Best Half Marathon Ever

Best Half Marathon Ever

This past Halloween weekend, I completed the best half marathon ever! Not only was the course beautiful, with gradual hills winding up and down through Healdsburg in Sonoma County, I was able to run alongside and root my husband on as he completed his first half marathon. The Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon organized by Destination Races ends in a wine festival!!! I’ll tell you more about that part later…we met some awesome people who traveled from all over the U.S. to participate, hence “Destination Races”. We didn’t have to trek far but it was still a two hour drive from San Bruno and we were lucky enough to have a babysitter so we made it an adult weekend without the kiddo and dined in the area with friends!

I am so proud of my husband for finishing the half and within the time I secretly thought he’d finish in! It was no small feat as it has taken him multiple tries throughout the years to accomplish this milestone. He would always injure himself during the training runs but not this time. We modified his diet and changed his eating habits five months ago, and he worked out smarter. The adjustments resulted in him losing 23 lbs in three months which helped his running form and reduced the risk of injuries to his legs and ankles. Yay for Steve!!!

The decision to run the Destination Races Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon was another wise choice for his first half. After encountering a few surprises on other courses myself, I researched this one to be sure the elevation was something a novice runner could handle. I definitely think half marathon beginners should consider the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon. If you’re a running pro, you’ll likely beat your PR on this course so it’s really a half marathon for everyone. In fact, I saw many people with strollers on the course. It’s atypical for a race to allow strollers but since they keep the registration to only 2,500 people, the race is not as crowded as others. Limiting the number of registrants kept the vibe friendly and very team spirited. People talked to one another on the course and encouraged one another. Plus, you can actually enjoy the absolutely breathtaking views of vineyards and the hills without people running into each other.

To get to the starting line, we entered the gates of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, walking between the olive trees lit up in the dark, making our way to a group of runners stretching as the announcer’s voice boomed over the speakers. He did a good job of energizing the group. Many people took cellphone pictures with the vineyard and rising sun as a backdrop, and there was also a professional photographer capturing photos. It was a really well organized gathering area, with water available, easy bag checks, and lots of porta-potties though they smelled horrible from everyone taking their goo and high protein diets.

At 7:30am, we took off on our run as a cloud of steam went in and out of our nostrils and mouths while the fog rose over the rows of grapes. The beauty of the picturesque fields got better as we kept running, looping through the wineries of Healdsburg. It never got too warm on the run but they had plenty of water stations along the way to keep us hydrated with both water and salty electrolytes. They even passed out packets of honey!

I told my husband that half marathons are the worst near mile 9. At mile 7 he asked me about my comment because he felt fine and wanted to know what I meant. Did I mean getting to mile 9 was hard or after hitting mile 9? I told him to wait and see. Once we passed the mile 9 marker, my husband exclaimed, “Now I know what you meant,” as he put one foot in front of the other. I’m really not sure if it was a self fulfilling prophecy, or if ones body simply hurts at mile 9, but most of my running friends have experienced the same thing.

At mile 12, the excitement set in because we only had a mile to go!!! We rounded the corner and saw the Destination Race signs and I told my husband that we’d see balloons and stuff soon. Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line, grabbed our medal, and looked for our wine glasses. I went to the first wine booth and gulped down some delicious chilled white wine. After changing into my flip flops which is a great feeling after running 13.1 miles, I had a little more wine. We couldn’t believe it was truly an all you can drink celebration with a costume contest! There were many wineries pouring wines, which was great for learning of some unfamiliar local wineries. We got some passes for future wine tastings and will surely visit a few new wineries! Lagunitas beer was also available for purchase at the festival if you didn’t want wine. The paella was really good too, though you had to pay for it separately as well and the line was long.

The temperature during the race was perfect and it warmed up at the right time, making it really pleasant for enjoying the live band and wine on the grass. I soaked up the autumn sun and just thought about how fantastic it was to be with my hubby for the weekend accomplishing a huge milestone! It was a great feeling to have coached and trained with him for his first half. Teamwork goes a long way!

We are definitely doing this again next year in costume with our friends! The Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon is fun and stroller-friendly, has a beautiful and easy course, and is a great way to spend the Halloween weekend with your friends and family!