Waves of runners — about 18,000 of them — cruised through Corona del Mar early this morning as they began the 2012 OC Marathon.
“I’m going to jump in and run with them as soon as they come by,” said Chris Linss, manager of Albertsons on East Coast Highway. “Just kidding — I couldn’t keep up with them. Not a chance.”
Linss said he arrived at work at 4:45 a.m. in order to be able to beat the street closures, although the grocery lot was cordoned off and he expected business to be slow.
The marathon was scheduled to begin near Fashion Island at 5:30 a.m., a half hour later than last year, which resulted in fewer spectators lining Coast Highway at the designated, pre-dawn start time.
Guin and David Trussell of Mission Viejo stood in the dark, holding a shiny balloon they hoped would catch the eyes of their daughter, Allyson, 11, and their son, Cole, 15.
“We’re really, really excited,” Guin Trussell said. Her children have been training with We Run Orange County Kids (WeROCK), and her son, who is autistic, had never run a marathon before.
“This has given him such a sense of accomplishment,” Trussell said. “My son gets very excited. He loves the cheers. But after the race, he collects himself. He can carry on a conversation back and forth. I love to see that.”
By 6 a.m., no runners had appeared, and police said they’d heard the start time was delayed while race organizers made sure barricades were in place along the course.
Then, the first runner appeared, followed by two other runners who led the pack.
Tom Rhodes of Newport Coast, who said he used to be a marathon runner, said he comes early to see the top runners go past.
“I use to run way back in the day,” he said. “It’s a little tougher now. I want to see those top runners.”
The fastest runners had turned onto Orchid Avenue, run along Ocean Boulevard and back toward Bayside Drive by 6:15 a.m., just when the big swarms of other runners were headed down Coast Highway. Volunteers set up water stations at Marguerite Avenue and handed drinks to runners headed toward Orchid, then on the other side, to runners headed down Bayside Drive to follow the racecourse to the finish line at the OC Fair Grounds. After handing out cups of water and Gatorade to runners, volunteers then raked up empty cups strewn on the pavement.
Many participants ran in teams wearing matching shirts. Some proclaimed support of Team Joseph and Team Jake. One man had a Southwest Airlines shirt on and wore a hat that had a model airplane on top. A few women wore tutus, and one man carried a sign that said, “Are We There Yet?”
Beverley “B.J.” Johnson of Corona del Mar said she missed last year’s marathon because she was sick, so she made sure to get up early to greet the runners, who were enjoying overcast weather and a temperature of about 59 degrees.
“I said, ‘Welcome to Corona del Mar,’” Johnson said. “‘We ordered great weather for you.’ They laughed and said thank you. There was no way I was going to miss it this year.”
Peggy McDonald of Corona del Mar watched the race along Ocean Boulevard, where she set up a folding chair to see the racers cruise past the ocean.
“Every year, I sit here and I think, ‘I should be doing it.’ It’s amazing.”
“I’m just stunned at all the people,” said neighbor Patricia Hurley. “I can’t remember this many people ever before.”
By 7:30 a.m., only a few straggling half marathon runners were on Corona del Mar streets, and police were preparing to reopen closed traffic lanes.