El Cajon, California | March 12
El Cajon is east county San Diego, and funny enough, not far from where I used to live while I was in grad school down there! This race is put on by the same folks who do the San Diego Holiday Half, which I love, so I was excited to check this race out too. Being that this was just under two hours from home, but I didn't want to spend the cash on staying the night down there, I was clever enough to reach out to the rest of the pace team to see if anyone wanted to carpool - knowing that there were a few of us in the area that might work. Thankfully, Meri and Champagne both jumped at the chance, despite needing to meet up at the ungodly hour of 4:15 am, it was nice having company on the way down!
The race offers both a 5K and half marathon, both with separate start and finish lines, which was nice in keeping them separated. The half started at 7:15, so the pace team met up about 6:30. We rolled into the parking lot about 6:10, so had plenty of time to veg, get our packets and get situated before meeting up with the rest of the team. In fact, parking was so easy, we parked two rows away and across the street from packet pick up and the 5K start/finish line. Talk about convenient.
After we got connected with the rest of the team and our necessary photo fun, we got to chill a bit more before heading to the start area about 7. The race was small - like, real small. Confirmation? 356 half marathon finishers - whoa! I don't know the last time I was in a race that small, but honestly, it's a nice change up from the 10,000+ that do some of the larger races around here.
I had a group of folks kinda hanging out with me early on, but only one woman really wanted to stick to me, Miriam. Too bad she took off at mile 4 and I never saw her again! She must've killed it.
The course is pretty simple - start in the super cute downtown area of El Cajon, out to Jamacha Rd, all the way down to Cuyamaca College, and back again.
The hills on the chart don't look as bad as they actually looked in person. I suppose I've got my hill training on lock, because they weren't terrible! A lot of folks definitely slowed their pace on these hills, particularly at miles 9-10 on the way back in. The benefit of an out-and-back? You know what's coming on the other side! Running the downhill on the way back in was awesome. About mile 10, a guy caught up to me and told me he was running his first half and was trying to beat his girlfriend who had done a couple, just to prove that he could run a half! Well that's a way prove the point, right?
I rolled in to a 2:14:11 finish (Garmin 2:14:13. I don't think I've ever been so close to chip time on my watch). I met up with Meri to pass off signs, but because I had 15 miles on the day to do, she let me go run around and get some more in. I ran around the block and then down to the 12.5 mark or so and cheered folks in. A woman asked if I'd pace her the last half mile to get to the finish, so I happily jumped in with her.
Meri and I got a text from Champagne saying her sickness had gotten a hold of her and she wasn't doing well, so we ran back and found her right about 12.5 again and ran/walked her in to the end. 15 miles on my day, done!
All in all, a great race. I recommend this one if you're in the area and need some good hilly runs!
Have you ever done a St. Patrick's themed run?