Surf City Marathon returns to Huntington Beach on Sunday

Robert Mohr of Malibu holds up the Surf City Marathon winning banner after winning last year's marathon in Huntington Beach.
(James Carbone)

The We Run Our Community’ s Kids group (We ROCK) will be easy to find at Sunday morning’s Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach.

They will be wearing orange shirts and may be shorter in stature. But they will be giving it their all for those 13.1 miles along Pacific Coast Highway.

The We ROCK youth nonprofit was co-founded by Andrea Kooiman, a Mission Viejo resident, and is primarily based in south Orange County.

Kooiman said more than 150 from the organization are registered for the Surf City Half Marathon, between coaches and kids ages 11 to 18. They’re a combination of half-marathoners and 5K runners, but most of them will be running the half.

“The Surf City Half is part of that journey to get them to the full marathon,” Kooiman said. “We’ve been running the Surf City Half with this group ever since our inception, and this is our 13th year. Even through the pandemic and when things were shut down, we worked with them virtually, still running these kids and being able to present them with a medal and experience during a time when a lot of other things were not available to them.”

The We ROCK program is non-competitive, and there are no tryouts. The only requirements are being able to move on your own power and keep within a 16-minute per mile pace, which is essentially a brisk walk.

This is the group’s second marathon of the year; they also ran the Citrus Heritage Run in Riverside last month.

We Run Our Community's Kids (We ROCK) will have dozens of Orange County students running in Huntington Beach on Sunday.
We Run Our Community’s Kids (We ROCK) will have dozens of Orange County middle- and high-school students running in Huntington Beach on Sunday.
(Courtesy of Ed Arpawong)

“They’re going from a small hometown race that’s in a local neighborhood, running through orange groves, to ‘Hey we’re on PCH with thousands of people,’” Kooiman said. “I’m excited for them. It’s just so night-and-day different.”

Kooiman, whose day job is in marketing with Road Runner Sports, has the experience of more than 150 marathons and ultra-marathons under her belt. She said the children learn other valuable skills, like nutrition, hydration and how to take care of their feet. When they’re done with school, two days a week they meet up with coaches at their middle school sites and train. Saturdays are the long mileage days.

She said the 2023 Surf City Half-Marathon should be exciting, in particular, just to be back in a more “normal” race environment.

“Last year, it was great to be back, but you could tell it was the transition year,” she said. “This year, it’s going to be back what I remember in 2020. With the spectators and the crowd energy, I could sense last year in February that people were a little bit apprehensive still. You feel that when you’re waiting at the start line and everybody’s shoved shoulder to shoulder.

“This year, the kids are back tackling each other they way they used to,” she added with a laugh. “Everyone’s back on top of each other and in your personal space.”

About 15,000 total runners are expected for the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon, which has the expo, headquarter hotels, start line and finish line festival all along Pacific Coast Highway steps from the sand.

Irvine-based performance footwear brand 361 Degrees is serving as the first presenting sponsor in the event’s history.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.