Runners dash to S.F. Marathon

Heart, will, endurance. These will likely determine the champion of the 30th annual San Francisco Marathon — a grueling haul over city pavement, lasting 26.2 miles.

San Francisco’s streets will feel the trembling when thousands of feet hit the road Sunday as a record 17,000 runners, representing every state in the nation, will participate in The City’s largest marathon to date.

“We want to encourage families to come out and experience the event,” said Mark Winitz, media coordinator for the marathon.

Winitz said what sets this race apart from other racing events in The City is that it’s a marathon, unlike the Bay to Breakers, another top running attraction.

“Bay to Breakers is not a marathon. It’s a 12-kilometer [7.46-mile] race across The City,” Winitz said. “This is a full marathon, city-wide. We have two half-marathons, both 13.1 miles each, and what we’re calling a 5-kilometer run/walk.”

Notable runners will include defending men’s champion Andrew Cook of Denton, Texas, and reigning women’s champ Julia Mallon.

Mallon, 28, a Santa Rosa native, was an All-America runner at Stanford when she was known as Julia Stamps. Mallon, who today lives in Florida, looks to qualify for the U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials in Boston next year.

Mallon, however, isn’t the only local runner looking to make a dash for the finish line. Four-time Olympic trial qualifier and local legend Lisbet Sunshine will also look to gobble up the pavement.

“The fact that Lisbet has qualified for the U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials at 43 years old is quite spectacular,” Winitz said.

Sunshine isn’t the only veteran runner looking to make it to the Olympic trials. Linda Somers-Smith, 46, is attempting to make her sixth trip to the trials.

“Linda is a great story,” Winitz said. “She was really a world-class runner in her day.”

Somers-Smith and Mallon have a history of sharing the pavement together.

“I remember when I was running at my best and she was just a little thing trying to keep up with the leaders and, eventually, she became a leader,” Somers-Smith said of Mallon. “It’s just funny that all these years later, I’m running in a race with her.”

Both participants will race in the second half-marathon.

Four-time New Zealand Olympian Rod Dixon, a two-time Bay to Breakers and 1983 New York City Marathon victor, will assist in kicking off the marathon’s new Youth Running Program.

Winitz said a lack of a big sponsor means prize money will not be awarded to the runners, who instead will receive plaques and medals.

The event, through the Cause to Run program, has helped raise $2 million for local charity groups.

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