Prize money will go to top finishers in the 13.1-mile race and the best age-graded entrants in the over-40 category. Image via website.

After skipping a year, the Kaiser Permanente Thrive Half Marathon returns to Mission Bay in November with a prize boost for over-40 runners and awards for the slowest team.

Say what?

The fifth annual event, including a 5K run, will partner with The Run Down to host what’s being dubbed the Southern California Run Club Championships. And still-undecided awards will go to a team that tallies the highest in a race scored cross-country style. 

(In normal cross-country meets, the place finishes of a team’s top five runners are added up and the lowest score wins.)

Spokesman Dan Cruz for Easy Day Sports, organizing the 13.1-mile and concurrent 3.1-mile races, says the top three overall male and female finishers in the half-marathon will take home $500, $250 and $100. But $1,000, $500 and $250 will go to the overall best masters age-group runners. All told, it’s the largest such purse for any half-marathon in San Diego, Cruz thinks.

Also a first: awards for the team that finishes worst.

“The award for the club with the ‘most time on their feet’ idea was the brainchild of Iman Wilkerson, who is also the creative founder behind The Run Down, and who we are partnering with for the race-within-a-race,” Cruz says.  

He said the event caters to official or established running clubs, but the idea behind the slowest team initiative is to “bring the running community together and celebrate runners of all abilities — so, yes, five friends could form a club or team and compete.”

Clubs are eligible for two noncash prizes — the fastest and the slowest overall. 

Experts in the running community are leery about the slowest-team notion.

“I can’t recall a race which offered a prize to the slowest club,” said David Monti of New York City, founder and publisher of Race Results Weekly. “I’m not sure why that’s a good idea.”

Amby Burfoot, who won the 1968 Boston Marathon and was a longtime editor-in-chief of Runner’s World, says he likes how masters are getting twice as much in prize money as open entrants.

“Otherwise, [I] agree with David that slowest club seems less interesting than, say, best-costumed club if fun is what they’re aiming for,” he told Times of San Diego. “Also, I’m in favor of just about anything that honors very back of-the-packers.”

Burfoot said he would prefer “oldest finisher” of both sexes to slowest (or fattest) finisher in the event, which also serves as a fund-raiser for Make-A-Wish San Diego.

In any case, organizers are celebrating the first in-person Kaiser Permanente Thrive Half Marathon since Nov. 4, 2019. (In 2020, the event was held virtually due to the pandemic.)

Masters money will go to the top age-graded finishers, not on the basis of who took first overall in the five-year age groups. Based on the age-graded tables of World Masters Athletics, this means a runner in his or her 70s could beat one in their 50s if their time has a higher age-graded percentage.

Race director Jamie Monroe says: “In addition to the new run club championships, the event will also feature a new scenic loop course around Mission Bay, the perfect location for San Diego’s fastest age-group runners to celebrate our running community.”

Wilkerson, a San Diego running group organizer, also said in a statement: “These new club championships are a great way to showcase San Diego’s incredible run club scene.”

Packet pickup and Thrive Health Expo will be Friday, Nov. 5, where all participants go to fetch their race number, T-shirt and swag bag. Half-marathon entrants get an “exclusive long sleeve technical tee.”

Races begin at begin at 7:15 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6. In the 2019 race, beginning in Kearny Mesa and ending at Ski Beach, Liam Burke won the Thrive half in 1 hour, 8 minutes and 58 seconds. Meriah Earle was  the top female finisher less than 5 minutes back  — in 1:13:27.

The 5K course starts and finishes on Vacation Isle and runs along Mission Bay through Crown Point. Event weekend concludes with a finish line festival and Thrive Health Expo, showcasing booths and vendors featuring the latest in nutrition, injury prevention and wellness information. 

All participants receive a finishers medal and post-race refreshments.

What will the slowest team win? That’s TBA.

“We are working on prizes and awards along the lines of … special trophy, gift cards at a local run shop, preferred parking (and) VIP breakfast, etc.,” spokesman Cruz said. “We’ll be announcing those awards in the coming weeks.”