When she moved to Santa Monica on March 5, 2014, Cortney Jantzer didn’t know anyone other than her husband and her young son. She was excited to be in Southern California, but she was nervous about starting a new life away from home.
Four days later, she was surrounded by tens of thousands of new friends.
It was all thanks to the LA Marathon, which has become an annual tradition for the 36-year-old Atlanta native. On Feb. 14 she will join the mass 26.2-mile exodus from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, buoyed by support of the throngs of people around her.
“The running community, they’re a second family,” she said. “They’re the first people I met. When you’ve lived somewhere for 30 years and move so quickly, to be able to connect like that is amazing.”
This year’s LA Marathon will welcome runners from across the country and around the world. But the race seems to carry special significance for Jantzer and other residents of the beachside city, where Ocean Avenue leads to the finish line.
More than 450 Santa Monicans ranging in age from 14 to 75 participated in last year’s LA Marathon, according to a Daily Press review of race results. The cohort was led by Jeffrey Tomlinson, 34, whose time of 2 hours 52 minutes 8 seconds made him the fastest local male entrant and the 89th finisher overall. Also cracking the top 100 were 28-year-old Dave Tassone (99th, 2:53.44) and 39-year-old Kevin Purcell (100th, 2:53.46). The fastest Santa Monica woman in the race was Erika Aklufi, 38, who ran a 2:55.13 to place 107th overall.
Santa Monicans also play big roles as spectators. Homeowners along San Vicente Boulevard have been known to distribute orange slices and shout words of encouragement as runners enter the home stretch.
“I love the support as you get closer to Santa Monica,” Jantzer said. “The crowd support around the houses we run, where the kids are handing out oranges, that’s monumental to me.”
Getting to the finish line is a familiar accomplishment for Jantzer, who has completed 76 half marathons, including 40 in the last year, as well as seven marathons and one 50-kilometer race.
She began running when she was 14, determined to power through the mile loop around her neighborhood.
“It started off as this Zen thing,” she said. “I loved being outdoors, and it was a time to think and figure out life.”
Jantzer kept running through college and into marriage and motherhood. An operations project manager as well as a running coach and yoga instructor, she moved to Santa Monica for a job opportunity for her husband.
Although she’s serious about her sport, Jantzer keeps things light by wearing costumes as she runs, often with advice from her 4-year-old son. In the past she’s dressed up as Wonder Woman, Batman and Captain America, among other superheroes.
A perk for Jantzer, who lives about a mile and a half from the pier, is that she can walk home after the race.
“When you turn that corner and you feel the beach breeze, you can smell you’re at the finish line,” she said. “To know metaphorically and literally that you’re running home, there’s something euphoric about it. You know you’re home.”