Marathon finally reality

Rick Devereux

For three years there was talk surrounding an Orange County marathon.

But for three years, all there was, was talk.

Today, the talk becomes action as the OC Marathon becomes a

reality.

The expectations for the event were high.

"We needed 5,500 runners to be able to have the type of event we

wanted," co-chairman Scott Baugh said.

According to race director Bill Sumner, who is also a Corona del

Mar High cross-country and track-and-field coach, that number would

be equitable with other California marathons that have been in

existence for a number of years.

The California invitational in Sacramento is in its 22nd year and

gets about 6,000 runners.

But the OC Marathon did not get 5,500 runners. It will have close

to 9,000.

"I am thrilled, excited and impressed with how this thing has come

together," Baugh said. "We went in blind and saw the marathon as a

great idea. It took a lot of hard work, but it will happen Sunday."

The biggest dilemma in turning the concept into an concreteness

was getting money.

"We couldn't hire anybody to work full-time on the marathon until

we secured a major sponsor," Baugh said.

The Board of Directors approached PacifiCare of California in

December 2003 with a presenting sponsorship proposal. The health care

company agreed to donate $250,000. There were many reasons why

PacifiCare joined the marathon team.

"We are a major employer of jobs in Orange County, it was in our

backyard and it was a health-related event," PacifiCare President

James Frey said. "But the main [reason] is the charities."

Unlike many other marathons, the OC Marathon is nonprofit and will

donate its proceeds to 10 Orange County charities, each dedicated to

helping area children.

"The theme of the marathon is 'Run for the Children.' " Race

co-founder Steve Robinson said. "The charities really run the full

spectrum of children in need."

Shawn Dracoules, who works for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Southern California chapter, said the marathon will provide her

organization with much needed funds.

"This is extremely important for us," she said. "The goal was to

give each charity $30,000. We would be happy if we received even half

of that amount."

Through the diligent effort of Bough, Sumner, Frey, Robinson and

many others, the marathon has almost reached its lofty goals.

"We wanted to be able to donate all of our entry fees to the

charities," Bough said. "It is close to 100%."

The charitable associations are what makes the OC Marathon

different from other races, Frey said.

"This is better than the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon,

the Boston Marathon or the LA Marathon because all of our proceeds go

back into the community through the charities," he said.

The marathon (26.2 miles) and half marathon (13.1 miles) start at

7:30 a.m. at Newport Center adjacent to Fashion Island and will end

at The Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort.

"This is the real OC," Sumner said. "They film the TV show in

Malibu, but people are going to see the real OC when they run."

The full course starts near the Hard Rock Cafe, makes its way from

San Miguel Drive, winds down University Drive and eventually loops

around the Irvine Spectrum before turning toward Back Bay Drive for

the final leg.

The first five and last six miles of the marathon and half

marathon are the same. The half marathon will turn left on Harvard

for two miles before connecting to the bike path on Michelson to head

toward the finish.

Sumner, who has been the race director of the Orange County Half

Marathon, said the difficulties in putting together this event

continually changed.

"In February and March, [the difficulty] was advertising because

there were so many naysayers," he said. "It took two months to get

people to believe the race was actually going to happen. In July and

August, it was traffic plans for the course. People usually are not

in open arms about having 10,000 people in their neighborhood, so we

had to make sure everyone could get to Starbucks. Now, it's logistics

and we have to execute on Sunday. We had obstacles people thought

were insurmountable, but here we are."

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