Salinas locals dominate second and third place podiums

Press Release / Gonzales, CA • August 9, 2018

Salinas Valley Half Marathon

OVER 1,000 PARTICIPANTS WERE TREATED TO CLEAR CONDITIONS AND EXCEPTIONAL VIEWS during the 9th presentation of the Salinas Valley Half Marathon and the inaugural 5K fun run Saturday morning. Diego Leon, 23, of Hollister, CA took top honors in the men’s overall division in 1:11:24, while Jen Bayliss, 47, of San Ramon, CA beat out her competition in 1:26:17.

“I felt pretty strong throughout the race and tried to focus my strength on the hills, especially the Beast of Eden,” recalled Leon. “My plan was to run with the guys for the six miles and start cutting my pace down at the hill.”

Both races were won with comfortable margins as the winners broke away from their competition with several miles to go. The second and third place podiums were occupied by Salinas natives in both the men’s and women’s divisions. Jorge Sanchez, 21, took second in 1:13:36, followed exactly one minute later by 20 year old Andrew Martinez. Lan Clayton, age 50 beat out Amy Johnston, a competitor half her age, for the second place spot.

The course, which runs from the Soledad Mission to Pessagno Winery via scenic River Road, offers peaceful conditions and sweeping valley views to the runners traveling 13.1 miles through Steinbeck Country. Vineyards, cacti, and seasonal crops line the course, bounded by the Santa Lucia mountains to the West and the valley floor to the east.

Of the quiet course, Leon said, “It’s hard to push yourself out there when you’re on your own, but I had some race marshals to give me a little company and the course was hilly enough to not feel so lonely.”

The 5K fun run, in its first year, attracted nearly 300 runners and walkers, most of whom made it to the finish line in time to cheer on the leading half marathon competitors. Appropriate for both fast runners and families with children, the 5K featured a scenic out-and-back route from near the finish at Pessagno Winery. Maritza Ruelas of Gonzales, 24, came in first for the women, and 18 year old Andrew Alonzo of Salinas claimed the quickest men’s finish time.

Cool early morning temperatures in the low-50s gave way to mid-70s as runners gathered at Pessagno Winery for post-race festivities. Nine Monterey County wineries, including many located along the course route, offered tastes of regional varietals for runners 21 and over.

“Runners always enjoy the views of the valley and running by the many crops grown in the area, some being harvested as they ran by,” said Doug Thurston, Executive Director and Race Director of the Big Sur Marathon Foundation.

Carmel Craft Brewing also provided beer to deserving runners and thirsty guests as DJ Eminence kept the music going from the awards stage. MY Museum offered activities for young children from their Wheelie Mobilee, and a family-style BBQ fundraiser was hosted by the Salinas Toro Bulls.

The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is now one of four events run by the Big Sur Marathon Foundation whose mission is “to create beautiful running events that promote health and benefit the community.” For more information about the Big Sur Marathon Foundation, visit Full results can be found on the event website,

Salinas Valley Half Marathon

Salinas Valley Half Marathon