Inside the Salinas Valley Half Marathon

It’s very difficult for a first-time event to score high marks across the board, but last weekend’s Salinas Valley Half Marathon was a success in virtually every aspect. We were both fortunate enough to participate, and decided to provide “behind the scenes” accounts of a few memories from race day.

Great first impressions: Logistics of the race were a little complicated, but the race committee went all-out to minimize the inconvenience. Transportation between the parking area and start area was provided by luxury touring buses, a dramatic improvement over the cramped, bouncy school buses that most runners are accustomed to riding before races.

Prayers welcome: The Soledad Mission was a truly unique and distinctive setting for the start area. It’s historic, allows plenty of space for bib pickup and staging, and provides nervous runners a nice spot to ask for some divine intervention before the race. Many of those runners could use it, because the race was a …

Beginner’s delight: Of the nearly 1300 runners in the race, more than 400 identified themselves as first time half marathoners. More than 200 of those attended the training clinics put on by local race veterans, and the success rate for these first-timers was impressively high. For them, it was truly a day to remember; for others, however, it was …

Business as usual: Seeing field workers laboring in the Salinas Valley as we ran past gave us both an appreciation for the agriculture industry that figures so prominently in our local economy, and gratitude for the people who were up early on a Saturday morning not to have fun at a race, but because it was their occupation. The ag industry was also the star one of our favorite spots on the course …

Strawberry love!: The Salinas Valley Half took a page from the Big Sur Marathon’s playbook, placing an aid station stocked entirely with strawberries late in the race. Strawberry season may be coming to an end, but you sure couldn’t tell by tasting the wonderful offerings at mile 10, which were a major highlight of the day. The great berries were only a sampling of what was to come, however, at the …

Luxurious finish: Pessagno winery hosted the finish area, which was as loaded with perks and goodies as any race we’ve seen. Runners enjoyed musical entertainment while helping themselves to bagels, fruit, water, beer, first aid, physical therapy, massages, and even free Jamba Juice served by a guitar-playing banana. (Seriously.) There was plenty of stuff for runners to talk about, including this …

Conversation starter: If you ever want to meet a lot of new people, try racing in a pair of bright white and red Vibram FiveFingers, which look like gloves for your feet, complete with separate toes. Donald has been running in FiveFingers for over a year now, and this race was the debut of his new Bikila model, which are admittedly a little bit eye-catching. They led to a lot of curious questions and discussions about barefoot running and the Vibram phenomenon, which is becoming more popular all the time.

Generally, though, the most common topic of conversation was what a wonderful race this turned out to be, from the perfect weather to the beautiful course to the outstanding organization from start to finish. Congratulations to Karen Nardozza, Kristina Morales, and the entire race staff for putting together such a great event. We’re already looking forward to doing it again next year.

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