HISTORY OF THE MARATHON
LONG BEACH INTERNATIONAL CITY BANK MARATHON
CELEBRATES 30 Years
The Long Beach International City Bank Marathon is closing in on its 30th anniversary with a world-class race that few could have imagined when the event was launched 30 years ago. Some 1600 runners took to the streets of Long Beach that day, travelling a course that took them from the Queen Mary along the ocean line to Naples, around the ports and then back to the historical ship. The 2013 edition featured 25,000 runners and cyclists along with nearly 50,000 people attending the two-day Health and Fitness Expo and an additional 50,000 attending the Finish Line Festival.
The very first “Long Beach/World Runners Marathon” was founded in 1982 by a group of volunteers led by Gordon Proctor, the original race director, and Vic McCarty, the 2nd board president. The marathon started as a grass-roots effort put on entirely by volunteers and funded by about $40,000 in donations. Gordon Proctor who spearheaded the first race and was the original director, told the Press Telegram, “We felt Long Beach was a good-size city and it needed its own marathon. It was a great deal more work than we expected.”
By all accounts the 80s were kind to the race and it quickly grew to be the most highly regarded marathon in Southern California. By the second year it had grown to 2,300 runners and then to 3,300 the year after that. In 1984, nine women ran qualifying times for the 1984 Olympic marathon trials. Following the founder’s vision, community involvement increased and a YMCA 8k was added along with a fitness expo, clinics and Belmont Shore “carbo-load” dinner. “Gordon was the one person that truly pushed for this marathon to happen,” said McCarty. “There were a lot of hurdles in creating and furthering a race of this size, especially under the guidance of a non-profit.”
The late 80s brought a significant change and international recognition when the Pacific Rim Marathon Championship was introduced and entries topped 4000. More than a dozen countries sent athletes to compete and the purse grew to an astonishing $35,000. The race had great support from local hotels, Singapore airlines and foreign sport organizations. Runners from New Zealand set course records and, for the first time, a Chinese citizen ran on American soil. According to McCarty, “Even though the founders wanted this race to be for Long Beach, they were happy with the exposure that something of this magnitude created.”
The beginning of the next decade ushered in a quantum leap in public visibility with a combination of live/tape delayed telecast on KNBC-TV and was seemingly poised to expand to unprecedented levels. Organizers added a five-person relay in 1993—four people ran five miles and the last person ran 6.2—allowing more runners to participate. The following year, the Long Beach Half Marathon was borne and more than 40 musical groups lined the marathon course.
The race lost its mojo in 1996 after sustaining a number of setbacks including the death of former Executive Director Bob Fernald. A major course revision, increasing costs and decreasing funding led to the “postponement” of the event. Despite this, three dozen “founders” and “legacy” runners met on the course on what should have been “race day” and ran the event to honor Fernald.
The race was rekindled under new management in 1999 with a revamped course. In 2001, International City Racing (ICR), under the guidance of Bob Seagren, was awarded the rights to operate the marathon in Long Beach and hosted more than 4,500 participants. Seagren, a former Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist (Pole Vault) and USC alum brought a new panache and perspective to the marathon. His sport resume, winning six National AAU and four NCAA titles indoors and outdoors, along with a Pan American Games championship.
Under Seagren, ICR (now doing business as Run Racing) grew the Long Beach Marathon in both reputation and participation, and lure major sponsors including International City Bank. The race quickly doubled in participants and by 2004 had grown to more than 13,000 runners. The international community embraced the race and in 2008, more than 15 countries had representation among the race field. By 2009 the Long Beach Marathon had reached “mega marathon” status with more than 20,000 entrants. Charity participation also reached a peak with more participants than ever running for charity.
More than three decades since its founding, the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon has morphed into an international race attended by tens of thousands of athletes and spectators alike. It includes a field of 14 remaining “Legacy Runners” that have run in every single Long Beach Marathon since 1982. Runners and cyclists traverse a myriad of iconic landmarks like the Queensway Bridge, Queen Mary, Lighthouse, Rainbow Harbor along with residential neighborhoods and popular locations like Belmont Shore, Marine Stadium and Colorado Lagoon.
Recognized as Southern California’s Fall marathon event, the race continues to receive accolades. In 2010, Yolanda Holder broke the Guinness Book of World Records by running 106 marathons in one year. She was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and was asked of those 106 marathons, which event was most fun, and she said “Long Beach.”
Medals through the years…