REVEL Mt Diablo Half Marathon Course Review
REVEL Race Series
Jan. 24, 2024

A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is necessary for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first half-marathon, and your goal is simply to finish, or you are aiming for a PR, you must have a well-planned strategy for how you intend to manage the course.

The head coach of REVEL’s Online Coaching Program, who has run a Boston Qualifier on all the REVEL marathon courses he has run, has prepared a detailed description of the Mt Diablo Half-Marathon course.

Managing the Course Based on Segments

A critical component of your race strategy is the course profile itself. Where are the sharp descents? Where are the climbs? Where does the course “flatten” a bit? You want to plan your race with course segments in mind, and with an overall strategy for varying paces throughout. Your varied paces will be dictated by the elevation losses and gains, and you want to know before the race where those variations will occur.

The Mt Diablo Half-Marathon course can be divided into three sections:
Miles 1-2: Severe Downhill
Miles 3-10: Settle In
Miles 11-13.1: Coasting In

You can study the course yourself on the REVEL website. You can zoom in, use the interactive elevation chart, and get a feel for what lies ahead of you on race day. If possible, you should drive the course before race day to get a feel for what the segments look and feel like. Knowing what to expect, and when, is helpful when preparing your course strategy. The half-marathon course is summarized below based on the segments described above.

Miles 1-2: Severe Downhill
Starting at just over 3,800’ elevation, the course drops 823’ from the start to mile 2. That is an average of 412' per mile, which is a significant drop.You will need to resist the urge to chase people if they pass you. Although you want to take advantage of gravity throughout this course by running “comfortably fast” on the downhills, you need to manage the early downhill drops by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along. You should not feel as if you are running “too hard” or “too fast.” If you do, then you should ease back a bit and aim for a “comfortably hard” pace.

Miles 3-10: Settle In
Overall, you will drop 2,567' in miles 3-10. That is an average of 321’ per mile, which is remarkable. Compared to the noticeably fast – and steep – downhill miles from the start to mile 2, this section is a much more “comfortable” downhill.

This is the section where you can really settle into your race pace. The downhills are less sharp than the opening segment, and all of them lose between 262’ and 367’ per mile. At the same time, be wary of a sensation of “running too fast.” If you feel out of control, or if you feel yourself working “too hard” while running downhill, then slow down. If you are tracking your splits every mile or every few miles at marked intervals, don’t be surprised to see that you are running well ahead of your goal pace.

Miles 11-13.1: Coasting In
Remember that the opening 2-mile segment loses an average of 412’ per mile, and the second 8-mile segment loses an average of 321’ per mile. This final segment loses an average of about 85’ per mile. This is still a net downhill per mile, but it is much less than the earlier miles. As the course begins to descend more gradually, you might notice that your pace is beginning to slow.

Pay close attention to your own level of effort. Whatever level of effort you feel on the opening downhill segments is your benchmark; duplicate that level of effort on the less downhill miles, but do not go harder. Pay attention to your breathing and heart rate. If you feel yourself working too hard, then simply lower your level of effort. You should be coasting in for the final miles. Keep in mind that although you still lose 261’ total in the last 3.1 miles, that amount is minor compared to the average elevation loss from the start-up to mile 10; every mile from 1-10 loses more elevation per mile than the entire final 3.1 miles combined. The slowdown you will experience in the last 5K is expected.

The REVEL Mt Diablo Half-Marathon course loses 3,651' of elevation from start to finish. That's an average of more than 278'; per mile (-5.3% grade), making this one of the fastest half-marathon courses you will ever run. Over the 13.1-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your "faster than normal" pace on the downhill segments.

Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 30-time REVEL marathon finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course. His streak stands at 24 successful BQ efforts in a row at REVEL marathons.