Race: Avenue of the Giants Marathon

Runner: Meg Gayman

Race Date: 05/05/2019

Location: Humboldt Redwoods State Park, CA

Results: For me: 3:11:51 the field: https://raceday.enmotive.com/#/events/2019-avenue-of-the-giants-marathon

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2345244810

avenue of the giants marathon race report

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The weather was amazing, and it was one of the main reasons I chose this race. It’s typically perfect conditions, a cool start in the 50s. With the giant tree cover, sun exposure is minimal and the temperature stays pretty consistent within the trees. I needed a good weather marathon and this fit the bill.
  2. The course is beautiful. With the curvy roads and rolling hills through the redwoods, you are just surrounded in serene beauty. It makes you feel lucky to be a runner out there enjoying the open road.
  3. Great community feel. It’s not frilly, it’s not huge, and there’s so much heart put into this race. The number of cheers I received from other runners on the out and backs was so sweet and encouraging.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • There’s one area of road in the second half of the course that’s banked. It doesn’t last for too long but it threw me off a bit.
  • I suggest calling out what you want at aid stations. Some of the boy scouts weren’t saying what they had in their hand and so I missed one of my cups.
  • The timing company took a while to get the results done correctly. I clearly knew what place I was in but the timing company had me as the 9th place woman for a while.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Maybe not exactly weird, but a bit unusual in that no headphones are allowed/very strongly discouraged and you will be disqualified from any award if you wear them.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This was a big comeback for me, after getting injured over the summer and needing to skip the Houston Marathon this race was a test to my recovery. I trained really well and went in with confidence and with plenty of hill training in my legs. I stayed positive through the entire race and worked my way to a 10 min PR. This race was quiet and I had to remain focused to be motivated when it got tough in the second half. It was nice to see my competition around the bends. That gave me some opportunities to close in until my legs gave out in mile 25. Overall it was a mental win and a good measure of my current ability.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Think of this marathon in quarters, the first out and back is slightly uphill, the second is downhill. Then you get to the second out and back where you merge with the half marathoners and 10k runners, the third quarter has a bit of a bank on part of the road and it looks like you’re going downhill even though it’s mostly flat. The 4th has a hill that’s not that big but feels horrible in mile 25. Be careful on that second quarter to not take it too fast and pay for it in the last quarter.

Also an FYI – The road for the first half used to have very bad potholes, but it’s been repaved and is smooth as butter now.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I would be more careful about tangents. I was not thinking clearly and crossed the road to keep a straight line but on an out and back course, I shouldn’t have crossed the middle (I think? I’m still not totally understanding this tangent thing, all I know is that I’m pretty sure I ran an extra half mile on this curvy course).

I’ll also be careful about not going out too fast, I wanted even splits and ended up with an almost 4 min positive split.

I might save my energy a bit more with my own encouragement to other runners, while it was really fun to cheer back to folks who were cheering for me, I may have gotten a bit distracted with that while going for a PR.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This course is gorgeous, can’t beat running a road marathon covered by majestic redwoods.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It’s not too difficult and it’s not too easy. There is elevation that will catch up to you, but you don’t notice it too much until the end.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

They’ve been running this race for 40 years, it’s a small operation but they manage it very well. It seems that they know their limits of entry and respect it to keep the race small and manageable.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

For women, it depends on who shows up. For the last few years, you needed to be sub 3 to take home the win, (and the $1000 prize money). This year 1st and 2nd place were sub 3. I came in 5th place with 3:11:51.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

I don’t know about lodging since I stayed with friends, but make sure to leave enough time to get to the race location. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, it takes over 4 hours to drive from Sacramento or San Francisco to the area so plan your drives accordingly.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare water and Gatorade, some bananas and oranges too, about every two miles and they have great signs that tell you when to expect the aid station. They give out Gu’s at the halfway point before you go under the overpass.

Weather and typical race conditions

Typically close to perfect weather conditions. I hear it can get humid

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really spectator friendly. It’s good to have folks cheering at the halfway spot but it’s hard to get out onto any other parts of the course because the roads are closed. It’s an out and back and you merge with the half and 10kers so race participants are kind of your spectators. So many were friendly and encouraging, so it’s not like you’re out in the middle of nowhere alone for too long.

How’s the Swag?

Not bad! A magnet, t-shirt, medal. I got a second gold-colored medal for getting first in my age group, along with a wine glass and a beer! Also good to know is that there’s a taco truck at the end, a nice amenity for post-race noms.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Definitely a 5-star race and worth putting on your list.

Meg Gayman is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Meg, check out her coaching page.

avenue of the giants race report
Photo: Yoon Kim