The “small town big race” motto for this year’s iteration of the San Luis Obispo Marathon was on display Sunday, as the event saw some familiar faces take home top honors while drawing unfamiliar ones for a record day.
Cal Poly graduate and two-time All-American Ben Bruce set a course record in the half marathon, winning in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 55 seconds, while his wife Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, who is five months pregnant, won the women’s half in 1:23.14.
In the marathon, Ben’s teammate on the Hoka One One running team Jorge Maravilla broke the course record, winning the men’s race in 2:26.47, while 2014 champion Kimberly O’Donnell returned to break her own course record, winning the women’s race in 2:59.02.
Despite having a 10-month-old son and another on the way, the Bruces were able to make the trek from Flagstaff, Ariz., and turn in impressive performances.
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“Between the family, training for (Olympic) trials, and running my own business, it was tough but worth it to get back to the Central Coast,” Stephanie Rothstein Bruce said.
The two have their eyes set on Rio in 2016 as he looks to qualify in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while she hopes to recover from her pregnancy in time for the marathon.
Ben is not shy to the “big race” vibe, having represented the United States on three World Championship teams in track, cross country, and the half marathon after setting the Cal Poly record in the 5K(13:40.9) in 2005.
“It was nice to come back and put in a solid effort in something other than track. I wasn’t really aware of the course record,” he said.
In the marathon, three athletes broke the course record of 2:34.47 set by O’Donnell’s fiance Ryan Neely in last year’s race.
“The competitive field speaks to the beauty of this place drawing elite runners,” Maravilla said.
Maravilla was followed by Kenyan Peter Kemboi (2:33.12) and Arroyo Grande resident Joe Thorne (2:34.24).
Thorne has been a staple in the San Luis Obispo marathon, having won the full in 2013 and the half in 2014 while working for race sponsor LeftLane Sports.
The family affair concluded Sunday as Ashley Reif finished third (1:15.01) in the women’s half marathon. She is Maravilla’s girlfriend and mother to his eight-month old son.