The Santa Barbara Triathlon went off without a hitch last weekend. There were some unofficial participants in the swimming portion, but they were most welcome. “We had dolphins with the swimmers,” race director Joe Coito said. “It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.” The athletes might say that the most beautiful sight was the finish line. The first one to get there-after 45 miles of swimming, biking, and running-was John Dahlz of South San Francisco, the reigning national collegiate champion from UC Berkeley.
Next up for endurance athletes is the Pier to Peak Half Marathon on Sunday, September 6. It is a gnarly 13.1-mile climb from Stearns Wharf to La Cumbre Peak. With an elevation gain of 4,000 feet, it is billed as “the world’s toughest half marathon.”
But for most people who have taken up long-distance running, the “half” falls short in their dreams. There is one race they aspire to put in their running logs: The full marathon of 26 miles, 385 yards. That distance has the mystique to draw runners from coast to coast, from Santa Barbara to Boston-and vice versa.
The first Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon will be happening on Sunday, December 6. As of this Friday, there are 100 days to go before the start-time enough to increase your training mileage in preparation for the big run.
Rusty and June Snow, codirectors of the marathon, have been preparing feverishly for more than a year. “This is like having a kid,” said June, the mother of two. The Snows were both runners at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Rusty went on to become a marathoner of some repute. They moved to Santa Barbara six years ago. Rusty works as a physiotherapist and has gotten involved with community running clubs. “I thought this would be a beautiful place to run a marathon,” he said.
The Snows heard many times that it was too complicated to stage a marathon here, but they adopted a “yes, we can” attitude and assembled a team of like-minded devotees. The key member is Dan Campbell, who coached Rusty at a high school in Maine two decades ago and has organized dozens of runs and triathlons in New England. Campbell quit his job of 25 years in February to work full-time on the marathon.
Finding a title sponsor in tough economic times was a hurdle, but Select Staffing came through. A huge challenge has been obtaining road closures along the course. It starts on Hollister Avenue in Ellwood, loops around the western perimeter of Goleta, goes east on Cathedral Oaks to Turnpike Road, brushes the edge of Hope Ranch, follows Modoc and Las Positas roads to Cliff Drive, and descends the sweeping curve of Shoreline Drive to the finish line at Leadbetter Beach.
“We’re working with two cities, the county, and the state,” Campbell said. “We’ve talked to all the authorities, all the churches, and all the homeowners’ associations. Starting the marathon at 6:30 in the morning will lessen the impact. We’ll hang notices and signs.” Residents will be able to exit their neighborhoods via prescribed detours, Campbell said.
The hope of the organizers is that Goleta and Santa Barbara will embrace the marathon like Bostonians in April or New Yorkers in November. “We’re not a big organization,” Rusty Snow said. “We’re community members who believe in something. We want [the marathon] to be bigger than us. It belongs to the community. We want to fade into the background.”
The safety of the course is paramount because the roads will be full of runners. The inaugural Santa Barbara International Marathon may not reach its maximum of 5,000 entries-including four-person relay teams-but the number currently is approaching 2,000, with more coming in every day. After August 31, the individual entry fee will increase from $105 to $115. The Web site sbimarathon.com has all the pertinent information.
Sixty percent of the entries have come from out of town, Rusty Snow said, and they have reserved more than 900 nights of hotel and motel stays. He projects that the marathon will bring more than $1 million to the region.
People who want to be part of the marathon, without running in it, can sign up as volunteers. Interested groups or individuals can apply through the Web site or call 637-7417.
Follow The Indy‘s Ethan Stewart on his quest to conquer the Santa Barbara International Marathon at independent.com/marathon.