2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5k in San Diego, and the event promises to be one of the most exciting yet. For those who love to run and explore new neighborhoods, this race is the perfect opportunity to do both. The half-marathon route takes runners through some of the most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods in San Diego.
Here’s what you can expect to see and experience along the way.
Running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half?
Starting Point in Balboa Park
Plan at least a day before or after the race to explore the cultural heart of San Diego, with 18 museums, gardens galore and the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture that make this park so special.
From Balboa Park, runners will head north into Hillcrest, a vibrant and diverse neighborhood that is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community, as well as welcoming bars, restaurants, coffee houses, boutiques and unique shops.
As you head down University Avenue, you’ll enter North Park, another of San Diego’s most dynamic neighborhoods. This is a great place to celebrate your triumphant finish with a beer at one of the amazing breweries along 30th St. The eclectic neighborhood’s streets are also lined with coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries and diverse restaurants.
After North Park, the route takes runners through Normal Heights, a laid-back neighborhood that’s known for its tree-lined streets and charming bungalows. Here, you’ll get a sense of what life is like for locals in San Diego, away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s more touristy areas.
Downtown San Diego
The final stretch of the race takes you down Pershing Drive, past the Balboa Park Golf Course and through downtown San Diego to the finish line at the San Diego County Waterfront Park, where you can celebrate the achievement with music, food and drinks.
Running the full Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon?
If you’re running the full marathon, you’ll get to explore even more of San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and charm. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect to see and experience along the marathon route:
After you split from the half-marathon runners, the full marathon route takes you through Mission Hills, a quiet and picturesque neighborhood known for its farm-to-table and neighborhood restaurants, historic homes and tree-lined streets. The architecture here is a mix of styles, including Spanish Colonial Revival, Craftsman and Mediterranean Revival, giving the area a charming and eclectic feel.
Old Town San Diego
From Mission Hills, the route takes you to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the birthplace of modern California. You’ll run through Presidio Park and past the Junípero Serra Museum, one of the most familiar landmarks in San Diego and recognized as the site where modern California began (and also commonly mistaken as the mission).
Once your legs recover, take the trolley back to Old Town San Diego for a day immersed in San Diego’s past with a variety of historic buildings, including the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego and the Whaley House, one of the most haunted buildings in America. This vibrant area is also home to some of the best Mexican restaurants, birdbath margaritas and souvenir shops.
After Old Town, the route heads west along the northern edge of the Point Loma Peninsula. This area is known for its historic lighthouses, naval bases (both the active MCRD and the beautifully converted Liberty Station), and the Cabrillo National Monument, which commemorates the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States.
As you head back east, the marathon route takes you through Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground that is the largest of its kind in the world and is popular with locals and tourists alike. Make sure to return after the race to enjoy the miles of sandy beaches, waterfront parks and a variety of water sports, including kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing.
163 Freeway to Downtown San Diego
The final stretch of the marathon is perhaps the most challenging, as runners must climb the 163 freeway. Take a moment to revel in running along one of two historic parkways in California and under Balboa Park’s iconic Cabrillo Bridge. And once you reach the top, the final mile is well worth the effort, as you’ll be rewarded with cheering crowds as you run toward the finish line and the after-party.
Save on your Rock ‘n’ Roll Registration
Whether you’re running the half-marathon or the full marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series San Diego race is a great way to explore some of the most fascinating neighborhoods in this vibrant and diverse city. So why not lace up your running shoes and discover the best of San Diego on foot? And don’t forget to use the code VISITSD15 to save 15% on your registration!