The Urban Cow Half Marathon is one of my hometown races. It started out as the Sacramento Marathon a long time ago, then became the Cowtown marathon. In its third iteration, the race was renamed the Urban Cow Half Marathon. However, they dropped the full marathon distance when it was renamed and now offer a half marathon and 5K Run/Walk option.
Packet pickup is at the local Fleet Feet store in midtown Sacramento. I like local races because the packet pickup process is usually fairly quick. It helps that they have two days of packet pick ups (Friday and Saturday) before the race. This is a non frills pickup and isn’t an expo by any nature. Usually you go in and pick up your bib, t-shirt, and sometimes a small bag (not actual swag usually, just flyers for other races and products). One year they had perks for people who signed up early (first so many runners) and in addition to the shirt, you received a handheld water bottle with the urban cow logo on it.
In the 3 years I ran the race, the course remained about the same. The start and finish line are in Land Park (a large well-known park south of downtown Sacramento). This is a nice start/finish area since there is plenty of room to have all the fun things for a race (lots of booths, tents, and beer garden at the finish). Parking is also not terribly bad as you can park around the park and there are neighborhoods nearby that allow free street parking.
The first mile+ of the race courses through the park and then you head north into the neighborhoods. These streets are lined with a variety of houses from the early 1900s to mid-century modern to more contemporary houses. Typically the race is run the first weekend of October, which is great weather here in Sacramento. It starts in the 40s or 50s and does warm up but not too terribly by the time the race is done. After heading north through the neighborhoods we moved into a more industrial area of Sacramento just south of downtown. You pass by the big Blue Diamonds almond plant as well as the Front street animal shelter. After this we found ourselves in downtown Sacramento between the “sky scrapers” (aka taller buildings of the city – not really sky scrapers). We run just west of the Capitol building so you get a nice view of it around 5.5 miles into the race. Finally the turnaround takes place in Old Sacramento.
I feel like all somewhat big cities have an “old” part of their city. Usually its very touristy and has some kitschy stores. Sacramento is no different and has a bit of a Western theme. There are some nice restaurants in this area and it also sits right on the Sacramento river.
We then continue south along the Sacramento river, passing by the famous Tower Bridge. From miles 6 to 11, the course runs on a bike river trail along the Sacramento river. This is a nice change of pace from running in city streets except if there are a lot of runners can get congested because the bike trail is fairly narrow. Eventually at mile 11 we make our way back to regular streets and head north and then east back towards Land Park. The last mile of the race is run through the park and that’s when you know you’re close.
I like the finish line because there’s always a large crowd of people cheering and they announce names of people as they reach the end. The finish line refreshments are usually good – bottled water, chocolate milk, bananas, bagels. The big perk is that all participants over 21 receive a free beer from a local microbrew. When I ran the races, it was Lockdown Brewery from Folsom, CA. Another unique part of this race is that the finisher’s medal is a cowbell. Each year it is a different color.
Overall I like this race because of a few things:
- Good weather – usually, global warming may change this though
- Relatively flat course – the course is almost entirely flat except for a few areas where you have to climb short hills (in the city).
- Good crowd support and course support
- Easy packet pickup
- Free parking
- Free beer!!
I’m registered to run this race again this year after taking last year off.