SANTA CLARITA – About 2,500 runners – some with strollers, some with dogs and at least one without shoes – took to the streets Sunday for the 2005 Santa Clarita Marathon. Valencia Town Center, with its upscale shops and cozy restaurants, was transformed into race central, where those running in the 5K, half marathon and full marathon huffed and puffed their way through the beginning and end of their meets. Marathon runner Robert Leonardo, 43, was first to cross the finish line, making it across the 26.2-mile course in about two hours, 43 minutes and 45 seconds as the crowd erupted with applause. The Lancaster man said he had a hunch from the start that he’d win. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “I knew from the beginning that I was going to win, because I looked around and didn’t see anyone behind me,” Leonardo said. The warehouse manager was pleased with his score but said he was more than a few seconds faster in the recent Long Beach Marathon. However, he was fighting a cold this week and said that slowed him down somewhat on Sunday. Sylvie Maracci, 35, was the first woman to finish the marathon. She did it in three hours, seven minutes and 16 seconds. This was the 13th marathon for the Los Angeles lawyer, who usually competes in triathlons. Maracci said people cheered her on during the race, giving her the energy to move faster. “As I was running, everyone told me I was the first woman and that I was winning, so I kept going,” Maracci said. Athletes followed a 26.2-mile course that began at Valencia Town Center and wound its way around major streets and then through smaller side streets and knotty trails. For marathon runners, the race is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, the king of all races. One man running alone in the 5K suddenly fell to the ground unconscious. He was taken to a local hospital but his identity and condition were not released. Runners discovered him about two miles into the race and knew he needed assistance but were helpless because no one had cell phones with them. Some raced ahead to a water stop where an ambulance was then called. Running in the 5K, nurse Karen Klepic and husband Michael were first to find the man on the ground. The Simi Valley couple said they performed cardiopulmonary resuscitationo for 10 to 15 minutes until help arrived. He was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. Phil Lantis, arts and events administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, said it was the first time a runner has collapsed during the competition in the 10 years the city has sponsored the event. Some in the 5K competed with family members, such as David Alcantara, 41, who ran with his daughter Jessica, 11. The Canyon Country residents held hands as they dashed across the finish line. Others, such as Chad Pearlman, 11, and his mother, Elizabeth, 45, ran with Halftime, a 15-year-old Jack Russell. While the mom-and-son team reached for free water and bagels to recover from the race, the scruffy dog was ready to do it all over again. “We had to slow him down,” said Elizabeth Pearlman referring to the dog. “He loves racing.” Race winners received gift baskets from the city. In addition, half-marathon and marathon winners were awarded free Southwest Airlines tickets. Competition was definitely in the air, and many professional runners had their own ways to get their bodies to perform best on Sunday. Some ate spaghetti or enchiladas the night before, loading up on carbohydrates to have sugar to burn for energy. Others made sure they slept well through the week. But for Ted McDonald, the No. 1 way to race is in bare feet. Displaying his dirty dogs after the race, the 41-year-old Sun Valley man, known as Barefoot Ted, said that’s how people were meant to run. He said gym shoe manufacturers have made a steep profit on convincing people otherwise. “If we lived in a society where what was best was promoted rather than profit, we’d see more barefoot runners,” McDonald said. In about three hours and 17 minutes, McDonald finished the 26.2-mile race. His score qualified him for the Boston Marathon. Bare feet and all. Sue Doyle, (661) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!