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The 25th Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series highlights its Legacy Runners

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is a San Diego original that has gone international. It now uses the name Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series because it includes a 5K and half-marathon.

One Saturday and Sunday, for the 25th time, the Rock ‘n’ Roll running series will take over San Diego neighborhoods — and this year welcome more than 25,000 runners.

Kaitlin Heck is a race organizer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series. She said the event was a game changer.


“We brought music every mile. We have music after the event, postrace concerts. So we really wanted to make it everyone’s marathon,” she said.

There are plenty of fun things planned for this anniversary race.

“We’re just celebrating all things San Diego and having different entertainment throughout the way. We’ll have 'Top Gun' activations. We’ll have 'Anchorman' as well, some drag queens in Hillcrest. We’ve got the entertainment for sure,” Heck said.

And how can you have a Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series without rock ’n’ roll? This year's marathon features bands playing all kinds of rock music, and other styles, too, including African and Japanese drumming and mariachi.

It’s one of Escondido resident Johan Otter’s favorite parts of the marathon. “The music is awesome! Especially some of the live bands and there’s some bands that are very much in percussion and, if they have the right beat going while you’re running, you can kind of adopt to that and that’s really special,” Otter said.


Otter is part of a special group called the Legacy Runners. It’s a group of about 50 runners who have run all 25 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons.

“I’ve been running marathons for 25 years! The Rock ‘n’ Roll was the first marathon ever, and to think about doing this for a quarter of a century and being able to do this in between injuries and whatever else may be coming along is kind of cool,” Otter said.

Those injuries Otter is referring to were the result of being attacked by a 300-pound grizzly bear in Glacier National Park.

“I broke my neck, ribs, de-scalped, and to get back again to marathon running was my objective goal to physically be able to do that again,” Otter said.

Ten months after that attack, Johan ran in his eighth-straight Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

La Mesa resident Jesslyn Ponce-Dick is another legacy runner.

“I did something that only 1% of the world does: crossing the finish line of a marathon,” Ponce-Dick said.       

She runs with Team in Training, which raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She runs in honor of three family members who died of leukemia.

“I’m never going to be a doctor and find a cure for leukemia, but I can teach my kids to give back by lacing up and doing something for someone else,” Ponce-Dick said.

This year, Ponce-Dick gets to cross the finish line with her youngest daughter.

“I get to do it with my baby girl, who again was 6 weeks old when her mom crossed it the first time, and she’s 25 and I look forward to just crossing that line holding her hand,” Ponce-Dick said.

This year’s marathon activities include a health and fitness expo at the convention center on Friday. There will be a 5K on Saturday, and the marathon and half-marathon take place on Sunday.