We did the Santa Barbara International Marathon & Half (SBIM) in November, then ran the Colorado Marathon & Half (CO) on Sunday. Since the SBIM was our first race, we really had nothing to compare it to until now. I found things I liked in both races and wanted to share our thoughts.
Registration: The registration process was similar for both races, so we didn't notice much difference in either one.
Pre-Race Expo: The SBIM Expo was bigger, but mainly because several other local races had purchased booth space to advertise their upcoming events. The CO Expo was great though - The Brooks Shoe Running Experience Bus even made the trip. The workers at both Expos were incredibly helpful and friendly.
Race Shirt: I had heard several complaints about the race shirt from the SBIM, but having no other race experience, I wasn't sure what they had been expecting. After getting my shirt from the CO, I understood the complaints. The SBIM shirt was mesh-like and had printing on the front. This isn't an issue for women because we wear sports bras underneath, but Mr. C got rubbed raw during a run while wearing his SBIM shirt. The paint chaffs the skin and he nearly ended up with the dreaded "Red 11" on the front of his shirt. ;) The CO shirts were wonderful! They were running shirts, but were made from a soft, wicking fabric. We both liked them much better.
Race Chip - The SBIM chip was tied to our shoes. This was fine, but the CO chip was built into our race bib. This was far easier, and didn't require us to stop to turn our chip in at the end of the race like at the SBIM.
Race Bib - The SBIM had our names printed on our race bibs. This enabled onlookers to yell for the runners by name. It was really a nice touch. The CO didn't do this, so people just yelled for you by your number. It wasn't quite the same.
Shuttle Service: This is where the CO race shines. We drove to the designated parking garage, then caught the passenger coach bus up to the start of the race. It ran smoothly and efficiently. Also, they had placed large grocery bags filled with cut-up bagels near the buses so everyone could grab something to eat while waiting. The SBIM shuttle was good and the people were very friendly, but it wasn't well-organized or advertised. We had stayed at the host hotel, and even THEY didn't know anything about the shuttle to the start. We finally managed to get the info, and got on the correct bus, but several other racers just gave up and called a taxi.
Race Start: We really liked how the SBIM managed the start of the race. They did a staggered-start according to your running pace (under 8 min. miles / 8-11 min. miles / 11+ min. miles). They also had a speaker system and you could hear the announcer much better than the CO. We really appreciated the announcer asking us to raise our hand if it was our first Half-Marathon. When people around us saw we were newbies, they were very supportive and encouraging. The CO couldn't really do a sound system because were were up a mountain with no electricity. The megaphone wasn't really sufficient though. They also didn't stagger the start, they just told us to go and our chips triggered when we crossed the start line.
Race Course: Both courses were beautiful. The SBIM ends with a gorgeous view of the ocean. The Course also has bands and onlookers lined up throughout the entire course. It made the day fun. Because the CO race began up in the canyon, there was no crowd whatsoever until mile 4.5. There were occasional groups of people cheering, especially at the Jr. High in La Porte and at the finish, but nothing like in Santa Barbara. However, the finish line in the CO was superior - it was on the street, just entering the walking mall in Old Town.
Medal: The CO medal was absolutely awesome. It is a beautiful piece of art and looks substantial and well-made. The SBIM medal was ok, but doesn't even come close to comparing to the CO medal.
Race Results: We received an email from the CO within the day with our official time results. The SBIM took a bit longer.