Marie Romero's running ability separated herself from the others at the Flo-Jo Memorial Half Marathon and 5K in Laguna Hills. But her words were right in line with the approximately 3,000 other participants at the inaugural event.
"This race is for Flo-Jo," said the 40-year-old La Canada resident. "I admired her so much. She did great stuff for the sport, and I think she really encouraged women to get out there and just do it."
The event was originally named the Aliso Creek Half Marathon and 5K, but was changed in honor of Florence Griffith Joyner, a Mission Viejo resident and three-time Olympic gold medalist who died in her sleep last fall after suffering an epileptic seizure at the age of 38.
Proceeds from the event, which also included a 1K children's race named after Griffith Joyner's 8-year-old daughter, Mary, will benefit the Saddleback Memorial Foundation, which will help fund a new critical care unit at the hospital.
Al Joyner, Griffith Joyner's husband, was one of nearly 800 who participated in the 5K. Afterward, Joyner smiled in appreciation as he worked his way through the crowd.
"I'm very pleased with the first turnout," Joyner said. "This just shows the strength and the continued strength of our community. This just shows the love that we have for one another, regardless of what goes on outside in our world. We show each and everyday, especially on a day like this, that it can work."
Joyner, who won an Olympic gold medal in the triple jump in 1984, said running 5 kilometers was a bit out of his range.
"I've only been training for 40 meters," Joyner said with a laugh. "This is my first 5K of the year and I should have jumped in my daughter's race. But I'm happy that I finished it and my goal is to go from there now, to me getting better."
Romero won the women's division in the half marathon, covering the 13.1-mile layout in 1 hour 25 minutes 10 seconds. Romero, whose 1999 results include a 13th place overall and second in the masters division at the Los Angeles Marathon and a fourth place in masters at the Boston Marathon, was impressed with the layout, which weaved along streets and the paved Aliso Creek Trail.
"This is probably the best-ever half marathon I've run," Romero said. "It takes your mind off totally from racing. Even though it's such a long drive for me from La Canada, I'm coming back. I love it here."
Matt Capelouto, 29, of Trabuco Canyon was the overall men's winner. Capelouto took the lead at three miles and finished in 1:10:42.
Capelouto, a 1988 graduate of Orange High, is gearing up for his first marathon. He spends approximately 60% of his training on a treadmill in his garage, where he has logged as many as 27 miles during a session.
"All my neighbors see me and think I'm some kind of weirdo because I'll run on the treadmill for a couple hours," said Capelouto, a married father of three. "I know all their schedules because I see when each one gets up and leaves for work in the morning."
Chris Lynch, a 25-year-old from Laguna Hills, was the overall winner in the 5K (16:15). Lynch and the other top five runners were misdirected near the end of their race and logged an extra minute getting back on track.
The overall female winner in the 5K was 13-year-old Kristen Berglas of Irvine (19:52).
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FLO-JO MEMORIAL HALF MARATHON AND 5K HALF MARATHON
(12 and under)--1. Paul Schlesinger (Laguna Niguel), 2:08:17; 2. Jose Flores (Los Angeles), 2:08:36.
(13-18)--1. Howard Konishi (Garden Grove), 1:27:36; 2. Eric Johnson (Rocklin), 1:29:05; 3. Francisco Martinez (Santa Ana), 1:31:38; 4. Jonathan Buelna (Anaheim), 1:34:16.
(19-24)--1. Tyler Reid (Irvine), 1:30:54; 2. Joseph Swanson (San Clemente), 1:33:00; 3. Marc Devore (Mission Viejo), 1:34:27; 4. Chad Hess (Northridge), 1:39:47.
(25-29)--1. Matt Capelouto (Trabuco Canyon), 1:10:42; 2. Claudio Delpueche (Huntington Beach), 1:18:02; 3. Craig Intinarelli (Los Angeles), 1:22:32; 4. Jason Beko (Irvine), 1:28:22.
(30-34)--1. Rick Herr (Mission Viejo), 1:15:34; 2. Joseph Gallagher (Laguna Beach), 1:22:48; 3. Martin Lopez (Garden Grove), 1:27:36; 4. Mike Caspino (Foothill Ranch), 1:28:04.
(35-39)--1. Dan Arsenault (Santa Ana), 1:12:48; 2. Kevin Herbert (Newport Beach), 1:13:45; 3. Sean Smith (Long Beach), 1:16:55; 4. Raymond Ross (Irvine), 1:19:25.
(40-44)--1. Dave Pa Sel (Costa Mesa), 1:14:19; 2. James Walton (Manhattan Beach), 1:20:12; 3. John Araujo (Placentia), 1:20:17; 4. Edward Davis (Buena Park), 1:21:51.
(45-49)--1. Jose Aponte (Oceanside), 1:26:20; 2. Don Hassett (Costa Mesa), 1:26:26; 3. Mike McNees (La Habra), 1:28:38; 4. Oscar Fricke (Mission Viejo), 1:28:41.
(50-59)--1. Don Ocana (Placentia), 1:25:41; 2. Mike Griffith (San Juan Capistrano), 1:28:19; 3. Gary Ruck (Fountain Valley), 1:35:21; 4. Ron McCain (Oceanside), 1:35:28.
(55-59)--1. Neville Pearson (Costa Mesa), 1:29:34; 2. Mauro Rodriguez (Los Angeles), 1:37:10; 3. Chuck Nawrot (Laguna Hills), 1:38:47; 4. Terry Swets (Westminster), 1:40:26.