The first marathon in California since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic was run Saturday, with the customary capacity field of 2,500 competing in the 25th annual Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach.
Approximately 13,000 runners entered the marathon’s four races — a half-marathon and 5K run also held Saturday and a mile run on the beach held Friday, according to race publicist Dan Cruz.
The race is customarily held on the first Sunday in February but was delayed to September because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will return to its traditional date in 2022.
The marathon commemorated Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a huge American flag hanging from a crane at the start line on Pacific Coast Highway between the ocean and the Hilton Waterfront Beach Hotel, a moment of silence and multiple flyovers during the race.
The marathon field was limited to 2,500 because the beachfront running path used for the 16th through 25th miles is not part of the race’s closed course and runners could encounter walkers, bicyclists and others not participating in the race. The path is only 8 feet wide for a few stretches, Cruz said.
Michelle Jacobsen of Newport Beach was the women’s winner, completing the 26-mile, 385-yard course in two hours, 53 minutes, 45 seconds, breaking three hours for the first time.
“I was just trying to run sub-three (hours),” the 43-year-old Jacobsen said. “This is completely unbelievable. I’m in shock.”
Jacobsen had limited her training to indoors on a treadmill before joining a local running team the past two months.
Marylu Pulido of Whittier was second in 3:01:01 and Hilary Mills of Santa Barbara third in 3:10:23.
Ben Winfield of Newcastle, Washington was the men’s winner in 2:47:29, topping his previous personal best by nearly 15 minutes.
“The atmosphere was absolutely incredible,” Winfield said. “I didn’t expect so many people to be cheering me on. I didn’t have to do anything. It was so encouraging, all the support along the course. Just amazing. There were people congratulating me, telling me to hold strong.”
More than 2,000 volunteers and several surf bands were along the course to support the runners by providing them with water and cheers.
Naoki Kato of Torrance was second among the men in 2:52:20 and Italo Merante of Washington third, in 2:56:41.
The marathon began at 6:30 a.m., eight minutes before sunrise. The course quickly passed the Huntington Beach Pier. Miles two through nine went through Huntington Beach’s Central Park and miles nine through 15 through the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Miles 16 through 25 were on a beachfront running path paved over the sand. The final mile took runners along Pacific Coast Highway to the finish line, also near the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort.
Dorothy Strand maintained her streak of finishing a race in each edition of the Surf City USA Marathon by running the 13.1-mile half-marathon in 4:20:08. The 81-year-old retired nurse from Orange is the only runner to finish a race in all 25 editions of the Surf City USA Marathon.
Strand became a runner in her late 40s. Her sons were running cross-country at Orange Lutheran High School when her husband, John, decided to join them in road races.
“I thought, `Heck, I need to join in on this,”’ she said.
Strand and her husband contracted the coronavirus in November.
“We were really sick,” she said. “Both of us went through a couple days we were sure we were dying. That changes you. Every sunny day is wonderful.”
Strand is confident that because she and John were healthy, it helped in their fight against COVID-19.
“With the running, our lungs were good,” Strand said. “I think that helped a great deal. I tell people, just don’t stop your running. I know you can get discouraged and say, `Oh, I’m not going to do it anymore.’ But don’t stop doing anything. You’ve got to keep going.”
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