On October 10, 2010 the inaugural Dirt Devils Raptor Ridge half marathon was held in San Diego. A unique trail half marathon, Raptor Ridge is a great way to break into trail running. The course begins on Sunset Drive at the Mule Hill trailhead at a large round dirt parking area right off I-15 in Escondido near Lake Hodges and the Wild Animal Park. The race is limited to 150 runners and began promptly at 7am.
The Raptor Ridge half marathon begins with 4.5 miles of flat and fast jeep road that winds east towards the Wild Animal Park and Raptor Ridge. The first aid station is found at mile 3. Since most runners carry at least a hand bottle it was not necessary to take aid here but since it is an out and back this would be the last aid station on the way to the finish. Runners cruise past the aid station and make their way for another 1.5 miles towards Raptor Ridge and their next aid station.
Taking aid here is critical as you are about to make your way up Raptor Ridge on some challenging single track trail. The single track up Raptor Ridge is completely runnable for stronger runners. Runners who are not as strong should expect to “do some hiking” up to the top. At the top you are rewarded by views of the entire valley. October is a gorgeous time of year and the view at the top of the ridge is impressive. If you are here on a training run there is a nice picnic table for you to sit and enjoy a delicious gel packet or any other snack of choice!
As you continue down the other side of Raptor Ridge you really make up time. Lean into the hill and run fast down the opposite side as you make your way back into the flats and towards your turnaround point. You will encounter your third aid station just before a farm. Make sure to fill your bottle and get some aid because now you have to go back up Raptor Ridge!
Running up the backside of the ridge is somehow easier than running up the single track. The hill is longer and on less of an incline. Try to run all the way to the top as you feel your quads burning. As you crest the top get back on the single track and “trail-surf” all the way to the bottom. This is trail running at its best. Running downhill, really fast with great views all around you. Spectacular! If you are feeling confident run through the fourth aid station and back onto the jeep road.
It is only another 1.5 miles to the 5th and final aid station. As you run along the rolling jeep road toward the 5th aid station with the mountains on your left make sure to ready your bottle for filling. It is only 3 miles to go now and it is all flat. Now you are on your way back. Farms are on both sides of you and you can settle into a nice, comfortable pace as you near the end. As you come closer you can hear the sounds of cowbells ringing and volunteers calling “Runner”! It gives you a jolt of energy and will allow you to speed up as you cross the finish.
First place male and female received Mizuno Ascend trail shoes. Second place received Brooks Cascadia trail shoes and third place received 2XU compression socks. Prizes added a unique and great component to the Raptor Ridge half marathon. The first 25 finishers the completed the race UNDER 2 hours received a prize and the first 25 finishers OVER 2 hours received a prize. So out of 150 runners a total of 57 prizes were given. That, in addition to awesome duffel bags displaying the race logo and holding a load of running “goodies” and finishing medals for EVERYONE, made this a terrific trail half marathon!
Dr. Runco is a U.S. Navy and Gulf War Veteran. Graduating as a Doctor of Chiropractic he began private practice in San Diego in 2000. He has been a professor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Biomechanics at various colleges and continues to teach continuing education in the fields of rehabilitation, custom orthotics and athletic taping. He is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.