Canada takes top honors for international registrations with 140 runners followed by the UK, Australia, Mexico, Italy and Japan. New to the mix are Chile, Denmark, Germany and Austria. Stateside California still dominates while Arizona, Washington, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts each send 40 or more runners. Race organizers cite the development of running clubs, the spectacular ocean-front course and the allure of Surf City and its mild winter weather as strong draws for domestic and international runners.
“The rising national and international stature of the Surf City USA Marathon adds an ‘out-of-town’ flavor to the popular So Cal winter race, and is a boon to local tourism during the off peak season,” said Surf City Marathon spokesperson Amy Tomchak. “Room stays have evolved from one to three-night packages as attendees are spending more time and money visiting Surf City’s famed landmarks, restaurants and retailers.”
Locally, interest is driven by two unique alliances: the Beach Cities Challenge, which features the Surf City USA Marathon, OC Marathon and Long Beach International City Bank Marathon. Since the series was launched at Surf City in 2011, more than 7000 people have completed their challenge by running all three of the events in a row. New in 2014 is the Double Dog Dare. Runners that participate in a half-marathon and a full marathon that includes Surf City on Feb. 2 and The OC Marathon on May 4 receive a souvenir dog tag bottle opener medal! This heavy, shiny keepsake, with Surf City on one side and OC on the other, is an awesome reward for coasting 39-plus miles!
Another major draw is Huntington Beach itself, boasting seven miles of beaches and an iconic pier that is home to international surfing competitions. Many runners spend time hiking in the spectacular Bolsa Chica wetlands while others embrace Surf City’s namesake surfing culture via the Surfers’ Hall of Fame and International Surf Museum along with world-class retailers like Huntington Surf & Sport and surf-stoked restaurants like the famed Dukes, named after legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku.
Historically, the Surf City USA Marathon features myriad heart-warming human interest stories including hundreds of runners who have fought and conquered disease, obesity and personal loss to those who participate on behalf of several notable charities and causes including autism, cystic fibrosis, cancer and many more. Chief among these is Irvine-based Free Wheelchair Mission whose Run for Mobility has raised nearly $2,000,000 since 2006 to send more than 35,000 specially engineered wheelchairs to needy and developing nations. When lined up wheel-to-wheel, these innovative chairs span the entire 26.2 mile course!
The eclectic field features a mix of the young (nine year-olds from Shanghai, China and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and mature (87 year-old Dorothy Joy from Yucaipa is among six octogenarians), world-class athletes, families, teams, groups, costumed runners and just about everything in between. The race gives participants the chance to run along the beach, through Huntington Beach Central Park and along the usually congested Pacific Coast Highway.
Staged in front of The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton hotel, the 18th Annual Surf City USA Marathon’s exclusive oceanfront course runs on Pacific Coast Highway, past the famous Huntington Beach Pier and winds through the surfing beaches that define Southern California. Weekend highlights include the two-day Active Lifestyle Beach Expo and Michelob Ultra Post Race Beer Garden. Official Sponsors include Arrowhead, Michelob Ultra, Kona Brewing, the Waterfront Beach Resort, Dole, Vitalyte Sports Drink, Greenlayer Sports and Hoag Hospital. More information is available at www.runsurfcity.com