The Long Beach Marathon, one of the city’s biggest annual events, will return this weekend, with thousands of people expected to be at the starting line during the running and bicycling events — and with race officials excited to get the competition closer to its pre-pandemic glory days.
The marathon’s 38th iteration is expected to have 15,000 people participate in the series of in-person events, with some still taking part virtually. The marathon went entirely virtual in 2020 and saw depressed turnout last year, with an estimated 10,000 participating.
There were fewer than 100 spots left in the marathon, as of Monday morning, Oct. 3, fewer than 200 for the 5K and fewer than 300 for the bike tour.
Marathon officials said they are excited to see the marathon’s attendance rebound.
“It’s definitely up from last year,” said spokesman Dan Cruz, “but we’re not quite where we were – over 20,000 – during our historical highs.
“Everybody is still getting used to coming back to races and events, and lining up together at the start line,” he added, “but it’s such a huge win and a tremendous testament to the quality and longevity of the Long Beach Marathon.”
The weekend will kick off with the race expo – during which all paricipants must pick-up their race bibs — from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Hall C, 400 E. Seaside Way.
Weekend festivities, meanwhile, will begin in earnest with the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K race, which is set for 7 a.m. Saturday in front of the aquarium. Bib pick-up for that event will begin at 5:30 a.m. the day of the race.
During the 3.1-mile race, participants will get to enjoy the aquarium’s exhibits, mascots, staff and volunteers cheering them on as they make their way around Shorline Village Park, past the lighthouse in ShoreLine Aquatic Park, over the Queensway Bridge, and back through the aquarium to the finish line.
“They get to run through the aquarium to their epic finish line,” said Natalia Mendez, the marathon’s director of operations. “I consider that a huge highlight, a huge win for our runners and participants being able to get back through those doors again.”
The main event, though, is Sunday, with athleties particpating in a half-marathon, a bike tour — and, of course, the Long Beach Marathon.
The 26.2-mile marathon and the 20-mile bike tour will begin at 6 a.m. Sunday. The marahone will start at the intersection of Shoreline and Shoreline Village drives, while the bike tour will start at Shoreline Drive and Linden Avenue.
The full marathon course will see runners head toward the Queen Mary, through Shoreline Village, along the coastline on the flat beach path, and through Belmont Shore toward Marine Stadium. The marathoners will then complete a 5-kilometer loop around the Cal State Long Beach campus, then head back toward Ocean Boulevard to the finish line at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Linden Avenue.
The bike tour participants will do much the same route, except in reverse and excluding the CSULB loop.
The 13.1-mile half-marathon, meanwhile, will start at Shorline and Shoreline Village drives at 7:30 a.m.
It will follow the full marathon course until runners cross the Queensway Bridge and to the bow of the Queen Mary; they will then circle around the Aquarium of the Pacific and the lighthouse at Rainbow Harbor, and then pass through Shoreline Village for the last few miles before reaching the finish line.
“This is a race that showcases the diversity, communities and eclectic neighborhoods,” Cruz said, “that make Long Beach such a special place.”
Participants who are at least 21 years old will be able to celebrate crossing the finish line at the marathon’s beer garden. There will be live music and televisions with Sunday football, Mendez said.
Long Beach Marathon will also once again welcome back the Legacy Runners.
The dozen or so Legacy Runners are a dedicated group whose members are in their 70s and 80s and have competed in all 37 iterations of the Long Beach Marathon, which began in 1982.
John Sumpter, 78, of Long Beach is part of this group of friends. The former Poly High School golf coach will run the half-marathon virtually to ensure his safety among the thousands of in-person participants.
He will follow the marathon course, which starts near his home, with one of his legacy friends, Jim Warnemuende, on Sunday morning before anyone else has started.
“When (the marathon) first started, I (participated) because I had been looking for a marathon to do,” Sumpter said. “I did it the first year in just under four hours.”
After getting a medal for participating in the marathon for five years – from 1982 through 1986 – Sumpter was hooked and continued to do so even when the marathon stopped for a few years.
Sumpter said he and his fellow Legacy Runners plan to continue until they complete their 50th Long Beach Marathon together.
And by living so close to the route, Sumpter will avoid having to deal with parking as well.
Parking will be available to runners and bikers on a first-come, first-serve basis in the Convention Center garages. The cost is $15 and access is from Pine Avenue. There also will be a runner dropoff area at 448 E. Ocean Blvd.
Most road closure and detours will be in place from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday to accommodate the events. Roads near the start and finish on Shoreline Drive will close earlier for set up.
Streets will reopen as the last participants pass a given area and the course’s supporting material is removed. The marathoners must complete the course in the allotted time, 7 1/2 hours for the marathon and six hours for the half marathon.
Residents who live along the route should plan accordingly, especially on Sunday, marathon officials said.
If people are not yet registered to participate, they should do so quickly, Mendez said — since not many spaces are left.
“It’s such a big deal,” she said. “We’re really excited to see those numbers and the enthusiasm coming back after these past couple of years.”
“This is an incredible race that tells a great story about the community,” Mendez added. “It was known as the People’s Race for so many years and we’re excited to bring that back.”
More information on the paths, prizes and regulations can be found on the marathon website, runlongbeach.com.
Source: Orange County Register