Island-wide effort makes 50-mile run happen

Avalon Lions Club 50K/50M Benefit Run Hosts 539 Runners

Wayne Wirth a long-time resident of Catalina Island and Avalon Lion Race Director Jamie Hmielak display his runner’s shirt from 1979 and one from 2022. Wayne ran in the first Catalina 50 mile run in 1979 when the nine runners used painted rocks beside the road to mark the mileage. Photo by Burney Ramming

On Saturday Morning January 8, 2022, at 5 a.m., 216 runners started the 50-mile Run, followed at 6 a.m. by 325 runners in the 50-kilometer run. The 50-mile runners, going from Avalon turned around at Two Harbors and came back to Avalon through Middle Ranch down the airport road. The 50 Kilometer runners started in Avalon, turned around at the Little Harbor Overlook, and came back to Avalon through Middle Ranch down the Airport Road. 

It takes a Catalina Island wide effort to produce this complicated event. Many thanks to the Catalina Conservancy crew, City of Avalon crew, Catalina Amateur Radio Club crew, and the many helpful Avalon community residents who made this event possible. Including the members of the Avalon Lions Club, there were just over 100 people involved in the run preparation, event day and post-run activities. The event photography was provided by Scott Christopher of Stolarz Photography. Scott’s Email address is for interested buying race pictures. Many of the volunteers and venders from the mainland have been coming to Avalon for years and years to help with this benefit run. Thanks so much!

The Sunday morning after run group picture on the Wrigley Stage with the finish line banner. Many racers were sleeping late after the 5 a.m. race start on Saturday and missed this picture. Photo by Burney Ramming

For the first time in this run’s 43-year history Spectrum Sports Management provided electronic timing for this event. Each runner had a small transmitter in their run number bibs. As they crossed the start, finish and certain points along the course, position timing signals were sent to run control on Front Street. When some of the signals did not reach run control due to the topography of Catalina Island, the Catalina Island Amateur Radio Club Crew sent the information by Radio from each aid station. The Avalon Lions Club Members wish to give a huge thank you Mike Bone and the crew at Spectrum Sports Management for their tremendous registration, electronic timing, and event day support. 

Participants came to Catalina Island from many US States, Canada and Brazil to run through the beautiful Island scenery. Wayne Wirth from Avalon stopped by the finish line to show his 1979 tee shirt to the crew. Wayne and eight other Islander friends ran from the Isthmus to Avalon and back in the first 50-mile event. They used rocks painted with mileage placed on the road to keep track of where they were. Alison Wrigley Rusack and Geoff Rusack were at the finish line to cheer their son Parker as he finished his run. Parker won third place in his age division with a time of 4 hours 59 minutes and 12 seconds on the 50-Kiometer course. Robert Szekerbeth, 74 years old, from Huntington Beach, California was the oldest finisher in the 50-mile run. The South Bay Runners Club had nine runners patriating; they were all dressed in matching purple shirts looking very spiffy. Their unofficial club’s name is Tequila Turtles! Thanks to everyone who participated. We hope to see you all next year!

The overall winner of the women’s 50 Kilometer run was Alexi Pappas from Woodland Hills, CA, with a time of 4:21:19. Alex is a former Olympic runner and we were honored to have her visiting Catalina Island. Second Place was Georgia Titcomb from Los Angeles, CA, with a time of 5:00:35. Third place was Aubrey Schonhoff from Birmingham, AL, with a time of 5:10:11.

Allison Wrigley Rusack on the left, Jeff Rusack on the right. Parker Rusack in the center with two runner friends from Santa Barbara beside him. Photo by Burney Ramming 

The overall winner of the men’s 50 Kilometer run was Robert Webber from Alhambra, CA, with a time of 4:07:34. Second place was Antonio Rodriguez from Long Beach, CA, with a time of 4:10:58. Third place was Robert Farrell from Santa Barbara, CA, with a time of 4:25:08.

The overall winner of the women’s 50 Mile run was Jade Belzberg from Sedona, AZ, with a time of 7:21:05. Second place was Jian Springer from Woodland Hills, CA, with a time of 7:54:59. Third place was Shelby Farrell from Redondo Beach, CA, with a time of 8:14:17.

The overall winner of the Men’s 50 Mile run was Anthony Fagundes from Fair Oaks, CA, with a time of 6:01:16. Second place was Ruperto Romero from Huntington Park, CA, with a time of 6:52:17. Third place was Nathan Brown from Tamuning, GU, with a time of 7:03:31. In addition to the overall winners from the 50 Kilometer race and 50 Mile race there were awards earned in six different age groups, both male and female in both race distances. 

This annual benefit run is organized by the Avalon Lions Club as its major fundraiser of the year. All the money raised by this event is given back to the residents of Catalina Island in emergency situations or used for community improvements. The Avalon Lions Club is part of the largest community service organization in the world. Should any Avalon resident be interested in becoming a member of the Avalon Lions Club please contact Burney Ramming at or 310-422-1406 for information.

Island-wide effort makes 50-mile run happen