ENCINITAS — The Surfing Madonna Oceans Project’s inaugural Encinitas Half Marathon went off Sunday carrying the tradition of fun, fitness and philanthropy of the group’s flagship 5K/10K race.
A total of 5,032 racers participated in the 13.1-mile race, which took runners through the communities of Leucadia, Old Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Solana Beach along Coast Highway 101.
“To be honest I thought we were going to fail, I was worried the night before,” said Bob Nichols, president and co-founder of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project nonprofit. “But the skies opened up and everything lined up.”
The lead-up to the race shattered expectations, Nichols said, as experts in half-marathon organizing told the group they should expect about 3,500 runners for the first race. Instead, the race has already swelled to one of the larger half marathons in the state.
Runners on Sunday received a free breakfast at the end of the race, coconut and boxed water, a commemorative hot chocolate mug, and, of course, the usual marathon swag including a technical shirt and medal.
Nichols said the overall feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with some comparing it to the venerable Big Sur Half Marathon on the race’s Facebook page.
“That is the ultimate of compliments,” Nichols said.
Traffic and street closures — often the source of many complaints associated with these events — also were at a minimum, Nichols said. They were able to open streets in Leucadia and the southern edge of the race nearly a half hour sooner than expected.
Neighbors got into the act, too, providing racers with water, applause and, somewhere around mile 12, Otter Pops.
“That was the biggest mystery,” Nichols said. “Who was the neighbor who passed out the massive amount of Otter Pops?”
Race proceeds benefit a number of local groups, nonprofits and the city and county, as part of the nonprofit’s memorandum of understanding with the city of Encinitas to donate at least $100,000 of its proceeds to local organizations.
Nichols said the group has already exceeded the contractual amount well in advance of the race.
“We are doing really well, and it’s all for a good cause,” Nichols said.