San Diego’s Most Popular Half Marathons & Marathons
Marathons are a true testament to the human spirit, and can be extremely rewarding when you cross that finish line. Plus, being able to come together with your community and challenge yourself strengthens the relationship you have with those who participate alongside you. San Diego is one of the most ideal places for these challenging races. Not only are marathons and half marathons available all year, but no matter the time of year, the weather is likely to cooperate with the run and your training.
While some of these runs have passed for the year, they all have their own merits. Add them to the calendar for next year and get that training regimen started now.
Sponsored by Tri-City Medical Center, the Carlsbad Marathon features gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean with over 18 miles of it along the coast. The course comprises of some mild elevation, but nothing too difficult to overcome. Runners start at the Shoppes at Carlsbad, and make their way down to La Costa Ave, at which point they will turn around and return on a loop to the finish line. The Half is similar, with no major elevation changes, making for a nice relaxing run. Entry into these races includes a tech fabric long-sleeve shirt and a stylish ¼ zip pullover jacket (clothes options vary by year). Proceeds for this event benefit over 20 charities, including the Semper Fi Fund and Move for Hunger.
This course was designed to provide runners with some of the most beautiful scenery in all of San Diego. Beginning between Petco Park and the San Diego Convention Center, the course will take its runners on a spectacular journey throughout San Diego. You will see amazing views of the USS Midway, San Diego’s Skyline, Harbor Island, and much more. The course consists of five miles of waterfront and will take you through four historic communities and three parks. The final few miles of the race are all downhill, allowing for a smooth finish. This run is great for spectators, too. All roads are easily accessible and there are lots of restaurants and coffee shops open to help quench your thirst. All proceeds for this race go towards a number of nonprofits, including Make A Wish San Diego, Huntington’s Disease Society of America, Sienna’s Playgarden, and many more.
Known for being one of the more challenging half marathons in San Diego (and in the country), the La Jolla Half Marathon course features several major hills that quite difficult to make it up. Starting in the parking lot of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, runners will encounter significant elevation change about halfway through, along Torrey Pines Park Road. Despite this, runners are still rewarded with some of the best coastal scenery in all of San Diego. Upon finishing, runners can enjoy a well-earned complimentary craft beer in the beer garden. All proceeds for this event go towards the Kiwanis Club, which works towards addressing the needs of children in the wide San Diego community. The Kiwanis Club sponsors events like the Rough Water Swimmers, the Junior Olympics, and many more youth centered activities.
Celebrating over 20 years in operation, the Rock ‘N’ Roll marathon is one race that seamlessly blends the trying physical aspects of a marathon with live bands, cheer teams, and more, making for a truly unique experience. Starting in Balboa Park, this course features steady elevation, with several miles of downhill running, followed by several miles of steep elevation towards the end. The half marathon is more gentle, with the better part of the race slowly sloping downhill. At each mile marker, there are stages set up with live bands that will be rocking on, giving you that extra push to continue on. All proceeds of this event go towards St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the fight against childhood cancer, making sure families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment. The course is also great for spectators, as it winds through residential neighborhoods and areas with lots of easy access.
While San Diego weather can be really pleasant, often times this August run is one of the more challenging due to heat and sun. The average temp is listed at 68 degrees, but by the time the sun is beating down on you, it can be a real challenge. The last race in the “Triple Crown Series” (includes the Carlsbad Half, the La Jolla Half, and the AFC Half), this one is worth it for the extra medal and notoriety if you’re doing all three runs in one year. The run starts at Balboa Park, meanders down 6th Avenue in Hillcrest, through downtown, and by the airport. The race continues through Point Loma and concludes at the Cabrillo National Monument. Since its inception in 1978, The America’s Finest City Half Marathon has raised millions of dollars for national and local non-profit organizations. The event’s primary beneficiaries are the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, San Diego Fire Rescue and Friends of Balboa Park.
Fusing two of San Diego’s favorite things, craft beer and running, this half marathon is half work, half pleasure. The half marathon course features a gradual decline in elevation for the first half of the race, with the a small battle with a slope rewarding you with flat running for the remainder. Participants get a “On A Beer Run” t-shirt, a commemorative beer glass, a custom medal, and a free beer on race day. Once finished, you can enjoy an ice cold craft beer courtesy of Green Flash Brewing Co. All proceeds for this race go towards Athletes Helping Athletes, an organization working towards providing adaptive bikes to children with permanent physical disabilities.
Starting at Sunset Park in Coronado, this 13.1 mile scenic course is flat and fast from point-to-point, ending in Imperial Beach Pier Plaza on Silver Strand Blvd. The course is absent of any tough incline, making a perfect course for those running their first half-marathon. This is one of the only one-way runs (many are out and backs). With the waves of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay the other, this course is definitely a looker (however, keep in mind that for many parts of the run you may not be able to see the water due to sand dunes). The course is less-ideal for spectators, as Silver Strand is narrow and accessible by a small road with limited places to stop. They also like to include live music at certain points throughout the course to keep the energy high. All proceeds for the Silver Strand Half Marathon go towards Operation Rebound, an organization dedicated to helping injured troops and first responders pursue active, healthy lifestyles. Operation Rebound allows these brave men and women to get access to equipment, training, and rehabilitation.