Thousands crowded the street from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove to the Santa Cruz Wharf.
This year’s annual Wharf to Wharf race took place on July 26th. The six-mile race that was run from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the finish at Capitola’s Wharf Road began at 8:30 a.m.
Other racers were there to do their best while enjoying a fun atmosphere. Many wore costumes or carried flags, like San Lorenzo Valley High School graduate Kaila Gibson who raced with the elites and was decked out in Superman running gear.
Organized by expected finish time into corrals of runners, the competitors chatted, prepared, and warmed up with the help of upbeat music and warm-up dancers.
It was 43 years ago when Santa Cruz’s Wharf to Wharf was only able to claim 273 runners. “I was here at the very first one in 1973,” said Ken Thomas, President of the race’s Board of Directors, “Today we’ve registered 16,000 runners.”
This year’s race was especially important to the race’s future. “We are evaluating start and finish lines to see if we can add more people or if it’s going to stay the same,” said Race Director Scott McConville.
“The elite athletes are really fast this year,” said McConville, “The depths of the men’s field is probably it’s strongest in the past ten years.”
Elite level competitors come from around the globe to compete in Santa Cruz’s Wharf to Wharf, and many are hosted by local families. “The country that’s had representatives with the most success has been Kenya,” according to Thomas.
One of these international runners, Shadrack Kosgei, hails from Kenya. This year’s race was not Kosgei’s first run in Santa Cruz, “I’ve won three times, second two times it’s going to be my sixth time [racing],” Kosgei said while warming up in front of the Boardwalk Bowl.
Kosgei came in second behind Sam Chelanga, just missing what would have been his record-winning fourth win.
Kosgei, Chelanga, and Risper Gesabwa, the women’s winner, all come from Kenya.
Local volunteers play a huge part in making this race happen. Many of them come from the county’s high school sports teams. In the spirit of giving back, some of the proceeds from the race are given to help fund our local high school’s sports programs including San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, Scotts Valley’s Middle School and many other schools.
The race also sponsors two scholarship funds. Two students are awarded scholarships annually from each fund; one fund is for two-years and the other for four years. Scholarships are awarded to high school scholar-athletes. Two recent recipients are San Lorenzo Valley’s Claire McMillan in 2014 and Scotts Valley’s Vanessa Fraser in 2013.
Whether running for gold or to have a good time, the festive atmosphere of the race brings runners back year after year.