Well, guess what? I did it! I finally ran my first half marathon! After years of registering (and wasting money) on various races, I finally found a half marathon I could sink my teeth into! What better motivation to run your first race than to do it in wine country running along side beautiful vineyards and having a wine festival as the post-race party?!
While I know most people reading this are not “runners” (neither am I, really), maybe this might inspire you to run your first race if you happen to be a wine lover. This particular event was held in Santa Barbara Wine Country but the event company, Destination Races, actually hosts these wine country races in various other areas that are known for their wine. They include:
• Napa and Sonoma, CA
• Healdsburg, CA
• Temecula, CA
• Northern VA
• Willamette Valley, Oregon
• British Columbia
• Woodenville, WA
I literally couldn’t have chosen a better first 13.1 mile race for myself. Not only was the weather perfect (50 degrees), but I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful run even though I had to walk certain portions due to a few steep inclines. For me, it wasn’t about the time but about the experience. So I snapped a few pics along the way to share with you here. I apologize for the quality! They were with my phone and some of the time I was trying to jog while snapping. LOL Not the best combo obviously. Thankfully Terri backed me up by taking a few shots with a normal camera. I actually saw a runner that was racing with a full DSLR camera. I still can’t decide if he was insane or a genius. hahaha.
For the rest of you that are interested in running this race and are looking for some extra info in addition to whatever you’ve read on Yelp, then this post is for you.
First of all, let me start off by saying that if I had to rate this race on a scale of 1-10, I would give it a 10. I have a few things I would love to see changed in the future, but these things are negligible and didn’t effect my overall experience. I hope it doesn’t yours either. I can’t wait to run this race again next year, and every year thereafter. I loved it!
Okay, let’s move on to the nitty gritty…
The Entry Fee
Let’s start with the obvious – the price.
This is an expensive race with a price tag no less than $100 (and that’s the early bird price.) While it’s definitely worth the price for the most part, I want to warn you that this does not include entrance into the wine festival section of the post-race party. I feel like it SHOULD, but it doesn’t and I hope this is something they will consider changing in the future.
Most half marathons are around $75-$85 so I was a little bummed out when I saw they want you to pay an additional $25 for the festival and then another $35 for each additional person. My advice to anyone reading this: If you want to spend the $60 for you and your spouse/BFF/significant other then definitely do it. Nothing beats the convenience of having a wine tasting right there in the park at the party.
For the rest of us, that $60 can easily cover 2-3 wine tastings for you and a guest at any of the local vineyards. Tastings in this area are usually only $10-$15 per person and include no less than tasting 5 wines at each winery. Not only will you get a bigger pour, but you won’t be fighting off the other 3-4K people at the festival. You’ll also get to talk to the winery’s wine expert in depth about each wine. Or even better, have your person meet you at the finish line with a cooler of your favorite wine and/or champagne and make yourself a picnic. For $60, you can get some pretty spiffy wine or champagne (hello mimosas!)
Another thing I want to mention to non-locals is that this race is in Santa Barbara county – not Santa Barbara the city. I read some Yelp reviews where this was confusing for some people, so I thought it was worth mentioning here because it’s important and an easy mistake to make.
Santa Barbara wine country is the Santa Ynez Valley and includes the quaint little towns of Solvang, Ballard, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Buellton and more. These are all around 30 mins. northwest of the city of Santa Barbara. If you’re looking to make a weekend out of it (which I hope you will) then stay in one of these towns. Solvang is a small, walkable town so staying there would absolutely be the best if you want to walk to your hotel from the finish line. It’s so convenient, and it’s a great excuse to walk around and try all of the Danish pastries the town’s bakeries have to offer!
Moving onto the race itself – AWESOME! It’s definitely not a flat course so just beware. I personally find flat courses boring so I loved the hills! The race website also gives you a mile-by-mile description so it’s definitely worth reading. There are a lot of rolling hills, but there are also a few miles of uninterrupted downhills so it’s the perfect balance, in my opinion. Just do your hill training, and you’ll be great!
The aid stations were well managed, there was never a shortage of port-a-potties and they offer GU gel at around mile 7. They also offered GU lemon/lime drink at every other aid station.
The course is just stunning! You’ll see a variation of vineyards, horse stables, and farms. You’ll run by a few wineries such as Roblar (which is where I got married) and Rusack. You’ll also run right by the gorgeous lavender fields of Clairmont Farms. It’s truly some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll see in Southern California.
The Post Race Party
Spectacular! As soon as you leave the recovery tent after crossing the finish line, you are met with live music, the delicious smell of food trucks, athletic clothing tents, supplement vendors, wine products and even an olive oil tasting! Last but not least, the wine festival! You couldn’t ask for a more lively, fun post-race party!
Overall, I think it’s pretty obvious that I highly recommend this race to any and all wine lovers looking for a good excuse to get their booty kicked! It’s exercise and wine all wrapped into one fantastic experience!
I hope to see you there next year!