All the hotels become expensive on race day - I ended up paying $200 for a Motel.
By wac about 2015
We run through the barrel room of an actual winery............Awesome! Beautiful Course.
By DG about 2015
I liked the area in California, would be great to have guests along due to being in wine country.
I liked the bottle of wine in place of a shirt, however I would also like a shirt. I bought one.
I liked the course. Going through the winery was interesting.
I liked the expo was held at the winery - transportation was well done.
Although the overall elevation gain is minimal, there are some small rolling hills that I did not expect. Nothing major but coming from Florida I noticed them. Also some of the blacktop roads were heavily pitted/patched and I recall them being rough in small stretches.
I stayed about 30 miles away, but had no issues getting to the race and expo using a rental car.
I flew out of San Fran the day of the race. I might do it differently next time and get an even later flight.
By PT about 2014
Pre-race expo was at a winery, on outskirts of Santa Rosa. Sort of a pain to get to, as I'm from SF, which meant 2x trips out there, once for expo, once for race. Expo would appeal to most folks, though, winery was nice, and everyone was friendly.
Race itself was good, temperature-wise (~57 F) was comfortable to me, although 10-15 degrees cooler would have been ideal, physiologically. It's a good thing it starts at 6:00 a.m., however. If they started at the normal 8:00 a.m. start time, it would be miserable later, especially on slower folks.
Volunteers were very nice, although many of them did not have much experience in handing out water. (I do not mean this too negatively, and of course, THANK YOU volunteers..) When handing out water, your only job is to try to have a cup in one (or both) hands at all times, and to announce clearly what you are carrying. Very few of the volunteers would say what they were holding, so I had to sorta yell "water, water, water?" each time, until they identified what they had (sometimes Gatorade, ugh)
Note... I was near the front at all times, there was never a crowd around me at water stations, so probably they had just not been taught to "say what you are holding". This is my only major "complaint" if you will, and was only super-important (to me) because I was using at least a full cup of water on every stop to dump on my head, keeping me cool. Staying cool is amazingly important to running your fastest marathon, as you probably know.
Course is fast, and "flat". There were small hills and rollers, but these would not classify as hills, compared to other courses I've done, i.e. San Francisco, Big Sur, Yakima River, etc.
Good crowd support, for a marathon (and city) of this size. Especially as it was so early, you did see people out and cheering for you.
If you are trying to get a BQ (as I was), I would suggest being at the front of the starting line. After a couple of miles of wide city streets, with turns, you are on a narrow bike path area called "the path", which is a bit narrow. If you wait to start near the back, you would need to fight through tons of people, most likely. I started at the front, and was very happy I did that.
Also... on the way back, the full marathon merges (back on the path) for miles ~21-25 with the half marathoners, and so it gets a bit dicey on space. You need to swerve through or around slower half marathoners a lot, which I liked for the most part, as it distracted me nicely. (cost me some time, of course, but oh well)
Race day parking (as mentioned on the website) was extremely easy. We just arrived at about 4:30ish (start time = 6:00 a.m.), and parked in the Sears/Mall parking lot. Quick 0.5 mile walk to start area. Super cool, and non-stressful. Porta potty area was very good, and was able to use them twice, with no problems; they got long lines at about T - 25 minutes, which is much better than most races I have been at. Race start area was small, but easy to move about. Total runners was about ~1250, just make sure to get to starting line by ~15 minutes before start, to get a spot up front if trying for a fast time.