Sorry that it’s taken so long to post my Santa Rosa Marathon Review! I initially thought I’d wait for the official race photos to be published so I could add them to the post, but then I got distracted by Bex leaving and the Labor Day Weekend, and the blog got left by the wayside.
Anyhow, here goes. My Santa Rosa Marathon review. I’ll start by saying that despite this being my slowest marathon to date, it was one of my most enjoyable. It had a similar feel to the Richmond Park Marathon; laid back and fun, running with friends, and finishing on a massive high.
The marathon started at Julliard Park in downtown Santa Rosa at 6am, which was the earliest start I’d had for a marathon. I’d set my alarm for 4.15am with the strict instructions to get ready in the bathroom so I didn’t disturb Bex and my husband; very supportive, I know 🙂 So at 4.15am I snuck into the bathroom to get ready, ensuring I didn’t miss any steps in my pre-marathon routine. At 5am I said a quick goodbye to my sleepy supporters; warning them to set an alarm so they didn’t sleep in and miss the marathon completely, and jumped in a taxi to the start.
It was still dark when I arrived which was a little strange. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold as I hadn’t brought layers to wear at the start. I went straight to queue for the portaloos, and then once I’d been, got straight back in the queue as I knew I’d need to go again- Ha! Before I knew it, it was time to head to our corals. It was actually quite disorganised as they hadn’t set them out the day before, so the race started a little late.
I chatted to a few people in my coral as we all waited nervously, and before we knew it we were off, running in the dark through downtown Santa Rosa. I wasn’t running with a Garmin so just set into an easy pace. I wasn’t bothered about time and just wanted to get round in one piece! Within a mile I heard a group of familiar voices and turned round to see a group of runners from my club. I knew they were running but assumed they’d be way ahead as they’re all super speedy. It turns our 3 of them were running for fun, and were just keeping another runner from the club company. They were aiming to get round the course and have some fun on the way which sounded good to me and I decided to stick with them. Funnily enough, one of the speediest runners in the group ( a sub 3- hour marathoner) said that since running a marathon for “fun” a few months back, he’s realised how much more enjoyable it is and isn’t even sure if he’s interested in going for times anymore!
We set into an easy pace and started chatting away. I was SO happy to have come across these guys and knew that if I stuck with them, not only would I get round but I’d enjoy it too. After a mile or so it started to get light, but fortunately it was really overcast which kept the temperature nice and cool.
After running through downtown, we joined a trail which took us along a river for 6 miles or so. It was so quiet, peaceful, and really beautiful. Considering the trail was quite narrow it wasn’t too crowded and everyone was able to find their own space.
Before I knew it I was at mile 8, where I knew Bex and Cristiano would be waiting for me. There’s not much support along the course; just a few locals cheering from their front gardens every now and then, so it was great to see some friendly faces. I think they were quite surprised to see me running with a group of people, but happy I’d found a little team to get round with. They joined us for a few miles of running before turning back again. They’d planned their viewing spot well as their run took them through the DeLoach Vineyard with us where there was some wine tasting on offer- I skipped the Chardonnay in place of water, but they both had a glass- very cheeky!
At this point the course is really beautiful; quiet roads leading you through rolling vineyards. For the next 10 miles or so the road was quite undulating with some of the hills being steeper than I expected. I was suprised they advertised it as a PB course, as I certainly wouldn’t choose it with a PB in mind.
I was really grateful to have the group with me as despite the scenery being beautiful I think it could have been a really lonely marathon. As I said, there’s not much support en route and I think if I’d run it alone I’d have had a completely different experience; especially as I didn’t have any music or podcasts to listen to.
I was taking a gel every 6 miles and ensuring that I took on enough water at each aid station. Instead of trying to drink the water while running (and just spilling it all down me) I decided to walk through each aid station, so I could drink properly and have as much as I needed.
My back started to hurt at about 10 miles and I tried my best to ignore it. Later on one of the other runners gave me some ibuprofen that worked a treat and the miles just skipped by. I remember asking someone how many miles we’d done and being in disbelief when they told me we’d already done 16!
With 9 miles to go, one of the runners decided it was time to get the music going. He’s training for a 100-mile race so was running with all his kit on; backpack and speakers included! He had an amazing playlist which was so motivating. The Spice Girls was a particular favourite of mine!
When we reached the 20 mile point I felt weirdly good. All my pain had gone and my legs felt fresh and I thought I could probably push it to the end. The other girl in our group had been struggling with stomach issues from early on, as well as her asthma and was in the opposite situation to me. I decided that instead of pushing it to the end I’d stick with the group. We’d run it as a team and I wanted to finish as a team too! We all encouraged each other to the end and before we knew it the finish line was there!
There were smiles and hugs all around and a general consensus that running marathons for fun is the way to go!
I felt completely different at the end of this marathon to how I normally feel. I wasn’t particularly tired, could walk normally and had all my toenails intact. I think it must have been a combination of the slow pace, cool temperatures and good hydration and fuelling strategy. Whatever it was, it worked a treat as I had enough energy to spend the afternoon wine tasting before driving back along the coast to San Francisco in time for dinner at one of my favourite restaurants.
I’d definitely recommend this marathon for it’s scenic route, however, it’s very quiet so I’d either run with a friend or take something to listen to. Apparently people do get PBs on this route, but I wouldn’t choose it for this purpose as it’s quite hilly. This year one of the pacers in the lead group got lost and added 0.9 miles to the route which meant some runners missing out on their Boston Qualifying times- seriously not cool.
Anyhow, I feel so happy to have run this race and enjoyed it so much. I can now say I’m a 6-time marathoner!