Reclaiming the Malibu Half Marathon
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Positive energy and community pride were apparent at the finish line of the Malibu International Half Marathon, which welcomed over 800 runners to the end of a 13.1 mile foot race on Sunday, November 5.
Malibu-based running and fitness group reclaimed leadership of the half marathon for the first time since its conception with the goal of making the event more community-oriented.
“We organize the race, but it belongs to the community,” first-year race director Erica MacVittie said the day before the event. “We are trying to make it better.”Barefoot running legend and the co-founder of Forever Runners Alberto Perusset co-directed the race alongside MacVittie.
With new organization came a new course. Competitors started 1.3 miles north of Point Mugu State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, and ran south on PCH for over six-and-a-half miles before turning around and looping back to the finish.
Thirteen-year Malibu resident and former race director Blue Benadum was the first runner to cross the line in a time of 1:12.45. Benadum said he was honored to win the race in which he has been a longtime participant. “The course was great,” he said. “It was pretty flat.” The 35-year old currently lives in Brentwood and trains as part of the Nike Run Club in Santa Monica.
Nike Run Club was also represented by 28-year-old Mark Moeller and 44-year-old Shawn Waco, who rounded out the top three.
Thirty-five-year-old Angela Reynolds of Valencia claimed victory in the women’s category by a wide margin, maintaining an early lead to cross the line over three-and-a-half minutes before the second place finisher. She finished 21st overall with a time of 1:31.51. Reynolds said winning felt great, despite feeling tired from running the Santa Clarita Marathon the weekend before. “I don’t think I’ve ever won a half marathon before, so I’m pretty stoked,” she shared.
Augusta Wise of Pasadena and Sophie Grise of Newbury Park rounded out the top three in the women’s’ competition. Jeff Runyan was the first Malibu resident to cross the line — finishing 37th overall with a time of 1:37.22. Along with the elites, hundreds of age group athletes from all over the world finished the race. Runners from eight countries were represented, including Mexico, France, Russia and Italy.
Many U.S. athletes traveled far to participate in the event, including the River Runners — a group of eight women from San Antonio, Texas who travel to a different race each year.
Some ran for a cause, including another group of a dozen women from Texas who ran in honor of Jo Ann Franzenburg. Franzenburg, a Calabasas resident, ran the Malibu Half Marathon in 2012 and 2013 before passing away from cancer this past July. The team challenged Franzenburg’s 73-year-old mother, Sandy Emberland, to walk the 13-mile course, and she succeeded in crossing the finish line after four-and-a-half hours. “When everyone else had crossed, we all went out on the course and cheered for her,” MacVittie said. “We all started crying when she crossed the line. There was so much feeling. To witness it was very humbling.”
In addition to the contributions the Malibu Half Marathon made to athletes’ lives, it also made contributions to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Malibu. Twenty percent of all proceeds from vendors at the race expo on Nov. 13-14 were given to the club. Casa Escobar also contributed by hosting an after party on Sunday afternoon and donating 20 percent of every check to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The race was supported by local sponsors and vendors only, including PC Greens, CURE Salon and Spa, and Yoga Shmoga — all three of which provided prizes for the top three finishers.
More than 200 local volunteers helped at the event with tasks ranging from checking runners in at the expo to handing out water along the course. MacVittie said the community support was incredible. “It was incredible to hear local businesses say they were on board and that people wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
The race directors plan to elaborate on feedback from this year’s race to host a more elaborate event next year, which MacVittie says will likely include a five- and 10-kilometer races. She also hopes to create more local training groups for next year’s race, in keeping with the organization’s emphasis on community spirit.
“I feel so privileged to be a part of [this event],” MacVittie said, reflecting on her first year as race director. “It’s almost like the runners are the race directors because they’re the ones who bring the magic.”