Race Recap: Carlsbad Marathon

When I signed up to run Carlsbad, I was originally planning to run the half marathon (not the full). Somewhere in the registration process I chose the full marathon instead of the half, and the rest is history. Training-wise, I was well-prepared since G and I are both running the Surf City Marathon in two weeks, and the last couple of months have been my most consistent training since we trained for the Chicago Marathon in 2012. My pre-race nerves were based solely on the fact that I’ve never run a marathon without G, and I had no idea what racing that distance alone was like.

My parents sent a Visa gift card as part of my Christmas gift, so I used it to purchase a Garmin Forerunner 10 last week so I could keep track of time, distance and mile splits during the race. It was so easy to use, and even with GPS running the battery lasted through to the finish.

The day before the race consisted of almost-zero traditional race prep. G ran the San Diego 50 Miler in Escondido on Saturday (watch for his race recap later this week!), and I spent the day “crewing” for him and driving between the various aid stations to give him whatever items he needed at the time. It was so much fun and really inspiring to watch, but by the time early evening rolled around, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything of substance that day. G’s aunt and uncle brought a deli turkey sandwich to me as we waited for G to cross the finish line. I ate a couple of mini Chips Ahoy cookies, and that was the extent of my pre-race meal.

I say all of that to say this: I believe eating a lighter meal the evening before the marathon helped me a lot. It helped me sleep better, and it helped prevent any potential digestive issues on race day. When I woke up at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, I had coffee and a bagel with Laughing Cow cheese (if you haven’t tried this stuff, you should). Despite not sleeping well and being in quite a bit of pain post-race, G told me he was going to cheer me on, so after I dressed we drove the 20 miles up to the start line in Carlsbad.

Luckily, I was able to meet up pre-race with my friend Jen from San Francisco, whom I first met almost 8 years ago in the Runner’s World online forums. We posed for a picture and made our way to the start line where I lined up with the 4:30 pace group. Once the race started, we were off!

I absolutely love starting races in the dark!
I absolutely love starting races in the dark!

The first 4 miles I was able to stay with the 4:30 pace group, but at Mile 4 we began a slow and steady uphill climb that continued until Mile 8. I decided to slow my pace and keep running since my main goal was the finish the race strong. I saw G for the first time about Mile 6, and then shortly after I was fortunate to see a girl I met while running the America’s Finest Cities half marathon last fall and we ran Miles 6-8 together.

Coming into Mile 6 - time to shed the outerwear!
Coming into Mile 6 – time to shed the outerwear!

Between Mile 8 and 9.5 was the steepest hill of the entire course and the first point where I seriously considered implementing a run/walk strategy, but I pushed through to the top of the hill where we got a subsequent mile of straight downhill running. The remainder of the race consisted of hills – some steeper than others – and a bit of warmer-than-average weather to make it a little more fun.

Mile 12 - that's when the 4 previous miles of hills started to take their toll.
Mile 12 – that’s when the 4 previous miles of hills started to take their toll.

Around Mile 14 the course finally wound its way onto the Pacific Coast Highway. (Note: The Pacific Ocean provides an excellent distraction from the fact you are running 26.2 miles. I swear.) Miles 14 through about 24 were out and back along the PCH, with the final 2.2 miles wrapping us back to the finish line, near where we started.

Around Mile 16 I incorporated a run/walk strategy for the final 10 miles. It truly contributed to my strong finish.
Around Mile 16 I incorporated a run/walk strategy for the final 10 miles. It truly contributed to my strong finish.

I finished in 5:24 – my slowest marathon time, but with the abundance of hills and heat and a very strong finish, I am happy. It’s good to know that I can run a marathon without G (though I would much rather run with him), and I’m so thankful that he hobbled his way around the course so that I could see him at Miles 6, 12, 17 and the finish. It was the first time I’ve run a race where someone was cheering for me, and it was an amazing experience.

What a fun medal!
What a fun medal!

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a challenging course with ocean views and fantastic aid station support, Carlsbad is a great choice!

We’ve taken a couple of days off to rest, but will begin ramping back up starting tomorrow as we look forward to Surf City on Feb. 2.

Take care,


How about you? What race have you run that you would recommend to others?

17 thoughts on “Race Recap: Carlsbad Marathon

  1. Congrats! It sounds like you had a great race plan and really stuck with it. A strong finish is awesome!

    I have to recommend the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati. I’ve run the 5k and 10k events and have run the half four times. I’m biased because it’s my hometown race, but the crowd support is great and the race branding is so cute.


    1. Thanks, Andrea! I’ve seen the Flying Pig in Runner’s World before as a fun race for all of the reasons you mentioned, but it’s great to have a local’s perspective! We’ll have to consider wrapping it into a trip back to the Midwest in a future year.


    1. Thanks, Janine! I hope your friends had a great experience, as well! Tons of amazing support … aid stations every 1-1.5 miles, 5 or 6 Clif Shot locations. Just a really well-managed race course.


    1. Thanks so much! It’s funny you ask: We’re talking about doing a 50K together in March – so possibly very soon! I don’t know that it will be a complete conversion, but I’m looking forward to the change!


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