To promote tourism to US citizens, outside the typical perception of Tijuana (tequila drunkenness, drugs, and bandits) – they have put on a free half and full marathon.
I found out some other people I knew were doing it and have done it before, and their reviews made it seem outside of what I thought it would be (dirty water, no aid stations, etc). For packet pick up, my buddy Dean from the SD tri club smirked when I said I was going on Saturday to get the packets. He offered to pick them up for me and Bessy – later you will see why I am truly grateful for this.
The race starts at 7am, so we wake up 4:30 am to go down and park right at the border for 10$ all day. There is an option to take a bus in from the Nike Store at the San Ysidro mall, but it is limited to 50 people to board 5am. In the parking lot we see some Bonita Road Runners, and they advise us to take a $5 taxi once we walk over the border to the El Camino Real Hotel, where the start is. It is only 2 miles from the border but at this time it was dark, on the way back home we walked from there.
The race starts on cobble stone then nice road til the 5k point. I was feeling good to hold a 6:25 pace for the race, but at this point it became very hilly with the road being rough. It was a good decision to wear my Sketchers Go Run 3 on this course as it really did smash up my legs. Hill climbing was from 5k to 11k, with the rugged road up until the 15k mark (after smooth highway).
There was aid stations every 3km or so, were I drank water and dumped it on my head, as it was muggy out. To counter this the fire department set up a hose down station that would rain you down at the 15k mark. Thinking it would be fun and refreshing to go through it, I did but it was a mistake. For the last 5k my shoelaces untied (double knot) but the laces were tucked in so I could continue… unfortunately I slowed to 7 min miles as I was fighting to keep the shoe on. Onto my B race goal of under 90 minutes, I did chug it in but my whole foot was swollen at the end of the race. It was good I trained all week in this weather, as many did not fair so well under the heat and humidity, with the times for everyone being about 5 minutes slower than normal. Regardless this was not an A race but more of a different experience race from the comforts we have in San Diego.
After the race we head back to the hotel where they have an amazing buffet of typical breakfast items, and then high end stuff like crab and oysters.
It was $27 per person, but who cares we just did a free race! Speaking of free, I didnt even expect to get a finishers medal and tech tshirt, which we did.
So we walk to the border, and experience a pain higher than running the marathon or possibly getting mugged in TJ – the border wait. It took us 4 hours to cross, and watching the people gave us an appreciation of what we have here in San Diego. The reason Dean smirked is that he has a sentry pass card, which is a fast lane and gets you through in less than 20 minutes. If you have this card, there is no question that you should do this race next year – and even if you dont, get one, the cost is still cheaper than many half marathons in SoCal.