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Surf City toes the mark

Annual marathon on Super Bowl Sunday has drawn 20,000 sign-ups for third straight year.

February 01, 2012|By Mike Sciacca

Sunday's forecast calls for a series of substantial waves to surge down Pacific Coast Highway near the Huntington Beach Pier.

The first swell is expected to hit the fabled coastline at 6:30 a.m. and successive swells are to follow over the next hour and a half. But not to worry: The incremental swells are made up of a sea of humanity.

Twenty thousand runners are signed up to participate in the 2012 Surf City USA Marathon, known as the largest combined oceanfront marathon and half-marathon event in the state, according to General Manager Amy Tomchak.

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Race spots were sold out for this year's event by Jan. 5, the earliest sell-out yet for the marathon.

Tomchak said the races, held each Super Bowl Sunday, will draw competitors from all 50 states plus 18 other countries.

"We've almost doubled our out-of-state participants in the last couple of years," said Tomchak, who is in her eighth year as general manager. "When I first got started with the event, we had 5,000 participants in 2005. In 2006, that list grew to 10,000 and it continued to take off. This is the third year that we've had 20,000 for this event."

Tomchak said a "very specific" marketing strategy was used to draw more out-of-state competitors.

"We focused on programs with local hotels in Huntington Beach to really attract runners," she said. "We picked out all the key markets — Boston, New York, Chicago, Arizona, Seattle. This year, we are up to almost 3,000 out-of-state competitors.

"We also reached out to participants to get their feedback on what they liked and what they would like to see improve with the event. I think our success is all about staying focused on creating an experience that inspires runners, making sure every detail is made to bring about a perfect experience. We do this from the finisher medals, to through the medical stations along the course. We listed to what the runners needed."

One key aspect of Sunday's event is that the races will be staged in "wave starts" — 19 of them, to be exact. Tomchak said between 1,000 and 2,000 runners will be released at a single time in two- to three-minute starts.

"It's really important that we do that," she said. "The goal has been to make sure that runners don't feel crowded. We also want to make sure that there is enough space for parking. Again, it's all about creating a great experience for the competitors. Setting runners out in 'waves' is so key to doing that."

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