SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Just over 1,500 runners made their way through Balboa Park Saturday morning for the return of the oldest race in San Diego.
The 67th annual Balboa Park 8 Miler returned to in-person running after going virtual in 2020 amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.
"The energy we have and the relief to be back is kind of overwhelming," says Eric Marenburg with the San Diego Running Company, which has run the event for nine years.
"To have these runners back, to have them there on the starting line is exciting," he says. "There's no better feeling than the starting line. I can't wait."
Runners were just as excited to return to in-person running. The Balboa Park 8 Miler is just the fourth large-scale running event in San Diego since California lifted all restrictions on June 15th.
"I'm very excited to get back out on the road again," said Debbie Shea, running in her 23rd straight Balboa Park 8 Miler. "It's a beautiful course and one of my favorite races."
2016 Olympic Triathlete Joe Maloy won the overall race with a time of 41:58. Professional runner Megan Lizotte won the women's title in a time of 50:21. Both said the return of crowds, on and off the course, made it easier to run fast.
"I was blown away at the support," said Maloy. "Not just the other racers, but the people lining the course were cheering me on. I think that's where the speed came from."
"Community is so important," Lizotte added. "And the running community is such a special group of people. So it feels good just to be surrounded by people who share a similar love and lifestyle. It was really good to be with people again."
To keep everyone safe, the race made a few changes from past years. The starting line was extended to allow for more social distancing, and runners started in waves instead of all at once. Chip timing also helped cut down on crowding at the start and finish line.
"This is a huge space," said Marenburg. "So you see everyone's kind of being able to stay together with their groups, with their pods, with their friends. Everyone has the space they need."
Proceeds from the event benefit the San Diego Track Club, which helps fund youth running programs and encourage distance running across the city.
For a complete list of results, click here.