as well and they immediately handed you your medal, which is BEAUTIFUL and my favorite medal based on beauty. Well favorite besides my Long Beach one becuase of the sentimental reasons. Then they took your picture in front of surfboards and a little backdrop. It was cool because as you crossed the finish line, since it was a smaller race, everyone was cheering for you and the announcer said everyone’s name who crossed the finish line. After you got your medal and picture taken they handed you a lunch bag and some water. The lunch bag is super cute and I use it for my lunch most of the time and it was filled with some of the best post race food I’ve seen. There was pirate’s booty and some other snacks and an orange. Everyone was super helpful and then you got the beach towel immediately that was given out instead of race shirts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this course was a pretty intense course, by far the hardest course I’ve ever dared to run. The wind started at mile 12 and I literally felt like I was running and not moving at certain points of the race. The hills were pretty brutal during the end of the race and the ‘gentle’ rollers were not very gentle. They were pretty consistent and I think without the wind the hills would have possibly been a little bit easier, but with the wind draining a lot of energy previously in the race, they were pretty tough to climb. The hills also seemed, in my mind, as much more uphill and not as much downhill sections. I remember they were also very deep hills, if that makes sense. They would go from very high to very low points. I know the course does travel alongside the ocean from about mile 12 to mile 26.2, and not many courses can you say that you felt the ocean spray cooling you off as you were running, right?

If there was one thing that stuck out to me about the race it was the personalized experience that the Malibu Marathon delivered on. I know not all races can execute this since they are much larger in number of participants but I do feel that everyone there on race day was actually happy to be out there and helping. I also think that the course was pretty and the race was executed very well from my stand point as a participant. There were a lot of nice touches that made the race stand out in my head as great becuase of the personality of the race. Even before the race started, the Malibu Marathon tweeted often about the course and was very interactive with followers. The lunch bag aspect was a nice touch and the medals are beautiful. I also really like the idea of the towel instead of a t-shirt. The race shirts you could actually buy are super cute as well and not so ‘runnery’. They look like something you could actually wear out on a Saturday and wouldn’t be totally ashamed of it. So bought one. Meh!

And here’s the lunch box.

What makes a race stand out in your mind? What do you love and dislike at races? Besides being an expo hater, I love it when races do things to make themselves memorable. When they really try to push to cater to runners, and not just making it another event.


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