Credit: Race SLO | Courtesy

Runners from across San Luis Obispo County took part in the eighth annual San Luis Obispo Half Marathon last weekend from April 26-28 at Madonna Inn. Previously a full-length marathon, the race was shortened this year due to low entries and high production costs. Cal Poly alumnus Swarnjit Boyal finished this year’s half marathon in first-place in one hour and eight minutes.

“I just felt like, ‘Alright, today’s my day. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fit,” Boyal said. “I moved up the hill and couldn’t hear anyone behind me, that’s when I knew I was ready to push hard and make my move and go for the win.”

Boyal is a former standout member of the Cal Poly cross country and track and field teams. The Yuba City, California native was the 2017 Big West Conference champion for the track-and-field 10k. Boyal graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2017 before earning his master’s degree last summer.

While every runner prepares for races differently, Boyal described himself as a “high mileage type of guy.” For Boyal, race preparation consisted of running 110 to 120 miles a week. Boyal said he ran 115 miles in the week leading up to Sunday’s half-marathon.

Race SLO | Courtesy

Boyal said he plans to run more half-marathons following his first-place finish and that he hopes to make the Olympic trials for the marathon next year. However, in the immediate future, Boyal has his eyes set on the USA Track & Field National Championships in July.

“It was a great event and I’m glad I got to run it [Sunday], it felt really good,” Boyal said. “Great weather, great feeling, everything was clicking.”

Hosted by Race SLO, the weekend kicked off with the YogaMusic Fest on Friday, where local DJs accompanied guests during three 60-minute yoga-dance style workout sessions. This was the first year that the YogaMusic Fest took place over the weekend.

Races began on Saturday with the kid’s one-mile race along with the children’s quarter mile dash. Runners had the chance to participate in the 5k race on Saturday as well.

Finally, the half-marathon took place Sunday morning, despite wet conditions. For the past seven years, the event has included the 26.2-mile full marathon as well as the 13.1-mile half marathon. However, this year saw a significant change as the full-length marathon was removed due to low entries and the high costs associated with hosting the race.

Founder and CEO of Race SLO Samantha Pruitt said less and less people are running marathons nationally. Older generations are moving into trail running while younger generations are becoming less attracted to the 26-mile stretch, according to Pruitt.

“13 [miles] is reasonable and it’s fun and it’s still an amazing accomplishment,” Pruitt said. “But, that 26 mile distance has just kind of lost its luster, so we really are hoping it comes back at some point.”

Pruitt said this year’s estimated attendance was about 2,000 athletes in the half-marathon, along with 4,000 to 5,000 spectators in the venue. The event is put on with the help of about 1,000 volunteers.

Pruitt said she hopes the event continues to grow in popularity as organizers target other fitness markets. Race SLO plans to host their first-ever SLO County Ultra Games, a CrossFit-style competition, as part of its fall event.

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