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#14 – Surf City USA Marathon

Marathon Man - Surf City USA Marathon

3 February 2013 – 4 h rs 52 min

It was great to fly with Southwest Airlines to Los Angeles. After reading and hearing of the company philosophy, it was a pleasure to experience this in person. The Southwest staff were very welcoming with Michelle and Susan both friendly and supportive. The fact that you could check in two bags free of charge was a bonus compared to the majority of other domestic airlines that generally charge $25 per bag.

It was something different to find that there was no allocated seating, with people provided with a boarding number and then selecting a seat of choice on boarding. I ended up having two seats free next to me so attempted to stretch out and get some rest on the short flight.

I was a little hungry on arriving into LAX so decided to return to the iconic Californian Burger chain In & Out Burger for a late meal prior to the drive to Santa Mesa around an hour or so away. It was another new experience arriving into a Motel 6 for the first time.

Now I guess it was a Saturday night and I was a little exhausted although the room that I had been allocated seriously smelt more like a marijuana factory as opposed to a hotel room. There are few things that annoy me more than smoking, and while I appreciate the medical benefits of the drug, the intoxicating odour of marijuana is equally annoying to me as cigarette smoke. I soon back tracked to the Front Desk and although originally there was only one room available, lucky for me another room was soon found – this time minus the marijuana fragrance.

Perhaps a sign of the Motel 6 clientele or more a representation of the legalisation of marijuana in California. It is not uncommon to walk down the street and smell similar fragrances in many parts of California.

Marathon Man - Surf City USA Marathon

Marathon Man – Surf City USA Marathon

The final preparations were soon being made for the start of the Surf City Marathon with the race apparel being laid out and technology being charged to be ready for another early start. The alarm was set for 4am and soon I was on my way towards the start line.

I drove into Huntington Beach and originally parked on the street. There was a little confusion as to whether the parking police were checking meters, so I decided to make the short drive towards a car park and then discovered a large Walmart car park around the corner. Although there was one sign on entry to say no event parking this did not stop a number of people in the early morning from finding a parking spot.

I walked to the start line and soon realised that I was by the surf when hearing the sound of waves crashing on the shore in the distance. I met up with friends Sofie Romero & Tracy Crane who were kind enough to pick up my race bib from the Expo the previous day. I then met up with two leading running bloggers in the USA from The Skinny Runner and Run Eat Repeat prior to the race start.

The atmosphere was building with the National Anthem being played and then a wave start releasing the marathon runners. The energy was high on the start line with runners heading out from Huntington Beach with the surf on the left side before running away from the surf and towards a scenic park.

Marathon Man - Surf City USA Marathon

Marathon Man – Surf City USA Marathon

There were a number of sights along the course with Ed Ettingshausen as colourful as ever around 100m from the start and finish line on a chair ringing a bell and waving signs of encouragement while running a fast marathon ringing a bell; a guy starting out running bare foot with his timing tag taped to his foot and a pair of Five Fingers attached to his waist as a back-up plan that was later to be required and one character running in a San Francisco Marathon Finishers shirt and Chinos trousers seemingly a little unique for running a marathon by the beach.

It was around 10 miles in when the first Half Marathon leaders started passing and around 12 miles in when the majority of other Half Marathon runners started flashing past. The sight of close to 20,000 Half Marathon runners joining the course was incredible and provided an incredible environment for all runners to share the day.

I shared a few miles with Jim Simpson who has recently completed 1,000 marathons over his lifetime and it was fascinating to learn of his commitment to running marathons over the last ten years. I stopped momentarily for a quick photo at the 14 mile mark to recognise marathon number 14 for 2013 and could see the marathon runners heading back down the beach front as the long road out to the turn-around seemed to go on forever.

Marathon Man - Surf City USA Marathon

Marathon Man – Surf City USA Marathon

I had been keeping a fairly consistent pace throughout the day with 10 -11 minute miles and had not listened to any tunes on the iPod, saving this up for the charge home. It was interesting to see the Mobile Homes along the beach with people sitting outside and watching runners pass by before spotting “The Beer and Bacon Station” with people attempting to hand out beer supplies.

This was not too far away from the turn around and I was soon to open up the iPod to find some decent tunes to tune out from the hurt and come home over the closing miles. There was a steady incline back along the beach before returning to the main road and then heading home side by side with Half Marathon runners.

I was so pleased to be able to make up a few spots towards the end and cross the line in 4:52:16 to complete two consistent back to back performances over the weekend. Now it was time to rest in the lead up to the Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl party later in the day.

2013 Statistics:

Marathons Run – 14
Total Distance Run – 590.7 km / 366.8 miles
US States Completed – AZ, CA, FL, NV, TX
Total Drive Distance – 1,252 km / 778 miles
Total Flight Distance – 11,828 km / 7,351 miles

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