SLO Marathon races to draw thousands of runners this weekend

Runners head down Johnson Avenue under police escort April 22, 2012, in the inaugural San Luis Obispo Marathon.
Runners head down Johnson Avenue under police escort April 22, 2012, in the inaugural San Luis Obispo Marathon.

More than 4,000 runners will participate in several different events this weekend during the second annual San Luis Obispo Marathon, which will take participants through downtown San Luis Obispo and into the rolling hills of Edna Valley.

The 26.2-mile marathon and 13.1-mile half marathon will be held Sunday; a 5-kilometer run and children’s fun run will take place Saturday morning at the Madonna Inn.

Numerous local roads will be closed for Sunday’s races, with the longest closure affecting the Marsh Street on- and off-ramps at Highway 101. The route remains the same as last year’s course — a point of contention for some Edna Valley residents who hoped it could be reworked to avoid closures to certain roads in the unincorporated part of the county.

The marathon returned to San Luis Obispo last April after a 26-year hiatus. Last year’s inaugural event had a $3 million economic impact on the county, according to event organizers, while 2,475 people competed in the half and full marathons.

Event organizers with Get Off the Couch, Potato Sports Productions raised the cap for this year’s event, hoping to draw as many as 1,200 marathon and 4,000 half marathon participants.

Event director Heather Hellman said 834 people have registered for the marathon and 2,700 are signed up for the half.

An additional 900 are signed up for Saturday’s 5K at the Madonna Inn, and late registration for that event will be open from 6 to 8 a.m. The run starts at 8:30 a.m.

Hellman said she’d hoped for more marathoners, but noted that the race date — which had to be pushed into early April for scheduling reasons — falls just a few weeks after the L.A. Marathon and will be held the same weekend as large half marathons in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“It takes a while to recover from these races,” Hellman added. Next year’s marathon will be held over the last weekend in April, “and we feel that weekend date on the race calendar nationally and in California will be a better race date for our race, so we expect better growth for 2014,” she said.

Meanwhile, organizers took feedback from last year’s race into account and made some changes, such as a water station at the finish area, to improve the experience for runners. Runners and walkers must maintain an 18-minute-per-mile pace or they’ll be picked up and driven to the finish area.

“We’re always trying to think of the runner and how we can make the whole weekend festive and fun, and how we can showcase SLO,” Hellman said. “We want people to come back year after year.”

Closure concerns

Hellman said her staff has responded to all the calls and emails they’ve received about road closures.

One Edna Valley resident, retired Cal Poly history professor Max Riedlsperger, didn’t call race organizers with his concerns this year, but he did email Supervisor Adam Hill to suggest that an alternate route be developed to affect fewer roads in that area.

“I’m absolutely not opposed to the marathon,” Riedlsperger said. “But it seems totally irresponsible to close Biddle Ranch, Tiffany Ranch, Corbett Canyon and a stretch of 227.”

Instead, he suggested that runners stay on Orcutt Road and extend the course to Lopez Drive so residents could leave the area more easily and the wineries along parts of the route wouldn’t be affected.

“I fully appreciate the inconvenience you and your neighbors will experience on that morning,” Hill wrote in response to Riedlsperger, “but when weighing the larger good, it does seem like having a healthy and enjoyable event that involves many local residents and brings in many from (out) of our community is ultimately a reasonable trade-off.”

Hellman said she didn’t consider reworking the course this year, but stressed that all residents have access to and from their homes. “They just have to not drive fast and show their ID,” she added.

In a phone interview, Hill said a meeting will be held after the race to get feedback. He also said he’s heard concerns from Edna Valley residents wondering how many other events might be held there in the future.

“That is a reasonable thing to discuss,” Hill said. “How many events are too much?”

Sunday road closures in San Luis Obispo

Road closures will start at 4 a.m. for the streets affected by the race in downtown San Luis Obispo. The streets in the downtown will reopen by 7:30 a.m., with the exception of streets on the return route, including Archer, High, Islay and Osos streets, which will be closed until about 2 p.m.

In Edna Valley, closures start at 5 a.m. for roads including Orcutt, Tiffany Ranch and Corbett Canyon, as well as and Highway 227. Some roads will reopen by 10:30; others are closed until noon or 12:45 p.m.

The Marsh Street on- and off-ramp at Highway 101 will be closed from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The streets will be closed to through traffic, except for those with proof of residency, such as a driver’s license with a current address. Emergency vehicles will not be affected or delayed. A complete list of closures is available at

Route map

San Luis Obispo Marathon map 2013