Finishing the Beach Cities Challenge Strong!


I normally don’t start race recaps with the finish. However, after 2 successive half marathons that set new slowest times, I’m thrilled to report that I got back under the 3 hour half marathon mark at the Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon this past Sunday! This half marathon took a lot out of me, but is one that I’m beyond happy about. Let’s get to the recap. Shall we?


Like most races out there, the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon/Half Marathon weekend started off with a health expo. This was held both last Friday and Saturday.


The nice thing about this expo was how large the space was. It never felt crowded to me.


Once you get your race bib number and race shirt, the next area is the official merchandise area. There wasn’t anything too tempting to purchase. However, I loved this! Too bad it was on a ladies shirt. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to buy.


I loved this booth! They were selling all the shoes here for $55! For running shoes, it’s a steal! Of course, you did have to rummage through the shoes to find ones you’d want to purchase. However, I loved that they had this kind of discount.



I also loved the photo ops throughout the expo!


This one was my favorite! I should have taken similar pictures at the expos for the Surf City USA Half Marathon and OC Half Marathon. Oh well. This one was fitting as I was finishing the challenge in Long Beach.


I did consider doing an entire blog post on the expo. However, I’ll spare you that. It wasn’t super interesting. Instead, we need to move to the race itself.


I was up before the sun at 4am and headed down to Long Beach for the race. The traffic getting in was a little congested (as expected), however, not as bad as I thought it would be. I was parked and finished my pre-race bagel shortly before 6am. Once I arrived, I found out that a blogging friend, Linzie, was running the full marathon. So, I did my best to get out for the start of the full marathon. It didn’t work. By the time I got out of my car, I could hear the national anthem being sung for the marathoners and knew I would be too late. Oh well. I did make it out in time to see the cyclists getting ready for the bike tour.


Once they got off, I found where my corral would be. Unlike the Disney and Rock N Roll races, there was no pre-assigned corrals. They posted the times and were on the honor system as to where you landed. This one seemed perfect for my expectations.


I wandered around for a little and got the obligatory starting line picture.


At the expo, I learned about this Runner’s Chapel service they were going to have before the races. Usually the Sunday races mean I don’t get to go to church. However, with this service, church was held! We sang some songs….


…and then heard a 10 minute devotional by a local pastor. It was kind of cool to bring God into the pre-race experience!


There were quite a few runners out for the service!


Once the service was done, it was time to head to the corrals (or waves as they called them). By the way, the Long Beach Arena is behind me. It has wales painted on the outside!


The bummer about being a back of the packer is that the race usually starts around a half hour before you do. Once we got here, I was more than ready to go.


You can’t see him very well, but Rudy Novotony was the race announcer for this race!


And we’re off! So, let me take a moment to talk strategy for this race. I knew that I was in no condition to even dream of a PR for this race. I decided not to even worry too much about the finish time at all. Instead, my strategy was to attempt to hold my run/walk intervals through the entire race. I’ve never been able to do this before. I knew that if I held the intervals, I’d be happy with my time. So, run 30 seconds, walk a minute was the strategy. I chose not to concern myself with overall time.


There was great support for us at the start of the race.


I started a run interval shortly after taking this picture. So, you can’t see it, but the giant American flag was being hoisted by the Long Beach Fire Department. Several fire fighters were out to cheer us on!


Sorry for the overkill on this opening stretch of the race. I love the area we started in. Long Beach has really built this area up since I was a kid.


Isn’t the bridge ahead pretty cool in its design? This bridge takes you from the parking lot to the entrance of the Long Beach Aquarium.


Funny thing about mile 1. They had this sign up….


Then, a little further up the road, we came to this one. I have no idea why there were 2. We also saw the same with mile marker 2. The first mile went as well as a first mile can be expected. The course was a little crowded. So, my overall time was a little slower than I would have liked. However, I made every single run and walk interval! So, I was happy!


Here is the first hill. It came in the third mile (if I remember correctly). All the way up, I held on to my intervals. I kept telling myself…I can do 30 seconds of running and I did! I may have been huffing and puffing a little more here. However, I knew this hill was coming and I knew there was only one more like it (in mile 4).


At the top if the hill/overpass we got this spectacular view of the Queen Mary! I don’t know why, but I love seeing that ship! Also, there was a Carnival Cruise ship docked close by. I’ve never seen another ship docked that close to the Queen Mary before this race weekend.


