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Lemon Grove Runner Places 2nd As OC Marathon Returns to Normal After Pandemic Changes

Lemon Grove 2nd place
Heather Huggins of Monrovia wins the women’s portion of the OC Marathon Sunday. Photo credit: Courtesy, SDCCU OC Marathon

Runners hit the OC Marathon course on the customary first Sunday in May for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic.

“It’s so good that we’re back,” said Gary Kutscher, the race director for the OC Marathon Running Festival, which included a half-marathon Sunday and a 5K and kids’ mile run Saturday. “I think it lets people know we’re getting back to normal.”

J.J. Santana, 35, of Las Vegas won the men’s race in two hours, 22 minutes, 57 seconds. His time was just 12 seconds off the course record despite running his third marathon in less than five months.

Santana set the half-marathon course record in November.

Dylan Marx of Lemon Grove finished second among the men in 2:24.13 in his first marathon since the 2020 Olympic Trials.

Marx ran two years at San Diego Mesa College and recorded personal bests of 9:07 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 14:29 in the 5k. He captured a state championship in both the events.

Heather Huggins, 48, of Monrovia won the women’s race in 3:07:29 in her first marathon victory following multiple top 5 finishes.

“I’m going to sit down and cry for a while,” Huggins said.

Monique Bienvenue of Fresno placed second among the women in 3:12.06.

After Garrett Gahn of Huntington Beach crossed the finish line to complete his first marathon in 3:47:26, meeting his goal of a sub-four-hour time, he dropped to one knee to propose to his girlfriend, Aurora Rodriguez.

“That was my motivation,” Gahn said. “That’s what got me across.”

Gahn said he planned the proposal for a month.

“I was trying to figure out the right way (to propose), and I felt this was the most epic way I could do it,” Gahn said. “I wanted to show her I can do anything if she’s in my corner.”

The marathon course began in front of the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, then wound through the Corona del Mar and the Newport Harbor areas before entering Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.

The race ended at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa.

Updated 5:55 p.m. May 1, 2022