avenue of the giants race report

Avenue of the Giants Marathon Race Report – Meg Gayman

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

Avenue of the Giants Marathon – Jael

Race: Avenue of the Giants Marathon

Runner: Jael

Date: 5/7/17

Location: Southern Humboldt County, CA

Results – 4:28:49, PR!

3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most

  1. Beautiful course running on the Avenue of the Giants with giant redwood trees lining the road.
  2. Not very crowded.
  3. Perfect weather. sunny 40-60 degrees with the road shaded by the redwood trees

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

  1. Some aid stations only had water and Gatorade, luckily I brought my own GU’s for fuel
  2. I didn’t feel well from mile 17-24, but that wasn’t due to the race, most likely due to my choice of fuel.

Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race

At the start of the race, the announced called for the band (I guess they were going to play along to the national anthem) but the band wasn’t there, except for one tuba player.  Everyone laughed that the band had one member and the tuba player proceeded to lead everyone in singing the national anthem. Never did hear him play the tuba 😉  I heard the Humboldt band showed up a bit after we took off.

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

I started off at a good steady pace and the redwood trees and shade made it a peaceful run.  There weren’t people standing all along the course taking photos like in other races I’ve been too.

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

I would suggest wearing either a hat or sunglasses for the sections of the course that are in the sun.  It’s not a very long section but I was happy to have my sunglasses.  Make sure to bring whatever fuel (GU, PowerGels) because you won’t find much on the course.  At the halfway point a guy was standing there handing out GU’s.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Book a hotel more in advance.  Figure out what to eat as the GU’s I had didn’t make me feel very good from miles 17-24.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The first half of the marathon is on a cement road that has lots of potholes and uneven cement, so you need to watch the ground so you don’t trip.  

Aesthetics – is it a pretty course

Very pretty course

Difficulty – is it a tough course

Not a difficult course, rolling hills.  Only a couple shorter steep hills.

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

Pretty well organized except the website doesn’t list what exit to take (667a), only the GPS location.  It would have been helpful to list what exit off of 101 to take.

Competition – is there a strong field?

I’m not sure.

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.

Need to book hotel in advance as all the hotels nearby fill up.  

Aid Stations

About every 2 miles was an aid station with water and Gatorade.  I thought there would be oranges and bananas at some of the stands, but most had run out by the time I passed by.

Enjoying the post-race, post PR bliss!

Weather and typical race conditions –

Clear skies, and 40-60 degrees with shade along most of the course.  A few sections were in the open and I was happy to have worn my sunglasses.

Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Nothing special, I would suggest wearing a hat or sunglasses and a sports belt to carry your fuel.

Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends

Yes, spectators could be right at the front of the race with you if you wanted and they were standing at the finish line as you finished the race.  I also saw spectators on the side of the course, but they must have walked there as no cars were allowed.  A few police or service vehicles did pass during the race but they were driving slow and watching for runners.

Awards –

They had awards but I didn’t stick around for the ceremony.  Everyone gets a medal who finishes the race.

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

5 stars, most beautiful marathon course.

Post-race nap in the grass and very well earned!
avenue of the giants marathon

Avenue of the Giants Marathon Race Info

Summary: The Avenue of the Giants Marathon is one of the most scenic courses in the country. Staged on “The Avenue of the Giants” in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, located in rural Northern California, the paved course winds through giant old growth redwoods and is a double out and back course run entirely on paved roads.

Race Details

  1. The first part of the race is 6.5 miles to the first turn around. The first mile is relatively flat. After the first mile, there are some sharp curves and fairly short hills.
  2. At about five and a half miles, you will enter an opening that continues to the first turn around. The temperature is usually still cool and part of the road is still shaded. The last mile plus of this first out and back is a gradual uphill with few curves. Turn around here, and retrace your steps.
  3. Half marathoners will start at 8:45 and will run on the Avenue of the Giants, the second out and back for the marathon. The second out and and back is mostly shaded, and has only one significant hill, just beyond the 15 mile mark going out, which is also mile 23 coming back.
  4. There is what appears to be a steep hill near the 14/25 mile mark, but it’s a bit misleading, as it’s an overpass over the freeway.
  5. The area near mile 15 is open for about half a mile and the road is heavily cambered, so be careful on this section of the course.

Lessons Learned from Race Reports

  • No headphones allowed
  • The 300 foot tall old growth Redwood trees provide shade and keep temperatures cool all morning, sometimes blocking out GPS signals on running watches.
  • Watches can be incredibly inaccurate throughout the race
  • The road surface has quite a few potholes and is uneven in many parts
  • Run the tangents so you don’t end up running more miles than necessary
  • Some of the little rollers still feel quite steep
  • Chance for humidity with the weather, so if it’s at all hot, this could be challenging
  • Pre-race dinner and breakfast might be hard to come by since the race is fairly remote and other runners are trying to do the same thing; have a plan and a backup plan
  • Can get crowded on the second half because many more runners are on the course with the half marathoners and 10k runners
  • Small time race so don’t expect to buy stuff at the packet pickup


Total gain/loss: ~1200/1200ft

Total climbs: One long, gradual climb of 200 ft over 5 miles, in the first 6.5 miles of the race. Shorter rollers of 25-50 feet, mainly on overpasses, as noted on the elevation profile. According to race reports, these little rollers still feel fairly steep.

Aid stations

Total aid stations: 13

Furthest distance apart: 3 miles

Locations: Miles 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16.5, 17.5, 19, 22, 24, and 25.5.

What’s available: Gatorade, oranges, and bananas will be served at all aid stations. Power bars or Gel will be at select aid stations.

Crew access

Crew instructions/directions: Note that some exits near the start/finish are closed on Race Day off 101. There is limited access to the course (no unauthorized vehicles of any kind, including but not limited to bicycles), so if you wish to observe the race from anywhere than the start/finish staging area, you must get there on foot.

There is an open area near mile 15 (take the Weott exit off of Hwy 101 and follow Newton Road west), about two miles south of the start from which you could observe participants.

The best observation point, is the start/finish staging area, where runners pass twice.

Race qualifiers

Boston Qualifier

Race reports

Coach Meg Gayman’s Race Report

Jael’s 2017 race report

Strava activities and GPX files




Packet pickup

Saturday: 12pm-5:30 PM
Sunday: Beginning at 7:00 AM


There is NO shuttle service available since the race is held in a rural area in a state park.

Race start and cutoff times


7 hour limit

3.5 hour cutoff to reach the halfway point, after which runners will be directed to finish the Half Marathon distance

Race Website



On RegtoRace via the Race Website


The race is located in Southern Humboldt County, 45 miles south of Eureka, California, on the Avenue of the Giants Highway. Driving time from San Francisco or Sacramento is about 5 hours, and from Portland, about eight hours. To use a GPS, the latitude and longitude of the staging area (start/finish and packet pickup) is 40.35611,-123.923442.


The nearest commercial airport is Eureka/Arcata (ACV) about 60 miles to the north. Rental cars are available, although there is a limited supply, make sure to reserve in advance. There is NO shuttle service available since the race is held in a rural area in a state park.


Lots of hotel options in Eureka and nearby cities and in Humboldt County, some campgrounds nearby and some accommodations for RVs as well.

First time running a race? Check out our race day running tips!