At the bottom of the overpass, we made our way back towards the start area. I loved running/walking in this area. The only thing that bummed me out was that we didn’t actually run by the Queen Mary. I’m not sure why, but I thought the course ran by the Queen Mary. Oh well. The views were really cool and I was enjoying the race thoroughly at this point.


As we made our way towards Shoreline Village, we would get closer and closer to the Queen Mary. Many runners were stopping to the side for pictures. So, I did as well.


I seriously couldn’t get enough of the ship!


I thought this light tower was kind of cool. Since I was on a walk break, I stopped for a quick picture.


As we made our way into Shoreline Village, there was the first of a few bands along the route. One thing I need to remember if I do this race again (which I might), is that in Shoreline Village there are real restrooms you can use! We passed by a few of them. It was in this area that we finished the 5th mile. I was still going strong with my intervals and didn’t miss a single one! My time was already better than the Disneyland Half Marathon time at this point!


We made our way through Shoreline Village and then through the parking lot. This is the last place we could see the Queen Mary. Last year, after finishing the Long Beach 5K, I watched the runners here. Somewhere around this point we crossed the 6 mile mark. This is where I knew I was well ahead of my Disneyland time!


When we crossed the 10K strip, I was around 15 minutes faster than my Disneyland Half Marathon time at the same point! I hadn’t missed one single interval up to that point! Although, funny story. Somewhere in Shoreline Village, I lost track of where my run intervals should be. I saw the time and thought I was 15 seconds late! Yikes! So, I started running. Well, 10 seconds into the run, I realized my error and finished out the 30 seconds anyways. Then, I walked for 45 seconds and started the next running interval exactly where it was supposed to go.


The next few miles were along this bike/runner path along the beach. I told myself that it was just like my beach training runs. Only, there were a lot more people on the path. The downside of this part of the course is that the paved running area was rather narrow. It was very easy for a wall of walkers or slow runners to form. I wasn’t going to let that get to me. After all, this race was all about running 30 seconds and walking a minute for 13.1 miles and not worrying about the finish time. This stretch also gave us some real restrooms to use! Another downside of this part of the course was lack of water stops. As the race continued on, I got to that point in the race where you have your mental battle to continue. I made all my run intervals no matter how much I wanted to skip one. I negotiated with myself that I would take an extra minute once I got past the 10 mile marker. As I got closer and closer to the end of the 10th mile, this really helped. I was tired and felt the metal fatigue. However, I kept the intervals going.


The end of the 10th mile saw us leave the bike/runner path and head back to Ocean Blvd to finish the race out. At the 10 mile marker was the Cliff Shot banner where they handed out the Cliff Shots. I skipped this (bad mistake). The problem is that they were in a run interval and I didn’t want to skip one. So, I trudged along. I can’t remember exactly where the above picture was taken. However, I thought it was a cool tribute to the 30th Anniversary of this race! The run intervals were getting harder to maintain in the 11th mile. But, I kept going. I don’t think my body liked me deciding to continue the intervals after I promised it that I would take an extra walk break at the 10 mile marker. As I was looking at my watch, I had these dreams of finishing faster than the Surf City USA Half Marathon (2 hours, 49 minutes). It looked like I could get there. Then, with the 11 mile marker in sight, I cracked. There was a slight incline to the mile marker and my mind said…

ENOUGH! We’re done here! We’ve put up with this nonsense for almost 11 miles. Time for a break!

It was rough for me mentally to quit like that. However, I walked a lot of the first half of the 12th mile. Slowly, I watched that 2 hour, 49 minute finish time vanish. Then, I was hoping to beat the Hollywood Half Marathon time of 2 hours, 53 minutes. So, I started my intervals again.


I kept going and did my best to hold to the intervals again. I fought back through tiredness and a body that thought it had won the day at the end of mile 11. I didn’t quit. I kept pushing. Somewhere in those last few miles, the marathon course rejoined us. Their mile markers were a tenth of a mile ahead of ours. Seeing the 26 mile marker was awesome! I knew I had 2 tenths of a mile left! I was going to finish under 3 hours! The only question was how much under 3 hours I would finish. I had to decide how to handle the last 2 tenths. I ran right at the 26 mile marker because it was time for a run interval. I stopped 30 seconds later. As I approached the 13 mile marker, I had a decision to make…run the full last tenth  or wait until the next run interval came. I chose somewhere in between and ran the last 45 seconds of the race…


We rounded the corner and it was all downhill (literally) to the end. I was smiling the whole way. I was finally back under the 3 hour mark! I may come back and re-edit this post if the Marathon Photo people have a picture of me crossing the finish line. But, if they don’t, I’ll just say that I raised my arms in the air in victory! You don’t have to run a PR to feel victorious.


