Modesto Bee Article on the
Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon

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Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010

Grassroots effort nets major marathon

Boston-certified run set for March

By Kelly Jones

For some of the 300 people who have signed up to run in the first Modesto Marathon, the ultimate goal is not 26.2 miles away. It's more like 3,890 miles away.

That's the distance to Boston. For some of the competitors in Modesto's first marathon Boston is the ultimate destination.

"We had probably 30 e-mails from people asking," said race co-director Heidi Ryan, whose husband Mike Araiza was a major contributor to the course design and certification for Boston. "It is very important to people in the Central Valley. Anymore to travel, it's expensive. Running the Boston Marathon is a goal that a lot of runners want to try to accomplish at some point in their lives."

Mentors and youth in the Teens Run Modesto program train day and night for the Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon. (BRIAN RAMSAY/

The officially named Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon on March 21 will be an official qualifier for the Boston Marathon in April. But most of those who will run have a less distant goal to simply finish the 26.2 miles full maraton or one of two shorter courses (5-kilometers or the 13.1-mile half marathon). For all three races, organizers figure there are already around 700 entrants. They're hoping for 1,000.

"There's so many people getting excited about it," said co-director Karen Kopecki Lozano. "We're trying to do as much as we can to get the word out. There's a fan page on Facebook. It's as grassroots as we can think of."

The marathon starts downtown at the corner of 11th and M Streets. It winds through residential neighborhoods around Modesto Junior College, over the Ninth Street overpass, out close to Caswell State Memorial Park via Beckwith Road and back into downtown Modesto.

Ryan said course designers had to be careful not to cross state highways, which would require California Highway Patrol approval and the closure of roads, a minimum number of turns where runners could lose time and use a modest number of volunteers.

"In the spring the trees are newly leafed and the may be a few almond blossoms left," Ryan said. "We wanted the course to be fast, safe and be downtown where we have the Gallo Arts Center and Center Plaza. We thought starting downtown would be really cool."

Ryan said the course has received some criticism for being too flat and reaching too far into the country.

With about two months until the big day, he said anyone can train for one of the three distances. The ShadowChase Running Club offers free training sessions.

"If they're starting from ground zero, the half marathon might be better option," Ryan said. "We don't want people to increase their mileage too quickly. Anyone who has 10 miles under their belt now could probably train and run the marathon. And then there's the 5K."

The event is shaping up to be part race and part running festival, with musical entertainment, volunteers organizing water stations, visual course motivators and products being collected for race kits.

Ryan envisions the Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon someday becoming as big as Sacramento's California International Marathon in December or the San Jose Rock N Roll Half-Marathon in October which last year had 9,961 finishers.

"People are starting to believe in us," Kopecki Lozano said. "Everywhere we go, we ask, 'Can we put up posters?' and they say yes. It's really neat how people are getting excited about it."

Among the runners in the inaugural event will be some first-time runners at-risk youth who are running as part of the Teens Run Modesto program.

While Kopecki Lozano and Ryan will be too busy to participate in the marathon, Karen Zadarski is looking forward to the big day. A veteran of 10 marathons, she said this will be the first one her parents will be able to see her finish.

"My parents can never come," Landarski said. "I'm very excited for the opportunity to run close to home and with family and friends. It's great how much of the community comes out to something like that."

The marathon's title sponsor is Surgical Artistry of Modesto, owned by Dr. Calvin Lee and Dr. Tammy Wu. They pledged $10,000 and their support: Their entire office staff is entered in the half-marathon.

Registration is open until March 15 for the marathons. Entries in the 5K will be accepted until race day. Early registration will save participants $10. Proceeds benefit the Teens Run Modesto program.

For more information, visit

Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at 578-2300 or

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