La Jolla Half Marathon continues to improve

It’s considered to be a laid-back, family-fun race, so no wonder the 29th installment of the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla’s Half Marathon is so popular.

This year’s race, which takes place April 25, will see 7,000 runners of all ages and abilities cover the 13.1 miles from the Del Mar Fairgrounds to La Jolla Cove. And even though the race has been sold out for months, it doesn’t stop inquiries on a race that’s considered one of the top 25 half-marathons in the United States by Runner’s World.

“We’ve probably had almost 2,000 (people) this year that have tried to go online and register since it’s sold out,” said Bill Uncapher, co-race director of La Jolla Sports Group, which promotes and markets the event.

In the past, the race has seen an increase in its participants each year. That trend continues this year as well, but it may be the last time in the foreseeable future. During the last 15 years, the race has gone from 3,000 participants in 1994, to 5,500 in 2007. A year ago, 6,500 were allowed to race. Uncapher said there are a few reasons the race likely won’t get any bigger.

“Our biggest obstacle has been the alleyways and the narrow streets in the city of Del Mar, and we really just don’t want to change the course the way it’s been set up,” Uncapher said. “That really is our limit. As I see it, this will be the last year that we will be able to increase it. From what we saw last year, we had the room to grow by 500 runners.”

Half-marathons are becoming more and more popular across the U.S., particularly among women, a group Uncapher says now makes up 55 percent of the runners in the La Jolla race.

“All over the U.S., half-marathons have gone up,” Uncapher said. “A full marathon requires a pretty hefty commitment.”

But just because the race has reached capacity, it doesn’t mean the organizers will stop trying to improve the race. This year, there will be the addition of bands playing at different stops of the course as well as an increase in runner services.

“We’re just trying to refine it and improve it,” Uncapher said.

Each year, the race organizers ask hundreds of racers what they can change to continue to improve on what Uncapher calls a “noncompetitive” half-marathon.

The La Jolla Half Marathon may have reached its capacity in terms of racers, but there’s still a lot more that can be done to continue to make it one of the top races around, he said. “I think it’s going to get more and more refined,” Uncapher said.

Spots are still available for the 5K, which will accept signups at the La Jolla Rec. Center at the corners of Draper and Prospect and Silverado between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday.