2012 & 2013 American River Parkway Half Marathon Race Recap

Race summary: Easy packet pickup at the local Fleet Feet.  Flat course running on the paved/graveled river trail along the American River.  The two possible downsides include the narrow river trail and levy as well as the possible heat when the race is run.

One of the huge perks of where we live is that there is the American River bike trail.  The trail runs for 32 miles from Discovery Park in Old Sacramento to Beal’s Point on the southwestern side of Folsom Lake.  Along the river there exists a network of paved bike paths along with graveled raised levies as well as single track  that runs between the paved bike path and the river.  Since moving to Sacramento in 2011, I’ve been using and running along the American River Parkway.  When I saw an advertisement for this race and saw it benefited the Parkway, I thought it’d be a great way to do a race and support the river trail.

Packet pickup as per most Sacramento area races was at the local Fleet Feet in midtown Sacramento.  For the 2013 race, I had signed up early enough that I qualified for a nice little perk – a race emblemed running hat.

One interesting aspect of this race is that there is a runner’s course as well as a walker’s course.  Having two separate courses for runners vs walkers is good because of the course and its width.  Since the race course runs along the American River bike trail levy, it is rather narrow.  If both runners and walkers were to run on one course, it would be so congested that runners would be quite irritated being stuck behind walkers.  Even with the two courses, there were definitely a few spots that seemed congested with just runners.

The races from 2012 to 2013 were vastly different.  The latter race date was moved back a week due to some problem that is evading my memory at this time.  However, this put the race into the first weekend of May.  The temperature in Sacramento in May can be nice or extremely hot.  The 2013 race for me was marred by heat.  The start (and finish) line area provided a large grassy area for porta-potties, various tents (run clubs, other races, refreshments) and plenty of room to spread out and stretch/warm up prior to race start.  One tradition of the race involves a bagpipe group playing just prior to the start.  The runner’s course heads west along the river toward Sacramento State University and Fair Oaks Blvd, while the walkers head east.  As mentioned before, the race start and initial few miles of the course are very crowded and you’re either following someone closely and/or someone is right behind you.  As I wasn’t aiming for a specific time goal either year this didn’t bother me as much.  If you’re thinking of a PR though you may want to line up in the early expected race times (they organize the start line based on your expected pace (6 min/mi, 7 min/mi, etc)).

The overall course is relatively flat save for the few areas where you move from the bike trail up onto the levy, or when you have to take the Guy West Bridge across the river.  The race is an out and back and one change from 2012 to 2013 is that the first year we remained on the north side of the river, while the second year we crossed over on the Guy West Bridge to the south side of the river trail and then came back over on the Watt Ave bridge.  The 2012 race went relatively smoothly and with the end of April weather, the temperatures rose up into the 70s.  The 2013 race was a slog and I really had to just keep telling myself to keep going as the temperatures rose into the 80s and then I think hit 90 by the time I finished the race.  Course support was okay with water and sports drink.  The supporters were scattered throughout and weren’t overwhelming.

Finish line perks at this race include a bag lunch (sandwich, apple, chips) as well as the usual bananas, water, chocolate milk.

2012 Finish line

My times below are deceptive.  The 2013 race in terms of effort was much more than the 2012 race.  For the 2013 hot race I definitely found my mouth parched and there wasn’t enough water on the course that year for me to stay hydrated.  At one point with about 3 miles to go I felt like passing out.  The other downside was the fact they didn’t come up with a new medal from 2012 to 2013.


2012 chip time: 2:12:50

2013 chip time: 2:13:00




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