The first year of the race, Steve Lebherz, co-founder of the annual Cardiff Kook 10K/5K run, wasn’t expecting the crowd turn out they got. It even surprised a lot the churches in the area, too.
Since then, the race has continued to grow in popularity with locals and with runners from around the country.
Lebherz knew people in the NFL or who were coaches in the NFL, and on Super Bowl Sundays, he would give them a call. In a bit of friendly dig, knowing his buddies weren’t in the Super Bowl, he would call them up and ask them to go running with him.
That’s how the race began on the day of the Super Bowl each year.
He said the run has become a tradition kind of like a Thanksgiving run. “You go for a run so you don’t feel too guilty with the extra beer and the extra guacamole,” Lebherz said.
And his son-in-law Seth Brewer started to join in, running every Super Bowl Sunday.
Lebherz talked a little more about how he’s seen the race change and what it does to help give back to the community. The race takes place once again Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2.
How have you seen the race change since its inception?
The very first year was a local event and then last year, we got that same local flavor but in addition to that we got a lot of I would say higher-quality racers for the 10K because the route was such a nice route.
If you ask me how has this changed, I think it started out as a very local, almost like a fundraiser, and now it’s kind of morphing into a fundraiser to be sure, but it’s now being kind of accepted by the running community as maybe one of the more premiere 10K race sights.
You’ve been running the route for more than 30 years, describe why you say, “Everybody should see it”?
When I got out of college, my wife and I moved to Cardiff, I think in 1976, so I used to run on the sand from San Elijo Lagoon up to Moonlight Beach. Back in the old days I could make it all the way up to Stone Steps. But those days are over.
It’s just so pretty.
What do you think about the racers who run in costumes?
The costume contest was actually my wife’s idea. It was so obvious we should have a costume contest because everybody dresses up the Kook. I think that that’s probably what made the local event so local. That’s the local flavor that’s just so neat about the thing, because a lot of those people are the same people that have dressed up the Kook over the years.
Have you heard from the racers outside of the county comment about the runners in costumes?
Last year, Ben Bruce, who won the 10k, Ben is from Flagstaff, Ariz. (I think Ben finished in the top-5 in the Olympic 10-meter trials), he got the biggest kick out of it that, right in the middle of all of these racers…and they look right next to them and there’s a person in a JAWS costume. So, they get a kick out of it. I think any of those kind of things kind of makes you run faster. So anything that takes your mind somewhere else is a good thing for these runners.
What makes participating in the race fun?
For the large majority of the locals, I really think they appreciate the fact that we’re raising money to clean up the area around the Cardiff Kook-area. We kind of call that the Cardiff Plaza. And so I do think the local people see there’s a fundraiser with a good cause.
I think that’s a key component. And there’s just that special vibe west of the freeway from Carlsbad to Del Mar. We all feel it. You can’t really not feel it and the people they enjoy the fact that they don’t have to go too far to run a quality race.
How has the race given back to the community?
We do work with the Cardiff 101 MainStreet, they are our nonprofit partners and in the first two years we’ve given $8,000. We’ve established a fund at the Cardiff 101 MainStreet, a nonprofit fund with them called the Cardiff Kook Fund.
And we’ve replaced all of the block work that needed to be replaced on the Kook; we’ve powder-coated and cleaned up all of the banisters; we have a maintenance program now that cleans the whole Kook area once every two weeks.
We have a permit in with the city now with a new landscaping plan and a new ramp that will take you from the crosswalk back to behind the Kook and down to the state park gate entrance.
We’re really making some real headway…so for as long as we can keep doing it, we’ll just keep throwing money in.