Today, the Wharf to Wharf Race is known far and wide as a picturesque six-mile run from Santa Cruz to Capitola.
What many people don’t know is that the race’s famous concept — running from one town’s wharf to another’s — started out as a mistake.
In 1973, a race from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the Capitola Esplanade was scheduled as one of many events to celebrate a Capitola building’s commemoration as a California State Historical Landmark. 273 people participated, and many of them had trouble finding the intended finish line, and instead ran to the Capitola Wharf.
After much confusion, the race’s officials gave in and gave the trophy to one of the runners who had finished at the Wharf. After that, a new tradition was born.
2013 Wharf to Wharf Race
For this year’s race on July 28, the route will be the same as it has always been, but it will look much different than those early years. The race is capped at 15,000 runners, way more than forty years ago, but still far fewer than would participate if there was no cap, signaling the popularity of the race.
2,000 volunteers are needed to keep the event running smoothly. There are also over 50 musical and entertainment acts lining the path of the race, proving that wherever people gather in Santa Cruz, there will be street performers.
This year’s race is already closed to runners, but for those wanting to watch, you can use this map of the race to figure out where to watch from. The crowd will be huge, so if it’s possible for you to walk, ride your bike, or carpool, you probably should. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. sharp.
Community Benefits of the Wharf to Wharf Race
Beyond being a lot of good fun for runners and spectators alike, the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf Race also has a strong benefit to the community.
Many teams of runners run for different charitable causes, and the amount of money brought into the economy over the weekend from out-of-towners is huge. In 1980, Wharf to Wharf became a nonprofit focused on youth health and fitness in the area. The nonprofit has donated to many schools and youth organizations.
Like velcro and potato chips, Wharf to Wharf is a mistake that turned out to be a great discovery. Discover it for yourself on Sunday, July 28.
2013 Wharf to Wharf Poster by Louanne Korver, available to purchase at the York Framing Gallery in Santa Cruz.