Monday, May 3, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Half-Marathon Race Report

I will say right now that I love the Cinco de Mayo Half-Marathon. It started on time, the weather was perfect, the scenery lovely, and for a charity race, this was very well-organized. I am not affiliated with the race in anyway, but I must say it's my new favorite half-marathon.

Okay so I have only done 2 half-marathons (the other being San Jose Rock N' Roll Half), and don't have a wide base of comparison, but all expectations were exceeded with this May 2 race in Irvine.

I signed up for the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund Cinco de Mayo Half-Marathon back at the Pasadena Marathon expo in February. I loved the theme and the promise of mariachis on the course. Their booth was decorated with sombreros, and since I had been following their twitter account already, I decided to go for it.

A little over two months later, I leave my place at 5:15 am taking the long but fast drive to the Irvine Spectrum. I should go to Orange County more often - It really is pretty. The day's race is schedule is packed starting with the half-marathon about 45 minutes before the 10K, which starts before the 5K run, which starts before the 5K walk. The crowd is small, but the energy is positive. The national anthem is sung,we set our watches (although mine doesn't catch the satellites right away, what's new?) and we start exactly on time, almost to the dot!

I meet two people pre-start. First, I meet relative race newbie Sylvia who completed her first race at Surf City (my new trend is meeting people in parking lots). And second, Andrea from my Leggers pace group finds me at the starting line! She had seen from our website that I was running this race, and I'm glad that she found me. What a coincidence, since earlier I thought I had spotted Andrea and her sister while walking toward the start. You think it, and it happens.

As promised, there are mariachis along the course, and volunteers wearing sombreros, although some of the teenagers are too groggy early on a Sunday morning to actually put them on their heads ( still commend all teenagers who volunteer at races, what would we do without you?). There are also cheering fans, all of which is more than the sideline entertainment we had at the Pasadena Marathon. Until I find another, I will continue to use the Pasadena Marathon as my point of reference regarding dearth of non-water station entertainment (if you consider water stations entertaining). But in time, they too will continue to grow in the right direction.

The beautiful course through Irvine is huge plus. I can't tell you exactly where we went, but we crossed bridges, residential areas, tennis courts, rivers, hills, a freeway overpass, fields, many of which had the option of running on road, grass or dirt. As we passed over one bridge, I enjoyed watching a tai chi class down below. It was a course that kept you interested.

Also, I meet John - A 75 year old member of the California Cruisers, a running group in Orange County. He is the kind of person whose energy just draws you in. I run alongside John for a little over a mile. When I ask him who he was running with, he said his wife. ME: "Where is your wife?" JOHN: "I left her for a younger woman." John is so funny and positive, that he was another big plus for this race. He mentions that he had run the OC Half-Marathon last year, but thought this race would be more fun.

So I chat with John. He started running 22 years ago, and has since run 115 marathons in all 50 states and 7 continents. His favorite (or at least most memorable) was in Delaware, which includes a trek through a river. Next, he is on his way to the Athens Marathon in the fall. He is flying out on Thursday and running on Sunday. I asked him if he plans to adjust to the time change in advance of the marathon, and he replies "I have never fallen asleep during a marathon". Meeting John is one of the reasons I love running. Hopefully I'll run into him again sometime in the future.

For a charity race, these folks knew what they were doing. They started exactly on time, the course was gorgeous, the running crowd was serious and energized, and at the last quarter mile of finishing, I got to run alongside a marching band playing "Don't Stop Believin'". Sure, we ended up running into the 5K walkers at the very end, but it's also fun to dodge through people. With a half a mile to go, I was ahead of schedule pace-wise and feeling pretty good about it.

Something I forgot to mention - I was wearing BRAND NEW SHOES. Crazy, huh? Possibly not the smartest idea, but it was time for a change. These may be my last ASICS Gel Kayanos too - I'll be searching for a new brand soon.

All in all, this half-marathon far exceeded expectations. I also enjoyed the mariachi entertainment at the end, and sang along to "Cielito lindo" although I only knew the Ay ay ay ay part. And if I had $10 in cash, I would have also enjoyed a burrito and some beer in the beer garden if had known I needed more cash - so that was a small tiny negative.

Congrats to all the race weekend warriors - OC Marathon, Pittsburgh Marathon, Flying Pig Marathon, Vancouver Marathon - You did it!

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