"It's a beautiful thing for Surf City," said John Dahlem, who plans to return home to have brunch and watch the Super Bowl with family after the race.
Training or not, the Surf City USA Marathon has become an institution for the Dahlems — and for Huntington Beach as a whole. The event, which began 14 years ago, sold out this year for the fifth consecutive time. A record 21,000 runners are expected.
For the first time, runners from all 50 states have signed up for one of the four competitions: marathon, half-marathon, kids' fun run or one-mile charity run/walk. With so many contestants coming from out of state, Steve Bone, the president and chief executive of the Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau, expects Surf City's 1,800 hotel rooms to fill up as they have the last few years.
The marathon, Bone said, is Huntington's second-biggest tourist event of the year, surpassed only by the US Open of Surfing.
"This is a fabulous event at the perfect time of the year, in the off season when there isn't a lot of demand for the beach and beach services," he said. "We continue to be absolutely delighted to have such an iconic event in Huntington Beach that draws registration and visitors from around the country."
The event began life as the Pacific Shoreline Marathon, but the City Council, encouraged by the Marketing and Visitors Bureau, voted in 2007 to change its name to the Surf City USA Marathon. Although participants can run to benefit the charity of their choice, the race officially partners with Free Wheelchair Mission, a nonprofit that distributes wheelchairs to developing countries.
In the past six years, the marathon has raised more than $1.8 million for the nonprofit and helped it provide nearly 38,000 wheelchairs, according to marathon spokeswoman Johanna Phillips.