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Carlsbad Half Marathon - guide to a great race

The 2010 Carlsbad Half Marathon, perhaps the finest of the San Diego area halfs, is coming up this Sunday. Here is what you need to know to have a successful race - unless you measure success by how fast you run. I can’t help you with that.

The Expo. You have to show up at the expo to get your number, but there are two other functions that are key. First, bring your old running shoes to give to the retired shoe drive. If you are like me, approximately a third of your home is consumed by running shoes which are past the point where they will adequately protect your aging joints yet are perfectly fine for gardening and other activities which you never get around to doing. Bag them up and bring them to the shoe drive - it will make you happy and free up space for your collection of vintage Star Wars toys.

Second, get a bag of freshly-popped kettle corn. You can rationalize this by telling yourself that the salt content will help you retain water and prevent you from dehydrating during the race. There may actually be some truth in this, but that’s really beside the point. Kettle corn is just yummy and you should eat it when you get the chance.

The start is a zoo. Carlsbad is very popular - they sell out months in advance every year. Unfortunately, the roads around the start have remained stubbornly consistent in size over the years, leading to some pretty bad bottlenecks. The organizers do a good job with the limitations, but there is no getting around the crowds. Don’t push to the front when you line up before the race, and accept that the first mile or so will be slowed down by the crowd around you. After that, being slow is all your own fault.

Stay to the right! A certain number of crazy people think it is a good idea to veer away from the beautiful path along the ocean and run over to Palomar Airport, which is about as scenic as any other airport. Pay attention when they tell you which side to stay on when the full and half marathon courses split around mile five - sounds obvious, but every year I hear stories of runners zoning out and running a whole lot further than they planned.

Tweet all about it. Ever wanted to be on the bleeding edge of social media participation while sweating? Try tweeting while running! Crazy, yes, but not impossible, as demonstrated by @lizLiz during the AFC Half (she also ate a cheeseburger around mile 11, so clearly she wasn’t going for a PR). For this run, use #cbadrun to mark race tweets - and follow the conversation here. And if you are worried about sweat shorting out your iPhone, feel free to tweet about the long line into the parking lot before the race.

Elliot Hicks is an avid but not overly serious runner in San Diego. Despite promising an early retirement at every finish line, he has somehow stumbled through 20 marathons and more halfs than can be remembered.