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Marathon Takes Competitors Off Beaten Path

Some people just prefer the road less traveled. Especially if it’s a trail.

That’s part of the attraction for running in off-road events rather than urban marathons. Baz Hawley, race director of Sunday’s Saddleback Mountain Trail Marathon and a series of trail runs that begin in January, says the events succeed because the competitors help each other.

“Running in the woods the camaraderie seems to be better,” Hawley says. “We seem to support each other more.

“Winning is finishing. We all win if we finish. The person who wins will support the person who finishes last.”

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Hawley has found the marathon and the trail series--which starts Jan. 5 with an 8K run and works up to a 50K race in March--provide a fair test for people to run off-road.

He tried to get people interested in running longer distances when he started putting on races in Orange County in 1984.

“After beating my head against the wall, I found many of the reasons [against competing] boiled down to people saying, ‘Fifty miles! You want me to run 50 miles!’ ”

The six-event trail series, beginning its fifth year, continues to grow in popularity, with participation increasing 10-15% each year.

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The races start at Blue Jay Campground in the Cleveland National Forest, off Ortega Highway.

The course is a test of adjusting to altitude. Elevation at Blue Jay Campground is about 3,000 feet, and the course elevation increases more than 1,000 feet in the first four miles. Even the best of competitors will have to walk some of the way.

“It would not make for an Olympic course,” Hawley says.

But that’s a small price for pay, he adds. “It’s just magic around every corner, a different view and no hazards,” Hawley says. “No cars going beep, beep, beep as you run by.”

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More than 120 runners are expected for the marathon. Late entrants can show up by 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $40. Competitors are advised to bring a water bottle.

To register for the trail series, call Hawley at (714) 461-0089.

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UPCOMING

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Rudolf Runoff, Dec. 8, Golden Lantern and Marina Hills Drive in Laguna Niguel. Races include a 5K and 8K, 10-mile run and 1K for kids. Cost $12-$22. For information, (714) 661-6062.

The Orange County Running Notebook will appear regularly in the Orange County Edition. Readers are encouraged to provide information on upcoming events. Call (714) 966-5858 or fax (714) 966-5663.


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