Saturday, March 11, 2017
History of Races on Catalina
While management of distance events on Catalina Island has changed hands many times over the years, one thing has remained constant: The thrill of running through the Island’s rugged wilderness. Ask Hans Albrecht, the man who started it all in 1974. Hans and friends needed a place to train for the strenuous Western States 100, and Hans selected Catalina. Hans thought it would be great to come 26 miles across the sea to run 26 miles on Catalina, according to ultra-marathoner Kent Holder, a friend of Albrecht who ran some of the Island’s earliest events. It was under Hans’ management in 1978 that “the Catalina Marathon was born,” recalled Holder in a recent interview.
The years have passed, but the unsurpassed beauty of the Catalina Island Conservancy’s Nature Preserve—where marathons on Catalina have traditionally been run—has only gotten better under active management. “The hills are dense with colorful flowers, including species we haven’t seen for years,” says Carlos de la Rosa, Chief Conservation Officer for the Conservancy. “If you haven’t been here lately, you won’t want to miss it.”
Over the decades, marathons held on the Island have grown rich in tradition and legacy. Runner “Buffalo” Bill McDermott has competed in all 33 marathons as the 33 bars on his shirt attest. The Catalina Marathon Finishers Association, a semi-official group of marathon “old timers,” gives the bars to all who finish each race. Referred to as “The Human Shock Absorber” for his ability to triumph over the Island’s challenging terrain, McDermott has won marathons held on Catalina 13 times and holds the course record. The new Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon will continue to honor record-holders.
According to Mike Bone, founder and owner of Spectrum Sports, in addition to the 26-mile race, the new Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon will offer a 10K, 5K and 1-mile Kids Run so that the entire family can get out and compete.
As an important part of its formula for success, all distance events held on Catalina Island Conservancy property return 10% of a guaranteed minimum of registration fees to Island charities. In the past, those have included Avalon School, the Lions Club of Avalon, the Pony Club, the Little Red Schoolhouse, CHOICES, the Saddle Club and the Teen Center. All runners will become members of the Catalina Island Conservancy by participating in these events and will receive all benefits of membership.
“Runners will continue to be welcomed to enjoy the unrivaled beauty and ultimate challenge of Catalina,” said Leslie Baer, a spokesperson for the Conservancy. “All of these events will build on the history of distance events on Catalina Island which began in the 1970s. We are committed to these events, and proud to carry on the tradition.”
CATALINA RACES IN THE NEWS...
Races on Schedule (Press Release, June 17, 2011, PDF)
Change in Race Management (Press Release, March 4, 2011, PDF)
Please note that photographs and videos taken at all Catalina Island Conservancy events may be used in printed and electronic publications, website entries, and marketing materials produced by the Conservancy. By attending a Catalina Island Conservancy event you hereby waive the right to inspect or approve the finished product and waive any right to royalties or other compensation arising or related to the use of the photograph.