Location: Azusa, California

Events: 21.1, 42.2

Azusa is on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, you can go through if travelling to/from Las Vegas (it’s on the historic Route 66), or the Arizona/Utah areas. It’s a small university town located at the entrance to the San Gabriel Canyon, giving it the nickname ‘Canyon City’. The US has a great website for exploring fun runs (http://www.runningintheusa.com/) – which is handy for planning a running trip, or in this case, exploring options if you happen to be travelling through.

The REVEL Canyon City pre-event expo and bib pick-up offers a bunch of pop-up shops for event clothing, gels and other running accessories. There’s also a photo wall set up for your token pre-race race bag collection. The race bag included a singlet, gloves, beanie, temporary tattoos and space blanket (to take to the start line).

Since the event is uni-directional, buses are available to the event start lines (all participants must take a bus – there’s no parking/dropping off). Buses set off quite early (approximately half an hour to the half marathon start line), so you’re unaware of the beautiful views passed on the bus trip until you start the run. Runners huddle in the dark at the start area, wrapped in space blankets awaiting warmth from the sunrise and the event start. Although it’s a cool temperature at this time, the event finishes almost 300m lower in Azusa, where it’s considerably warmer (particularly for a Tasmanian).

There’s a significant amount of downhill, with the half marathon starting in the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest and winding down through the Azusa Canyon for most of the course. It is entirely on road, with long winding stretches (both up and downhill) and nice views most of the way. The last 5km are mostly flat or gentle decline. One of the local running clubs offers pacers, and there’s a good vibe throughout.

After leaving the canyon, runners continue south on Azusa Ave, enjoying pretty views of the palm-lined streets. With less than 4km to go the course continues to the aptly named Palm Dr, where runners will once again be engulfed by enormous palms on either side of the road, spectators cheering, and the odd thumb-sized hummingbird flitting amongst the nearby plants. The finish line is located adjacent to Azusa City Hall and the finish area precinct has lots going on – with your race bib allowing a free drink, piece of pizza, and apple pie… in case, amongst the booming American accents and bomb-squad monitoring the finish line, you’d somehow forgotten you were in the US of A. There’s a line up to have your photo taken in front of the brag wall holding the ridiculously large finishers medal, but there’s a band and food stalls while you wait.

Event profile: Jemina Stuart-Smith

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