Race Recap: Half Moon Bay Half Marathon

So! The Half Moon Bay Half Marathon.

It was a big Race Day in our house. Bean was running the full marathon, the Husband and I were running the half. We all had PR hopes and dreams. The Husband wanted to beat his 2.20 in San Francisco, I was toying with 1.52 (but realistically hoping for 1.55) and Bean wanted 4.49! The day started horribly early – we left the house at 5.20am to drop the Dude off at my friends’ house, they gamely offered to baby-sit whilst we ran. (Thank you Sue and Jim!). We picked Juli up en-route and headed over the mountain to Half Moon Bay.

If I’m honest, race mornings are always basically about how many times I can poo before the start-line. And as we drove up the coast to the start, the need to Do the Do became ‘pressing’. I knew I wasn’t going to get to the race start in my current condition. Luckily, yesterday, we’d seen some brand spanking new orange portaloos on the route, so the Husband pulled over and Bean, Juli and I all took care of business. The loos were AMAZING, best portaloos ever! I was much happier now.

The race puts on fantastic parking (free with your number) at the tiny airport. Unfortunately, there was a bottle-neck getting into the car-park and the tail-backs were so slow that Bean was in danger of missing her race start, thirty minutes before the half-marathon. So she and I abandoned the others and joined other runners abandoning their drivers and walking to the start line. Once we got there, the wisdom of using the orange portaloos became apparent – although there were a good number of loos there, the queue was about 100 people long and it was moving slowly! I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t suffering any longer 🙂

Worth the early start
Worth the early start

Bean HMB

We were also a little thrown by what can only be described as a drone flying overhead, filming the start. Obviously it wasn’t a military machine and I knew that, but we both found it a little disconcerting. However the footage has been uploaded online here and it’s fab!

The race starts were put back by half an hour to allow for the parking situation, which was a wise move. So at 7.30, we waved Bean off and she started her epic journey up and down the coast. Juli, the Husband and I hung out and got a little chilly…and then it was time to line up. The speedy people left first (7 min milers or less), we started 5 minutes later! The claxon sounded…and off we went.

Safely in the chute!
Safely in the chute!
I kept my super-hero cape on as long as possible
I kept my super-hero cape on as long as possible

The first half of the race was fantastic. Juli (speed monster) was OFF but the Husband was a revelation, flying off too. (He has done no running since San Francisco but lives on his bike these days so is much fitter). I tried to pace myself and just ran along enjoying it. The course is a gentle downhill for most of the first six miles and the coastline in the early morning sunshine was just spectacularly beautiful. I tried to push the pace but be cautious at the same time. It was all good. I finally (!) caught the Husband at 5 miles, encouraged him and ran on.

An old photo but I never get tired of this view!
An old photo but I never get tired of this view!

The middle section was an out-and-back which was about 3/4 mile each way. It wound through some houses and went on forever, but I was still feeling pretty good and, as I turned round the middle point with one of my favourite songs on the headphones, I was grinning like a cheshire cat. I was only wearing my most basic watch but knew I was on track for a good time, if not a PR.

And then came the second half of the race. Mainly a gentle uphill which slowly drained my legs. The course also included a wooden bridge which, when I run over it alone, doesn’t bother me. But running over it with many other runners made it very bouncy and shaky and really disconcerting. My legs felt jelly-like afterwards. I was slowing down.

I got to the Mile 10 marker, glanced at my watch and my heart sank. 1.33. There was no way I would PR and basically no way I would get a decent time at all, I’d struggle to get under 2 hours. And whilst I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit it, I mentally gave up. I was really tired and all the fight drained from me. I tried to summon up the steel backbone that I had for San Francisco and it was nowhere to be found. I was a sad, sad creature in those final miles.

I rallied at mile 12 when I spotted my good friends Matt and Amanda out to cheer, wrapped in Union Jack flags. That made me SO happy. And then the final mile was at least 2 miles long (I barely exaggerate, actually) and it was a death-march. But finally I was over the finish line and stopped my watch at 2.01.

I was knackered at the end, but fell into Amanda’s arms and she handed me ice-cold water and told me how proud she was of me and it was suddenly great! There is nothing like good friends. We went to watch the Husband run by and somehow missed him – he’d run a cracking race in 2.06 and was buzzing about his time. I was so proud. Then we found Juli and she had CRUSHED it in 1.48! So whilst I was a little heartbroken at my time, I was so very proud of my friends.

Post-race. I love the kids' expressions in this photo
Post-race. I love the kids’ expressions in this photo

The Dude and his super-kind baby-sitters appeared and we headed back to Matt and Amanda’s to use their shower and drink tea, and then drove back to the finish line to see Bean cross it. We were early, so spent about half an hour cheering people into the chute. First-time marathoners wore red numbers and everyone cheered especially loudly. Amanda and I were emotional wrecks during this time – red-eyed and weepy at everyone’s achievements. The finish line reminded me of Arrivals Hall at the airport, I can never spend any time there without sobbing 🙂

Eventually, in the distance, we spotted Bean and yelled ourselves hoarse as she finished in just over 5 hours! And then we went back again to Matt and Amanda’s and they fed us this amazing BBQ with two scrumptious desserts.

