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Running on the Coast: Half Moon Bay International Marathon

by Whitney Merrill

Pillar Point Harbor, the starting point of the Half Moon Bay International Marathon. Photos: Whitney Merrill.

September 2011— 
It’s 5 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon on Purissima Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, and Amy Rhodes and Dr. Humphrey Lu are stretching out in front of Lu’s pediatrics office, preparing for their weekly coastal run together. Normally the talk would involve the weather, and catching up on the news, but with the Half Moon Bay International Marathon just weeks away the focus is on the upcoming race and their preparation for it.

Rhodes says, “We met each other through Team in Training and found out that we run at the same pace. When I brought my kids for their doctor’s appointment with Dr. Lu, we ended up talking as much about running as the kids, so we decided — fewer kids’ appointments, more running appointments. Having a running partner really helps; when you make a commitment to run with someone else you’re more likely to keep it.”

Lu says, “For the marathon, I’m doing the 5K, supporting Amy, and prepping for the San Jose Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon the week following. The last five to six miles are extremely tough so it’s really nice to have someone cheer you on. I could talk to you about running a long time. I know it’s important to exercise but I didn’t really start to enjoy it until I started  Team in Training
for a marathon — it changed my life. I love the discipline, bonding with people on the team, suffering together! It really empowers you to finish a marathon; it makes you feel that you can do anything.”

Amy Rhodes and Dr. Humphrey Lu in training on the California Coastal Trail at the end of Kelly Street, Half Moon Bay.

There are four options to participate in the Half Moon Bay event: full marathon, half-marathon, 10K event, and 5K family fun run, which has no entry fee. The marathon starts from Pillar Point Harbor and heads north along the harbor out to Mavericks around Foo Rock, up the bluff and out to and around the Montara lighthouse before returning back to the harbor. It then continues south along the coastal trail with the 5K and 10K turnarounds at Miramar and Dunes beaches, respectively. The full marathon continues on around the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay before returning back to the finish line at Pillar Point Harbor.

Lu and Rhodes head out for their training run of eight miles by turning down Kelly Street and heading out on the California Coastal Trail along the bluffs of Poplar Beach, where they enter the southern leg of the marathon. The full marathon will be USA Track & Field-certified, and will therefore be recognized by the Boston Marathon and other events which require qualification on a certified course. The entire marathon follows the coastline, allowing the runners to experience beautiful views. It is also run during our wonderful fall coastal weather season, virtually guaranteeing sun combined with ideal running temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Sam’s Chowder House is the founding sponsor and it will have the ChowderMobile at the finish line area.

This year the marathon is going green and working with the Council for Responsible Sport to seek gold certification. Included in the green plan are the following suggestions that runners and spectators can follow:

• BYOB: Bringing your own water bottle will greatly reduce the number of paper cups used out on the course. Each aid station along the course will feature a BYOB station with pitchers of water to refill your bottle.

Map showing northern turn-around at Point Montara Lighthouse in Montara and the southern turn-around at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Map and further details can be found at

• Recycle: The goal is to have less than one pound of landfill waste per athlete. To make this happen, the race will provide recycling bins for bottles, cans, plastic and cardboard — so please use them!

• Carpool: If you have friends who are running the race, please share a ride. You can meet new runners by signing up for Pickup Pal on the marathon’s website.

Rhodes and Lu continue along the California Coastal Trail to the Ritz for their final training loop. From up on the trail you can hear the seagulls, smell the sea breezes and see the surfers riding the waves below. It is truly a wonderful place to run, and to be inspired at the same time. Lu sums it up well, saying, “The great part about running on the coast is that: 1) The weather is much cooler and more ideal than over the hill, 2) You can’t beat running on the coastal trail, especially running on the bluff and looking out over the ocean, 3) It’s nice to see people you know and to feel that you’re part of the community. … I think it’s great to see your doctor running — not just having him tell you to exercise but actually doing it. You have to lead by example.”

Road along Miramar Beach part of the marathon route.

The marathon comes to the coast on Sept. 25, 2011; the full marathon starts at 7 a.m. Hope to see you there!







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