PASO ROBLES — As the early morning sun rose above the downtown City Park Sunday morning, almost 500 runners took off with a bang for the inaugural Pacific Premier Bank’s Paso Robles Half Marathon.
“They did an amazing job,” said Nathan Mienert, who finished in third place and first overall male. “The course was really nice. It was really well planned … and it was awesome to see so many students, faculty and community members at the aid stations.”
Minert, who works at the high school, said he especially loved seeing all the highschoolers out so early in the morning.
The course was designed and directed by Race SLO’s Samantha Pruitt who also directs SLO Marathon every spring which boasts more than 5,000 runners.
The inaugural event is a combination of the HOB Fun Run, which was with Heritage Oaks Bank and the school district’s Harvest Half Marathon that was at Le Vigne Winery.
Unlike the old Harvest Half, the Paso Robles Half is not a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon. Rather it is more of a “community fun-run half,” said PRJUSD District Athletic Director Rich Clayton.
“Once Pacific Premier Bank purchased Heritage Oaks Bank back in April we decided to move forward with such a successful event and the legacy that Heritage Oaks had and join forces with the school district to become a whole new race,” said CMO Ondar Tarlow. “One hundred percent of race proceeds go to the 4A Foundation for Paso Robles Schools supporting academics, arts, athletics and agriculture.”
In regards to Pacific Premier’s sponsorship, “without them it wouldn’t have been possible,” Clayton said. ”Our mission is student success, student achievement and the big thing is giving kids opportunities to be involved in events after school at no or low cost.
“Really the idea is to create a community event that kids can be a part of and that people want to be brought in. And all the money will benefit our after school athletic programs, our visual and performing arts and things like that.”
By moving the location from La Vigne to downtown, Clayton said it allowed the event to include more people.
“We are trying to create a premier event where we can have over 1,000 runners,” he said.
And from the looks of this year’s participants, they are well on their way. According to Clayton, many of the participants were from outside of Central California.
”They’re from all over, but a lot of them are from Santa Barbara, San Francisco area. We do have some people from Chicago and different areas, states, so that’s exciting,” Clayton said.
“Having it start and finish in downtown City Park was important with all of the historic surroundings and just the amazing town that Paso Robles is — and we felt there was more community feel and greater exposure to all of the sponsors including us,” Tarlow said. “We are very excited to be a part of the community.”
Nicole Hagobian, 42, finished first overall in 1:22:32, with Erin Tracht, 36, coming in second at 1:22:32 and Nathan Meinert, 28, taking third at 1:24:58.