Athleticism and human drama meet at OC Marathon

by in News

Runners in the 15th annual OC Marathon and OC Half Marathon raced through four cities Sunday, May 5,  finishing at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. At the finish line, physical and mental strength collided with stories of perseverance.

Fermin “Determined” Camarena, 65, of San Juan Capistrano, one of about 11,000 participants, placed first in the marathon wheelchair race. He said he’s done so many marathons, “I don’t even count anymore. I’m just thankful the good Lord gave me a second chance.”

OC Marathon first-place wheelchair winner Fermin “Determined” Camarena cruises to the victory tape in Costa Mesa onSunday, May 5, 2019. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Camarena’s second chance came after a stroke in 2003 when, he said, he should have died. Since then the “king of junk foods” became “the king of health,” losing more than 100 pounds, he said.

He lost vision in one eye and couldn’t talk. He is still working on his speech and has shaking episodes.

“Sometimes I do Braille, sometimes I send smoke signals. Whatever it takes,” he joked.

Like Camarena, Anaheim dentist and Fullerton resident Randy Kam’s marathon was about beating the odds and not taking anything for granted. He was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer almost five years ago, and completed his 125th marathon only three days after chemo treatment.

On Sunday, he completed his 150th marathon in less than seven hours, wearing a sign on his back urging men to get prostate testing. He said he runs “to honor those men who have been taken by prostate cancer.” With every marathon run, he said, he feels like he is beating cancer.

Sunday’s marathon followed a scenic course through Newport Beach/Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Irvine and Santa Ana.

Caitlynrose Clark, 21, gets a flower from her mom, Marlene, reflected in her boyfriend John Rives McClellan’s sunglasses. Clark completed her first marathon on Sunday, May 5, 2019. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

As marathoners exited the OC Fair & Event Center, Caitlynrose Clark, 21, emotionally embraced her mom, Marlene, as teary-eyed family members from Austin, Texas, looked on. This was Clark’s first marathon and she said she wanted to quit at mile 20.

But when she saw family members cheering her on, she said, she got a second wind.

Before Clark started running a year ago, “She couldn’t even run an errand,” her mother said. “Seriously.”