HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBS) — First-time marathoner Paul Sarris of Aliso Viejo was the men’s winner of Sunday’s 16th annual Surf City USA Marathon by a margin of seven minutes, 41 seconds.
Carla McAlister of San Clemente was the women’s winner.
Sarris told CBS2 and KCAL9’s Joy Benedict that he was an avid runner in college but that he hadn’t run in years. He told her “About eight months I decided to start running again.”
Sarris, 34, completed the 26-mile, 385-yard course in two hours, 30 minutes, nine seconds. Gary Augustus of Ammon, Idaho was second at 2:37.50. McAlister, 38, was timed in 3:02:48. Hayley McKeen of Portland, Ore. was second at 3:05:52.
Sarris, modestly, told Benedict, “all the good runners competed at the Olympic trials on January 14th” and that he won by default…”basically.”
A capacity field of 3,000 runners entered the marathon, while another 17,000, also capacity, entered the half-marathon, in what organizers billed as California’s largest combined oceanfront marathon and half-marathon event.
The race reached its capacity on Jan. 5, the earliest in its history, according to general manager Amy Tomchak. This was the seventh consecutive year it has sold out, Tomchak said.
“The race field was capped at 20,000 runners to preserve the spectacular running experience and ensure the participants don’t feel crowded,” Tomchak said.
Benedict also spoke to Stephen Tierney, founder of “Up And Running Again”, an non-profit organization that helps homeless and at-risk kids. Seventy-five of the kids signed up for his 14-week training course and ran in the half marathon today.
Tierney says the program helps the kids find more than just physical fitness. They find self-esteem. “They find confidence to go out and get a job, go to college, reconcile with family…whatever issues they have.”
Tierney says, “Running was amazing to me, and this is my way of helping other people,”
Between the marathon and half-marathon, all 50 states were represented and 18 foreign countries, Tomchak said.
A record field of 3,300 entered the marathon and 15,600 the half- marathon last year.
Marathon organizers conduct extensive polling of the runners each year “to continually evolve the race,” Tomchak said. This year’s changes included adding 10 people to the race’s now-150-member medical team and starting the race in 15 waves, three more than last year.
In a wave start, runners start in groups in two- to three-minute intervals according to their predicted finish time, allowing runners to run with others who are similar in speed.
The race began on Pacific Coast Highway between the Pacific Ocean and Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, then quickly passed the Huntington Beach Pier.
Miles 2 through 9 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.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Surf City USA Marathon served as a fundraiser for the Free Wheelchair Mission, an Irvine-based nonprofit group that builds and delivers specially engineered wheelchairs for the impoverished disabled in developing nations.
The “Run for Mobility” fundraiser raised more than $2 million during its first six years, Tomchak said. Fundraising totals for this year’s race were not immediately available.
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