The half marathon has been one of the fastest growing race distances of the last decade. Of race distances ranging from 5K to 26.2 miles, the half marathon has the greatest composition of female finishers. About five years ago, I decided to try to become a runner and set a goal to complete a half marathon. If I was going to run the distance, why not run amidst the breathtaking views of Malibu, Calif.? Hint: This is a coastal area of Southern California…sunny Southern California.
On November 11, 2012, my life changed as I crossed the finish line of that race. Three years later, I volunteered at the same race, placing medals around finishers’ necks and witnessing every emotion known to mankind as runners crossed that magical line. This Nov. 5, five years after my first race, I plan to run it again.
However, this year’s race is not the same as the one I ran in 2012. I caught up with the current race director, Erica MacVittie, to learn about the exciting route changes and to explain why this half marathon should be on your race bucket list.
The Malibu Scene
“One hundred percent of the course is along the Pacific Coast Highway in one of the most scenic parts of the SoCal coastline, which is a rare opportunity to experience,” MacVittie said. “First, the course takes runners by some of the most beautiful residential areas with homes of many A-list celebrities. Then it opens up to breathtaking ocean views on one side and the Santa Monica mountains on the other.” Runners also pass the famous “Malibu: 27 Miles of Scenic Beauty” sign, where they can stop for a selfie–or should I say runfie.
Fewer Hills = Happier Runners
When I ran Malibu, it was a point-to-point course with plenty of hills. It was not ideal for a newbie who hadn’t done route research more extensive than finding a beautiful location. I almost missed the start of the race because I didn’t realize how much time I needed to allow for parking at the finish and shuttling to the starting line.
The new course starts and ends at Zuma Beach, an iconic Malibu landmark. “I wanted an out-and-back course to allow maximum convenience for the participants,” MacVittie said. “You can easily park in one of the Zuma Beach lots. There are no shuttles, no waiting, no worries.” The new course also has no significant hills, with its maximum elevation reaching only 183 feet.
Ideal Weather For Running
The average early November temperatures in Malibu are 56 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity ranging from 30 to 50 percent. For the seasoned runner, the course is relatively low elevation combined with the mild temperatures could be a great set-up for a shiny new PR.
When MacVittie took over as race director in 2015, one of her goals was to bring the Malibu community together to become a platform for charitable giving. The Malibu Half Marathon and 5K Run/Walk’s current beneficiary is the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu. “We give a portion of our proceeds back to the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu,” MacVittie said. “However, regardless of profitability, we still make a minimum donation to the club. What I’m most excited about is a new charity program we are about to announce in which participants can make a difference by registering for the event and either purchasing a charity ticket or they can show off their fundraising skills and earn incentives including a free race entry. My goal this year is to be able to raise over $20,000 for the BGCM and to keep growing every year.”
Zuma Beach Festival
Any race that starts and ends at Zuma Beach has to have a beach party. A DJ will be revving up the energy levels before the race starts. If you’re not up for dancing after the race, enjoy the guided post-race yoga on the sand hosted by the local Malibu studio 5 Point Yoga. Finishers can also opt for post-race massages and premium catering at the VIP lounge.
New vendors and sponsors will be in attendance at the race expo and near the finish line. In addition to their Malibu medal, finishers will receive a Malibu tech shirt that can be shown off when they return to their local running groups.
While the official race website says that strollers are not permitted, MacVittie explained that strollers will be allowed–as long as stroller runners start at the end of the race’s last corral. While many 5K and 10K races allow strollers, it’s uncommon to find a half marathon that accommodates them.
It’s All About Community
One of MacVittie’s goals as race director is to bring the community together while focusing on the overall runner experience. “We are a local event organized by local people,” MacVittie said. “You’ll see us during the year participating in run clubs, attending other expos and meeting with local communities and charities to make sure we are connected to what is relevant to the people we care about. If you write to the info line, I am committed to answering within 48 hours at the most. If you call the number on our website, you get connected to my personal cell phone. I am 100 percent committed to customer service, and I always welcome feedback and suggestions.
“We spend a lot of time asking ourselves what will make the day memorable for our athletes. I believe that running has a unique way of turning people’s lives around. That’s why I am convinced that it is so important for a community to host road races.”
Let’s talk Malibu again. It’s an ideal place to spend a few days with your favorite running friends. You can rent a little beach house and surf, hike or paddle board. Malibu is also home to several wineries, so why not schedule a wine tasting tour? If you don’t think you can do all that and run a half marathon in one weekend, you can always register for the Malibu 5K Run/Walk, instead!
A Race Director with Heart
“The experience as a race director has been as transformative for me as running is for participants,” MacVittie said. “I often have the opportunity and honor to come across some of the most inspiring stories, and it is a privilege to both discover and share with the rest of the world the journeys of such remarkable people. Running has represented a powerful life-changing catalyst for so many. Every time I have the opportunity to be among runners, I ask them about their stories and how life led them to take that first step to sign up for a road race. Every time, I’m amazed and inspired by what they share. Each story is unique. Although some have been athletes all their lives, the majority are ‘regular’ people. When they lace up their running shoes, they become superheroes.”
Visit the event website to learn more.