Local eco-friendly race turns 10

Ten years ago, Mountains 2 Beach was just a 1,000-person race showcasing great places to run in and around Ventura and West Ventura County.

by Mira Reverente

A decade ago, local runner Ben DeWitt envisioned creating a 1,000-person race that showcased his favorite places to run in and around Ventura and West Ventura County, while being eco-friendly.

For this year, that small race has grown to 5,000 registered participants. DeWitt is proud of the eco-friendly practices he and his team have been tirelessly putting in place. “Not only are we working to completely eliminate all single-use plastic bottles, we are also working towards eliminating water cups this year,” he said of this new development.

The transition may not be complete come race day on May 24th, but even half the event going cupless will have a huge environmental impact, according to DeWitt.

Back in 2011, when he first heard about Mountains 2 Beach (called Ojai 2 Ocean then), Ventura resident Joe Buccino was immediately drawn to it. “The idea of running another half-marathon in my own town and finishing on the beach seemed like a fun and challenging opportunity,” he said, not realizing he would earn legacy status after running it 10 years in a row including this year.

Three Mountains 2 Beach half-marathons later, Buccino eventually took on his first marathon at the 2014 Mountains 2 Beach, with his daughter by his side. It turned out to be an unforgettable and momentous attempt because he qualified for the Boston Marathon for the very first time that year.

Retired from his city job, Buccino now has more time to train with his club, Inside Track Running and his running buddy, Camille Sommers. “We’ve been each other’s accountability partners through various Boston, LA and NY Marathons over the years, which is helpful to stay on track with a training regimen,” said the 66-year-old.

Also recently retired from his civilian job at the Navy base, Rafael Ojeda signed up in 2011, having known DeWitt previously. “It was my home turf so I knew a lot of the local runners, volunteers and spectators,” he said.

Ojeda continued signing up year after year, even in 2018 when he got sidelined due to an injury. He still showed up, volunteered and cheered for friends at the finish line.

The sense of community and enduring friendships keep drawing Ojeda in. The continued challenges – faster personal bests and natural transition to other events like trail races and triathlons, keep his motivation up.

Both Buccino and Ojeda actively participate in other local races, but nothing compared to the consistency they’ve shown Mountains 2 Beach since the beginning. Both attribute it to the great-almost-predictable Ventura weather, good timing in May, gentle downhill course and the unparalleled community support. Ojeda said, “I see people I know at every street corner.” Buccino whose daughter ran cross country and attended local schools has the same feel-good experience too.

They invariably run into the same local folks year after year – from their running club, their former jobs, volunteer involvement and just being long-time Ventura County residents.

DeWitt’s focus on bringing funding to the local school district through the race was a major consideration for Buccino to continue running it year after year. DeWitt’s love for Ventura from his cross-country days running at Buena High School to coaching at Ventura College manifests in a well-put together event.

He said, “The community gets all the economic benefits of an established event of this size. Our non-profit partners include local schools, youth sports, at-risk youth and city-based programs and even conservation efforts. There’s something for all members of the community to benefit from.” It’s a win-win for all.

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