Each year, on the fourth Sunday in July, thousands of runners from across America and around the globe come to Santa Cruz, California for the annual six-mile race from Santa Cruz to Capitola-by-the-Sea.
The famous race, which is held this year on Sunday, July 27, draws runners, joggers, and walkers from across America and around the globe. This year there is an extra element to this event: It is also the 100th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Wharf.
Race Director Scott McConville is also the Track & Field coach for Aptos High School. “We enlarged the field this year (2014) from 15,000 to 16,000 runners,” McConville said, “Using runner ‘corrals’ to separate the serious runners from those that are there to enjoy the day made this possible. We want to encourage both the competitive and fun aspects of this race. We brag that the Wharf to Wharf has the most “Bands per Mile” of any similar event. This year there are 59 musical groups signed up to entertain the runners, joggers and walkers. For those who want bragging rights concerning their race times, we have the technology to record that and make it ‘Official’.”
McConville said, “We are going to have a rematch in 2014 between the 2012 winner Shadrack Kosgei who came in second to the winner Nelson Oyugi last year (2013). This should be a very exciting race between these two runners.
The first Wharf to Wharf Race was run Saturday morning July 28, 1973 and it was not the main event of the day. The race was just one of a number of festivities scheduled by the City of Capitola’s Heritage Days Committee organized by Jim Reding and Wayne Fontes. The event was to celebrate the dedication of Camp Capitola’s Superintendent’s Office, as a California State Historical Landmark. Fontes chaired the Race Committee and Soquel high School track coach, Ken Thomas, served as Race Director. The $200 race budget was underwritten by the City of Capitola.
That first race was a casual affair starting at the Santa Cruz Wharf, winding its way through coastal neighborhoods and six miles later ending at Capitola Village. However, as the race leaders approached the Village, they were directed out onto Capitola Wharf but the finish line was actually located at the Capitola Esplanade. After discussion, race officials declared Stanford’s Jack Bellah the winner and duly awarded him a plaque proclaiming him Champion of the (another goof) “WARF TO WARF” Race!
On Your Mark …
Even with those misadventures, the 273 first race participants declared the race a grand success. When they clamored for the race the following year, the organizing committee obliged and the race began a life of its own. Through the 70’s, the race grew dramatically, riding the wave of the running boom that was sweeping the nation. Its numbers peaked at 3,700 runners in 1983. At that point its leadership decided to take a more proactive role in its promotion and administration.
They brought back many changes incorporated in the race, including a commercial sponsorship program, which allowed the addition of new race features and expanded the financial objectives of the event. The result was that more than 6,000 runners answered the starter’s call in 1984.
When 14,000 runners showed up in 1987, jamming village streets and race venues, organizers feared for the event’s future. In the years since, participation has been capped to preserve the integrity of the race and insure the safety of its runners.
Today the race field typically sells out within hours. Some recent changes are that the registration for the first 3,000 locals (a resident of Santa Cruz County and a Santa Cruz County billing zip code) starts March 28 at 12:01 am. Open registration begins at 12:01 am on April 1 for 13,000 runners. The Wharf to Wharf has the reputation among elite athletes and casual joggers around the world as THE place to be on the fourth Sunday in July… if you can get in!
Giving Back to Local Athletes
The Wharf to Wharf race was incorporated as a California nonprofit in 1980 to promote running health and fitness among the youth of Santa Cruz County. Planning is year-round and its Board of Directors meets monthly to review policy, procedures and oversee the distribution of race proceeds to a wide array of local programs and special projects.
Race money helped finance development and maintenance of all-weather tracks at Soquel, Aptos, Watsonville, San Lorenzo Valley and Santa Cruz High Schools, and mini-tracks at New Brighton Middle School, Valencia and Mission Hill Elementary Schools. Scholarships are annually awarded to top student athletes. Race funds support the Santa Cruz Track Club, International Games, Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and a wide variety of local high school sports programs. Race donations in 2013, totaled more than $258,000.
Giving Back to the Community
The Wharf to Wharf Race today is more than just a footrace. It has become a part of the local cultural fabric, touching the lives of thousands over its thirty-six-year history. Many have felt compelled to run it once as a rite of passage. Others run it year after year just because it’s fun. Thousands are involved as volunteers, sponsors, beneficiaries. It is truly a community event. The fourth Sunday in July is a special date on the Santa Cruz calendar. All this from a $200 beginning back in 1973!
With Success Comes …
While most come for sun, fun, and fitness reasons, serious athletes run to test their mettle against the best. The race draws an elite, international field. The roll of past champions numbers several Olympic stars.
The largest summer event of its kind on the West Coast Wharf to Wharf receives broad print and electronic media attention being broadcast live on radio, covered by local TV stations and televised by cable television on race day evening. It is highlighted in all running industry publications as one of the top races in America.
Every One’s a Winner
The Race winners for 2014 will be awarded gold medals and $4,000 cash prizes; Silver medalists win $3,000; Bronze medalists $2,000; 4th place finishers $1,000. The Top Male and Female American finishers will each be awarded $1,000. Local and wheelchair champs receive distinctive plaques.
Top 100 Male and Female finishers will be awarded elite Wharf to Wharf apparel.
The awards ceremony will be held at 10:00 am at the Capitola Beach Bandstand.
The Gold Number! Each year, one hundred finalists are randomly drawn from the field of 16,000. If your bib number is gold, you are one of these lucky finalists! The winning number will be drawn at the conclusion of the awards ceremony and the prize is a $5,000 trip-for-two to the Wharf 2 Wharf Race in New Zealand in January 2015… the other one!
From start to finish, the Wharf to Wharf race will be a fun-filled experience people of all ages will enjoy. Between the thrilling views of Santa Cruz and Capitola Coastline, stellar local bands and music, and familiar faces cheering participants along the route, this year’s race will be unforgettable.
Remember, life is short and whether as runner or observer, this 10k run makes for good conversation and stories to tell your friends, family, and children. So make plans to make the last Sunday in July count, and take advantage of this fun filled, one of a kind event in our backyard.
The Race is produced and administered by Wharf to Wharf Race, Inc., a California nonprofit corporation chartered to promote running as a means to health and fitness. Race proceeds benefit Santa Cruz County youth sports in general and the running community in particular. Website: wharftowharf.com
2013 Wharf to Wharf Winners
|Top Five Men||Top Five Women|
|1) Nelson Oyugi 21 • Kenya Ken 27:13||1) Emily Infeld 23 • Portland OR 30:52|
|2) Shadrack Kosgei 28 • Kenya Ken 27:25||2) Almaz Negede Fekade 25 • Ethiopia Eth 31:06|
|3) Brett Gotcher 28 • La Selva Beach 27:31||3) Risper Gesabwa 23 • Kenya Ken 31:13|
|4) Aschalew Meketa Negu 25 • Ethiopia Eth 27:34||4) Stephanie Rothstein B 29 • Flagstaff AZ 31:17|
|5) Ben Bruce 30 • Flagstaff AZ USA 27:53||5) Kellyn Johnson 27 • Flagstaff AZ 32:32|
|First Three Locals||First Three Locals|
|3) Brett Gotcher 28 • La Selva Beach 27:31||12) Michelle Prowse 31 • Capitola 35:26|
|11) Mitch Moriarty 21 • Aptos 29:45||13) Amy Schnittger 23 • Watsonville 35:56|
|14) Eric Avala • Santa Cruz 29:56||29) Catherine Ratliff 15 • Santa Cruz 37:43|
Bold: Top American Finishers