Bean HMB
SO impressed by this girl

At the risk of coming across as deeply unsporting, the course seemed to measure exceptionally long on people’s Garmins. Both the Husband and Juli measured the Half at 13.6 miles and I heard other people saying the same thing. It was a relatively straight course – we can’t all have been so bad at running the tangents. Bean measured the full marathon at 26.8. If the course had been 13.1, I would have run it in 1.57, which I would be much happier with. However I do of course accept the official results – this maths shenanigans is just for my own pride!

Update: Tuesday afternoon. HMB Marathon officials took people’s comments about a long course very seriously and had the routes remeasured by USATF who certify courses. The half-marathon was indeed 0.44 too long. The full marathon was the correct distance. This would give me a time of 1.57 and the Husband 2.01 and Juli 1.44! I really appreciate HMB looking into the issues raised. The official times will not be changed. 

A few thoughts on the race. There was a lot that we loved about it, plus a few things that the organisers might want to work on for 2014.


  • Really lovely feel to this race. Great size, a local community feel (in the best way) and a lot of fun. Really nicely put-together.
  • Beautiful course. Harder than it looks due to very subtle gradients in the Half Marathon and some killer hills in the full marathon, with the worst at mile 20. But BEAUTIFUL!
  • Fantastic loot – great t-shirt which fits, a cracking medal, some tattoos and a coaster.
  • Excellent packet pick-up over three weekends in four towns across the Bay Area so you don’t have to go to some crazy expo.
  • Bart Yasso! What a nice chap!
  • Plenty of loos on the course.
  • Good food at the end – bananas, bagels etc.
  • Wonderful volunteers and cheerleaders at the end, which pleased this Brit no end.

Needs some work

  • Car-Parking. Plenty of it, and free for runners (yay) but long queues for no apparent reason which caused a delayed start to the race.
  • Dreadful queues for the loos at the start-line. This would have caused me and my tummy much distress and maybe a disaster if we hadn’t Done the Do beforehand.
  • A long course for both races. It was certified, but both races ran long. This is a biggie.
  • Results not published until Monday. Smaller races don’t seem to have that problem.
  • Relatively expensive for a smaller race.

Want to see the loot?

REALLY nice t-shirt!
REALLY nice t-shirt!
Fabulous medal!
Fabulous medal!

Overall, despite my disappointment with my time, it was a great day!! Two days on and my legs still ache so at least I know I ran the best I could! Can’t ask any more.

The Husband's blood blister for your viewing pleasure
The Husband’s blood blister for your viewing pleasure
A Marathoner comes downstairs
A Marathoner comes downstairs

Bean flew home on Monday morning. We are already trying to persuade her to come back.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Juli Bronzini says:

    We never did get a chance to talk about the bridge experience. I have run over those same bridges many times, but that was certainly an experience! I nearly jumped out of my skin when I caught the roll of the bridge from all the runners. I actually yelped and startled the person next to me!!!! Crazy! Congrats to Richard, Sabrina, and her majesty the running Guru(: Love the recap!

    1. Cathryn says:

      The bridge was crazy, wasn’t it!! Glad I wasn’t the only one! Congrats again on your amazing time.

  2. Jen says:

    You guys all did amazing! Sorry to hear about your mental struggles for the last few miles — I’ve definitely been there, but you hung on and kept pushing, and that’s what matters! Richard’s toe looks painful — hope it looks worse than it is. Congrats on finishing another half marathon!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you! I feel a bit better knowing it was a long course. But I still need to address the total giving up at mile 10! 🙂

  3. Angela says:

    Ugh, we all know that death march feeling at the end. Great job pushing through! Sometimes I think those really hard-fought finishes are actually the more impressive ones. Also, super sweet medal!!

  4. Cathryn says:

    Isn’t the medal gorgeous? I think it’s my second-favourite medal ever. (Who ranks their medals? What am I?) 🙂 Yeah, I do count ‘Not Walking’ as a big achievement from Sunday, and now the distance was measured as long, I do feel better about my time too. Not what I wanted to run, but not awful!

    1. Dorian says:

      That’s a great time for a half even if it wasn’t ~1/2 mile too long!

      1. Cathryn says:

        Thank you! Much appreciated!

  5. I went to San Fran this summer and fell in love. I wish I had seen this post before then because running in San Fran would be ideal!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you so much – I wanted to post to be a resource for people who are coming to the city, glad you liked it!

  6. OK, oww blister, oww. It hurts me for you. Second, how have I never noticed how short you are compared to your husband. We have the same height ratio in our family. It’s interesting placing bets on how the children will turn out. Also, I’m really impressed that the race already looked into the timing and fixed it so quickly. Sign of an awesome race director! Very cool! And the long slow inclines are the worst, just enough to make you feel like a horrible runner, but not enough that you actually feel like you can use the hill as an excuse. The worst!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, I’m a midget next to him! So far, the Dude is showing all signs of taking after the Husband, he’s nearly as tall as me already and he’s only 3.
      I’m surprised the full marathon didn’t measure long as well. A little suspicious. And it’s also odd that USATF basically exonerated HMB of any blame but forgot to apologise 😉 Oh well. It was a beautiful race, you should come next year and do it!

  7. Great recap! I ran the full this year and was curious to know how the half course was this year– think maybe I’ll run the half next year 🙂 Congrats on your race! The fact that it got tough and you got through it just shows how strong you are!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment. The one thing I regret now is how I mentally gave up at mile 10…need to work on my mental strength for my next race! How did you find the full? Did you measure it long too?

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