"Disclaimer: I received a complimentary entry to the Santa Barbara Wine Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
Let me start with this: The Santa Barbara Wine Half Marathon exceeded my expectations. From start to finish.
My friend and I ran the relay, as team “Zin It To Win It”. I had never ran a half marathon relay before. Why don’t more half marathons offer relay options? It was such a wonderful option when there were so many other fun things to do and experience. We arrived in Solvang on Friday morning, the day before the race. I’ve been wanting to see this town for a while, and it did not disappoint!
On Friday, it was a bit overcast and rainy, but we did plenty of shopping and beverage tasting that day. Every single shop owner was SO friendly and welcoming. I bought a cute souvenir for my porch and the shop owner offered my friend and I some “God’s Eyes” charms for good luck. We wore them on our race bibs.
Once packet pickup was open, it was a total breeze! Plenty of spots for photo opps, and Firestone Walker was there with beer samples. Also there was yoga so folks could get stretched out before the race.
We were all smiles, knowing that this relay option was the best decision ever. All the fun of a lively half marathon (and finishers party!) with only “half” of the hard work.
We stayed a block away from the start, so convenient. Thank you to race organizers who decided to move the start to downtown Solvang! Much appreciated. We spent the rest of the day eating in wonderful restaurants and taking in all the Danish charm.
We met up with fellow BibRave Pro Rory and walked to the start. I was going to be runner #2, so I walked my friend to the start area and then grabbed a coffee and got on the shuttle bus. Have I mentioned how relaxing it was??!!!!
I waited at the transition for Connie for quite a while, or so it seemed. Finally she came running down and I was off. I had assumed (I honestly hadn’t checked) that we would have fairly equal amounts of distance. Wrong! Within a few minutes I hit the 6 mile marker. Say what! Shouldn’t I have started around 6.5 and be closing in on 7? Bummer. Then the work started. Less than ¾ mile in, I was greeted with “corkscrew hill”. This was a massive hill with switchbacks. I had a decent pace going until that point, but alas, I had to walk a bit of it (and take pics)!
The course was tough, but I absolutely loved the scenery. I enjoyed the rolling hills and vineyards so much. Oh, and it was perfect weather! Sunny and 55-60.
There was another large hill between mile 11-12 that I was not expecting. Again, I had a great pace going but couldn’t keep it up the hill. I let Connie know once I was a mile out so she would be ready and we could cross the finish line together. Every mile marker had a wine bottle design. Cute!
So cool! Upon finishing, I got my medal (she got hers at the relay transition) and they handed me my souvenir wine glass, which I love. We entered the finisher festival, and the party was well underway! It was pretty crowded and barely any table space was available. Lines were a bit long to get samples, but they were UNLIMITED!! Small, but unlimited. And the wineries were more than happy to explain all the varieties and educate us.
The band, Mean Gene Band (MGB) was so good. They crossed the 70’s, 80s 90s and beyond. They even took requests and had an encore. We decided to take a photo on the steps while they were playing and then moments later, people started copying our idea.
My only complaint is the lack of food inside the finisher festival. If we’re going to be drinking, it would be nice to offer (even if we had to pay) for some snacks to soak it up a little. We received a pre-packaged assortment of a banana, granola bar, pretzels and a Danish butter cookie at the finish, but some cheese and crackers would have gone so nicely with that wine…
So, I ended up running 7.45 miles, and my friend ran 5.65. I cannot recommend this race enough, whether you run the entire half by yourself or as a relay.
This was a terrific destination race, and I would absolutely run it again. Solvang has so much to offer.
Hotel - We stayed at Svengaard’s which is conveniently located to town.
Breakfast - I highly recommend the Belgian Café for unique Belgian waffles.
Lunch/Dinner – We enjoyed French onion soup at Solvang Brewing Company and to die for meatloaf at Succulent.
Wine/Beer - Viking Garden and the Sausage Garden both have great craft beer selections. Sausage Garden is all outdoor, so we skipped it when it was raining. Danish Reds are popular type of beer here in town. The Good Life Cellar is underground by the park, and has a nice selection of beer and wine and a nice ambiance. We enjoyed some tastings around town, including one inside of a windmill – Sevtap Winery. Sanger Family of Wines was really nice and super modern as well.
Danish Bakeries – there is literally one on every corner here. Check them out!
Unique activities – we rented a “Surrey with a Fringe On Top” to cruise around town. Um, that was hard work and maybe not the best idea after running a half marathon. Unique experience, though!
Getting there - Santa Barbara airport is about 40 minutes away, and San Luis Obispo is about an hour.
Next year’s race will be on May 9, 2020, mark your calendars!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!