Orange County’s signature marathon returns this weekend, two years after the coronavirus forced its cancellation just weeks before its traditional beginning-of-May running.
After going virtual in 2020 and then hosting just a shortened run last November, the SDCCU OC Marathon is returning to its regular schedule and full lineup of races and activities.
As the sun breaks on Sunday morning, runners will head out on the marathon’s 26.2-mile course, starting from Newport Beach’s Fashion Island.
The first half of the course features “amazing views” as runners make their way along Pacific Coast Highway, through rolling hills and into neighborhoods and the Newport Back Bay, said race director Gary Kutscher.
“It’s really stunning,” Kutscher said. On race day, he’s busy on the course keeping things running, but also a marathoner himself, he’ll run the course alone at least once a year, he said.
After the Back Bay, the route turns inland, leaving the coastal breezes behind, but also the undulating terrain. Ahead is flat and fast through the Orange County Performing Arts complex, South Coast Plaza and into Santa Ana near Segerstrom High, he said.
But first looms Mile 14.
It is where participants will have to run up the Red Hill Avenue overpass of the 405 Freeway.
That is where runners will have to reach inside to find that extra resolve to push ahead, Kutscher said.
“You see that overpass a mile away, it looks imposing,” he said. “You are stuck looking at it for a mile-plus.”
The last miles of the marathon take runners back into Costa Mesa to the OC Fair & Event Center, which has hosted the finish line for the last 13 years.
The path through the fairgrounds takes runners past a band playing on the main stage for an extra boost to face the final mile.
“It is really a great finish,” Kutscher said. “We have a lot of people at the finish line cheering you on.”
Saturday, April 30, activities include a running event for area schoolchildren, a new Celebrate OC Festival featuring a day of bands, DJs, food and a BMX demo, and The OC 5k at 5 p.m. Find out more information at ocmarathon.com.
There is also a half-marathon option on Sunday.
Road closures and delays Sunday start at 4 a.m. along the route, with the last streets reopening after 3 p.m.
About 2,200 people are expected to run the marathon and about 15,000 people are expected to participate in all of the various races.