There were headwinds. There were sheets of light rain. There were the emotions of competing in a race during which bombs exploded near the finish line two years earlier.
But those obstacles weren’t going to keep Sean Watson from completing the Boston Marathon, especially considering the raucous support he had along the way.
“It was pretty incredible — the atmosphere is hard to even describe,” he said. “There wasn’t a moment where there weren’t people along the streets and cheering. I’ve never witnessed an atmosphere like that. It was wonderful.”
Watson traversed the course in 2 hours 36 minutes 24 seconds, the fastest time among the 24 Santa Monica-based runners in this year’s edition of the prestigious race. Not far behind him was Scott Wandzilak, who clocked in at 2:38.20. The top local female finisher was Dina Kitayama, who logged a 3:02.47.
Ranging in age from 23 to 65, Santa Monica’s entrants were part of a contingent of 1,956 Californians to finish the marathon this year. More than 26,600 runners accomplished the feat, according to the event website.
Watson, 29, qualified for the Boston race at last year’s LA Marathon, which doubled as his first 26.2-mile challenge.
A Manhattan Beach product who attended Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, Watson continued his running career at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
After college, though, he struggled to recapture his love of the sport until he started preparing for marathons.
“You’ve got a real end goal in mind, and there’s such a camaraderie around it,” he said. “Plus, training in Santa Monica is pretty wonderful.”
Watson initially moved to the area for work about five years ago. Now an advocacy consultant who runs progressive policy campaigns through his Los Angeles-based firm, Catalytik, he still enjoys living in the beachside city.
Watson said he remembers making emergency phone calls to friends who were competing in the Boston Marathon two years ago, when two Chechen brothers planted pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and injured scores more. The surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty earlier this month.
“The bombings were on everyone’s mind,” Watson said. “It was an extra source of emotion that powered runners through.”
Wandzilak, 32, a director of development for USC athletics, called his first Boston Marathon an “unbelievable” experience.
An avid runner who competed in the collegiate ranks at the University of Nebraska, Wandzilak has lived in Santa Monica twice, including for the last year and a half near Montana Avenue. He trains on the beach bike path as well as at Santa Monica College and around Brentwood Country Club.
Wandzilak said the marathon community has rallied around Boston since the attack.
“As you were running you heard the ‘U-S-A’ chants, and you couldn’t help but think of it,” he said.
Kitayama, 25, a Bay Area product who attended Miramonte High School in Orinda, was a member of the USC cross-country team. She currently works for advertising and media communications agency Carat in Santa Monica.
Also representing Santa Monica in this year’s Boston Marathon were Patrick Adams, Alfredo Korzenik, Montgomery Coleman, Renee Delphin-Rodriguez, Heather Spinale, Nicole Hetzer, Samuel Bradbury, Erin Maruoka, Walter Dalley, Rachael Babcock, Rob Sweeney, Nikolaos Ritsonis, Josephine Hua, Julia Kolyadenko, Leslie Cohen, Jill Weisman, Rosa Simpson, Heidi Peterson, Thomas Hartge, Ash Dragon and Julia McGovern, according to event records.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.