At the end they handed me my finishers medal for the Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon. The moment I got the medal, it was like my body finally was done with me. It’s crazy how tired I felt at that exact moment. I skipped getting one of those official finishers photos with your medal. After all Marathon Photo charges an arm and a leg for their photos. So, I wasn’t planning on purchasing any. Here’s what sucked, though…I had to walk over some small hills to get my Beach Cities Challenge medal. Not cool!

Final Thoughts

  • I really liked this race overall! It was my second favorite of the Beach Cities Challenge races…still not a fan of the OC Half Marathon. If you love running at the beach, like I do, you’ll love this race as well. If you don’t enjoy running with only beach views, this race might not be your favorite.
  • I’m proud of taking around 15 minutes off my Disneyland Half Marathon and OC Half Marathon times! That was a major victory for me!
  • Of the half marathons I’ve run, this one is the race where I felt the strongest mentally. I know that I’ve run faster races. In the LA Rock n Roll Half last year (my Half Marathon PR race), everything went right…except for that horrible hill in the 10th mile. So, there wasn’t too much to battle. In each other race, I gave up too quickly. While I did crack at the end of the 11th mile this time around, I battled strong up until that point. Also, I battled back around a half mile later all the way to the finish.
  • I wasn’t a fan of how they spaced out the water stops along the course. It was really uneven….feast or famine if you like. There was a water stop at the beginning of the third mile and then another one about a half mile later. Then, there were a few miles until the next. I skipped some water stops because they seemed too close and later regretted skipping because I had to wait so long for the next one.
  • Also, I wasn’t a fan of getting the Beach Cities Challenge medal so far from the finish line. It was past the official photo area. So, you couldn’t get an official Marathon Photo with the medal (like you can at the runDisney races).
  • One big mistake I made with this race is that I only took on liquid through the race. I had Cliff Shot Bloks with me, but never took one during the race. This was a big mistake. I’m never doing that again. My strategy for the race was to take one Blok each 2 miles. Maybe if I had stuck to that strategy, I would not have cracked. Hmmm. Never do that again!


Beach Cities Challenge – Completed!


Don’t you think the Long Beach International City Bank Half Marathon medal is kind of cool?


Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon? You’ve got next!

6 thoughts on “Finishing the Beach Cities Challenge Strong!

  1. Congrats on the great finish! What a wonderful job keeping up with your intervals. Really payed off.

    The reason you saw two mile markers per mile was one was for the 5k and the other was for the marathon/half. I have seen this in a few races when all distances are covered in one morning. It’s because the 5k people had a different starting point then the marathon/half marathon.

    1. Thanks! I hear what you’re saying about the mile markers. It was just a little strange. I even heard another couple of runners commenting about the two different mile 1 markers. It could have been that the first one was for the 5K and the 2nd one was for the half marathon and marathon.

  2. Great job and great recap! One of these years I want to do the Beach Cities Challenge.

    I had a very similiar expierence on Sunday-I did 15 mile night run at the Rose Bowl and did not fuel until mile 9 (I felt great right up until that point) then I paid the price dearly. I went through so many bad emotions, all while running in the dark, and it was not the best but I finished. I definitely learned my lesson and will stick to my normal fueling routine-alternating shot bloks and Clif shots every 3 miles

    1. If you ever do the OC Half Marathon, make sure it’s part of the Beach Cities Challenge. That’s the only reason to do that race as far as I’m concerned. As far as the fueling goes…I kept telling myself that I would take a blok at the next walk break, but never did. I honestly don’t know why. I could have taken the free Clif Shot at mile 10, but thought that, since I had the Bloks, I didn’t need them. Whatever kept me from taking them will never happen again. It’s important that we remember these experiences. That way, when we’re tempted to go off plan, we’ll remember the consequences for doing so.

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