MONTEREY – The smoke from the devastating wilderness across California forced competing officials to cancel the Monterey Bay Half Marathon on Sunday. Even the competitors could get their T-shirts on the starting lineup and medals were awarded close to the finish line at Custom House Plaza. Some even ran the run, unofficially.
"We did not know what to expect," said Doug Thurston, Monterey Bay Half Marathon Race Director. "I think people take it in a good spirit and treat it like a party with everything but the competition."
Thurston said the race was scheduled to include participants from 49 states and 18 different countries. Many of them stayed after the aftermath that included a table with food and a beer car.
The team officials of Monterey Bay Half Marathon made the decision to cancel Sunday's run because of the rapidly declining air quality situation in Monterey Bay on Saturday night.
"Looking at the weather trends Saturday afternoon we saw the forecast and saw that the air quality was predicted to be unhealthy to very unhealthy," said Thurston. "And for the safety of the participants and the volunteers and spectators, we thought that was the only thing we could do under these circumstances."
According to the Big Sur Marathon Foundation, the air quality was judged to be "moderate" and safe for outdoor activities for the 3K and 5K race on Saturday. However, the wind moved dramatically and blew smoke from the northeast to the Monterey Peninsula.
Big Sur Marathon Foundation issued a press release as follows: "After consultation with our Medical Director and National Weather Service, we have decided that it is not safe for runners, volunteers, staff and other race-related personnel to attend tomorrow's planned events. apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment that comes with interrupting the race, but we consider it appropriate to take action at this time. "
Thurston said that the race will not be relocated and as an ideal organization they are still analyzing the economic considerations but wanting to do what is appropriate for the participants.
"We will look at what options may be for future event considerations," said Thurston.
Johnny Cho at Monterey said he was bummed out when he heard the news, especially as it would be his first half marathon. But the 26-year-old could put it in perspective in view of what happened to the many who lost their homes, and some of their lives in the wilderness of Paradise. He would compete in his first ever marathon but said it was still a good first experience.
"I'm grateful for having a home to come to each night because there are many people out there who lost a lot," said Cho.
Cho said he agreed to cancel the contest, especially with thousands of people's health at risk.
"You do not want people to hurt you by doing this," said Cho.
Elizabeth Bayardi in Phoenix stopped running on his own along with hundreds of other people who appeared to run. The 24-year-old said she was walking around the town yesterday and the smoke was in the air but it was not that bad.
Bayardi flew in from Phoenix to run in her first half marathon and was upset to hear the news but her friends, who were on the trip, drove her to still drive it.
"I thought I came all the way and practiced. I would not miss the competition," says Bayardi.
Bayardi said she understood why contestants interrupted the event but she felt good after passing the finish line. She said that the only backlash for her was that there were no water stations.
"I think many people drove without water but fortunately I took mine," says Bayardi, who shows a water bottle. "I think it would have been the greatest for humans, not being hydrated."
Elizabeth Tudhope of San Diego was disappointed but was also grateful that contestants were looking for human health.
"I think they did a good conversation about the air quality is not good enough. And I think it's good because they're just setting up a party this morning and everyone is fine," says Tudhope.
Tudhope mentioned even if the race was interrupted, there was nothing to complain about, especially when people in the wilderness lose much more against not being able to compete in a competition. She was followed by 20 of her teammates from the West Coast Runners group and said they should try to make the most of their trip, including the great after party at Custom House Plaza.
"I'm surprised that people are so good sports and just getting fun," said Tudhope.
Juan Reyes can be reached at (831) 726-4360