Scoping Out the Marin Marathon Course

After being unprepared for the 6 1/2 mile hill at the Run for Ryan House Half-Marathon, I decided that I better scope out the course for the Marin Marathon, that is now just 6 weeks away...(yikes). The map on the race's Web site isn't very clear in terms of the road/street names, etc., so I emailed them to see if they had better detailed one. Unfortunately, they didn't, but told me to call the office and they would "walk me through it." When I finally got around to calling, the gentleman I spoke with was really nice and gave me some pretty detailed directions to work with.

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I realized that yesterday was literally, the only free day I had before the race to make the hour or so drive up to Marin. Although I've lived in the Bay Area for over 12 years, I don't know Marin very well, and unfortunately, I forgot to print out the map before I left work on Friday (I can't figure out how to get my printer at home to work...). So with the directions from the staff, and the Google Maps app on my iPhone, I ventured out to to explore the 26.2 miles I'll soon be running.

I was by myself on this exploration, so between trying to navigate the route, drive, and take pictures, I didn't get exact mile markings. My main goal was to see what the terrain would be, and what the elevation would be like....

And boy am I in trouble. There's more hills than flat ground. Seriously. I have always liked running (rolling) hills, but this course has me scared.

Here we go....

It starts out at McNear's Beach Park in San Rafael. I thought it starts in the park, but it starts at the entrance of the park.

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Then runs a mile and a half along Marin Drive, then loops back. That's the first 3 miles.

It continues along North San Pedro Road...for a really long time.

And goes through China Camp for 5-6 miles...

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See these hills!

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At least the scenery will be beautiful.

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I did notice there was quite a bit of cycling and running traffic, which was somewhat encouraging.

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Yes, most of these photos were taken through my windshield. Luckily, vehicle traffic was very minimal and I pulled off to the side whenever a car came up behind me or was oncoming.

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After the China Camp stretch, the course continues on North San Pedro Road through a residential area called Santa Venetia. There was considerable road traffic so I didn't take any photos in this area.

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After Santa Venetia, the course turns right at Civic Center Drive and goes past the Marin Civic Center. This photo below is facing the local Farmer's Market that's just around the bend.

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Civic Center Drive becomes Redwood Highway, which runs along Highway 101. We'll run along here for 2-3 miles, then will turn right onto Smith Ranch Road.

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After running about a half mile on Smith Ranch Road, we'll reach McInnis Park where we'll turn left just before the park entrance and into the Los Galinos Sanitation District. Yes, Sanitation District.

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I wasn't sure what to expect here, but its a nice country road where we'll run down for 2.5 miles and turn turnaround and back track the rest of the course back to the Finish Line in McNear's State Park, essentially where we started.

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Thankfully, we'll finish downhill. This photo below is the last downhill into the grassy area where (I think) the Finish Line will be.

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I am not kidding when you I say, after seeing all of this, I'm now terrified for this race. Before I registered for it, I emailed the organizers and specifically asked them if they would recommend this for a first time marathoner. This is the response I got:

It is a beautiful course, with lots of support, music and all for great reasons and causes. Would be my recommendation for your first marathon!...

When I asked about hills, I was told:

There is one main little hill after the first three mile warm up. (which is going up at the front entrance at McNears Beach Park). The rest of the course is all rollers down through China Camp State Park, then all flat (2.2 miles of flat fire road trail around the levees/bird sanctuary) until about 1.5 miles before the finish back into the park, which is those same rollers you already went down earlier in the course. About 1200 feet of climbing total over 26.2 miles is really not too bad.

Then they said:

Bring some friends.

So to my Bay Area friends, please mark Sunday, April 25th on your calendars. I'll need you there to pick up the body parts I'll have dropped along the trail...

I guess as long as views like this are waiting at the Finish Line, it'll be worth it...if I make it there (as I add more hills training to my schedule...)!

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