California held its first marathon since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic 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 also commemorated Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks including a start line flyover and a moment of silence.
The marathon field was limited to 2,500 because the beachfront running path used for miles 16 through 25 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.
Saturday’s marathon was won by Ben Winfield with a time of 2:47:29. The women’s marathon was won by Michelle Jacobsen with a time of 2:53:45.
The marathon began at 6:30 a.m., eight minutes before sunrise, on Pacific Coast Highway between the ocean and the Hilton Waterfront Beach Hotel.
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.
More than 2,000 volunteers and several surf bands were along the course to support the runners by providing them with water and cheers.
Arizona’s Sid Vaughn won the men’s half-marathon with a time of 1:06:53, and Rosie Edwards won the women’s half-marathon at 1:16:17.
The only runner to finish all 24 previous editions of the Surf City USA Marathon is Dorothy Strand, an 81-year-old retired nurse from Orange who was entered in Saturday’s half-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.”