Retired nurse Dorothy Strand 81, reigns as only athlete to run all 25 Surf City Marathons

Dorothy Strand has never been the fastest of runners. But what she lacks in speed she makes up for in consistency.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, Strand will tackle the 25th annual Surf City Marathon/Half Marathon. It’s her 25th as well.

“She’s the only athlete on planet Earth who has participated all 25 years,” said Surf City Marathon spokesman Dan Cruz.

At 81, and battling back pain, Strand will walk this year rather than trot. And instead of completing the full marathon she will settle for half.

Strand, a retired nurse who lives in Orange, said she’s getting inspiration from the friends in her running group. “I might have opted out this year if not for them. There was no way they were letting me miss my 25th year. I felt that pressure of, ‘I’m a “legacy.” I’ve got to do it.’”

Originally known as the Pacific Shoreline Marathon, the city’s first race was held in 1997. Traditionally, it takes place the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. But coronavirus concerns pushed this year’s event forward seven months. Organizers hope to return to the usual routine in February of 2022.

Cruz said Strand will be celebrated at both the start and finish lines. “She is our celebrity runner this year.”

In normal times, the race attracts more than 17,000 participants, including some of the world’s best distance runners. But this year the lingering pandemic has cut that number to about 13,000 runners, who will participate in several different events: marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K. Almost all will be from Southern California, Cruz said.

John Strand, 87, came mighty close to sharing in his wife’s glory. However, about 15 years ago he missed a Surf City Marathon when he was off running in another state.

The Strands developed their passion for long-distance running in the 1980s when their two sons ran cross country and track at Orange Lutheran High. “It became a family thing,” Dorothy Strand said.

“My husband was a natural, but I’m not,” she added. “Some of my friends would run with me in the back. Gradually, I got better.”

She’s run in 46 marathons, with her fastest time (so far) 4:57 in 1999, in Dublin, Ireland. “It’s not great, but it’s great for me,” Strand said.

By then, the couple had started traveling to run in marathons. Now retired, physician John Strand visited all 50 states and seven continents chasing his hobby. He’s run in 118 marathons, total, with a personal best of 4:04.

When she started running, Dorothy Strand recalled, “I didn’t have much competition in my age group. Women weren’t really out there competing as much.”

John Strand also has health problems now, so his plan for Saturday is to stroll in the 5K.

“That’s life,” he said. “I can’t do everything I used to do, but I very much enjoyed that chapter of my life.”

Before he started running, Strand said, he was a “couch potato.”

“Running made me more outgoing, more of an extrovert,” he said. “Healthy body, healthy mind. Because of running, I’ve seen so many beautiful trails and met so many great people.”

Icing on the cake: His wife has shared his passion.

“It’s been wonderful to have a partner with me, to have something we can do together,” Strand said.

For her part, Dorothy Strand said running made her more adventurous.

posted Friday September 10th
by Susan Christian Goulding