This article first appeared on Women’s Running.
America’s Finest City will host the first-ever invitational half marathon on Nov. 21, adding to San Diego’s already plentiful year-round 13.1-miler options. The USA Half Marathon Invitational, which allows up to 5,000 runners between elites, sub-elites and qualified participants, will also feature an open mile, a nod to the growing return of America’s favorite distance on the roads. While the mile will not be timed and is open to all competitors, the half marathon invites only runners who have met or exceeded a qualifying time between Nov. 1, 2013 and Nov. 1, 2015.
“The idea came up a few years ago, as our team was discussing how running has become more of an activity than a sport,” explains Ken Nwadike, Jr., the event’s marketing director. “We participate in many themed events and fun runs; however, we felt there should be more races that put more emphasis on ‘competition’ for all age categories.”
Nwadike, the Chief Running Officer of sports marketing and race production company Superhero Events, is a former high school and collegiate athlete from San Diego. Together with Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises (DMSE Sports), the race organizer for the Boston Marathon, as well as USATF, Running USA, Hawi Management (who represents professional athletes like San Diego resident Meb Keflezighi), Nwadike aims to rekindle a love for competitive distance running in his own backyard.
“San Diego has the culture, running history, climate and tourist attractions that make it the perfect location for this type of destination race,” he says. “South Bay San Diego even has a beautiful Olympic Training Center that we hope many will tour for motivation during their trip.”
The looped course starts just a tad north of the city’s famous Gaslamp District, touring runners through notable areas like historical Balboa Park and eclectic Hillcrest, finishing along the harbor just southwest of Little Italy. The USA Half Marathon Invitational accepts qualifying times from any USATF-certified half marathon course, and marathons with half-marathon splits meeting the standard will also be accepted for entry into the Nov. 21 event.
Nwadike says they consulted with Running USA, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the sport by way of collecting runner and race data for marketing and sport promotion, to determine appropriate qualifying times for each age group. “We wanted the top one percent of runners in each age category for our elite/ sub-elite race and the top 50 percent of recreational runners in our competitive half marathon division,” he explains.
Every participate will receive an exclusive finisher’s jacket instead of the traditional race T-shirt, a perk that Nwadike says makes this destination race a unique one. Aside for a great San Diego experience, the special finisher’s jacket and a chance to brag that you participated in the first-ever half-marathon invite, “we hope this race will encourage recreational runners to set new running goals and challenges for themselves to become more competitive,” says Nwadike.