2021 Surf City Marathon to honor 9/11 Anniversary

Huntington Beach, CA – Two weeks after undergoing brain surgery on May 18 this year to correct her lifelong battle with epilepsy, Tiffany Costello jogged two miles. Three months post-surgery, the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier was logging more than 50 miles a week. And come Saturday, on the 25th edition of the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, Costello will be one of the women’s favorites in the 13.1-mile race.

 Such a rapid recovery and dedication to pounding the pavement might surprise some, but not to those who know Tiffany best.

“She’s just got her mindset,” said Kevin Costello, Tiffany’s father. “It’s crazy how much she loves to do this. Every morning she wakes up and she’s excited to run, do a spin class or go to yoga. She doesn’t need to be told what to do. She’s just a dedicated person.”

 Or as Tiffany, who lives in Huntington Beach, put it, “Running to me is just a complete gift. The greatest gift ever.”

 Tiffany, 25, was diagnosed with epilepsy as an infant and throughout her life suffered occasional seizures. She said they typically lasted 5-10 seconds.

 “They were never super bad,” she said.

 Still, because of the uncertainty of when a seizure might strike, she was afraid of having one in front of friends.

 “Unless a family member was there,” said Tiffany, “they might freak out.”

 “The sad thing to me,” she added, “and I don’t let it take me down every day, is that if I didn’t have seizures growing up I felt I would have had more friends outside of running.”

 In Costello’s early teens, soccer was her favorite athletic outlet. At Tesoro High, she originally ran track to stay in shape for soccer. But when she ran about an 8:25 mile when first timed at the distance, she remembers a coach telling her, “Oh my gosh, I definitely see you getting into track.”

 She would run track and cross country at Santa Barbara City College, the results — including a second-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the 2017 community college state track and field championships — indicating here was a young woman who could run far and fast.

 In 2018, Costello made her first go at the marathon. It proved to be memorable. Racing at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, Costello surged to the finish to cross the line in 2 hours, 45 minutes, the exact cut off to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

 Exhausted at the finish, she initially leaned against a fence to catch her breath. Forty minutes later, her coach relayed that it was official. She qualified for the Olympic Trials.

 “My dad hugged me and said, ‘You got in!’” recalled Costello, who also coaches distance runners. “It will always be and has been the best memory of my life.”

 On a wind-swept morning in Atlanta, she ran 2:56:19 at the 2020 Olympic Trials, her second and only other attempt at the marathon. She readily admits she likes to run long.

 “After the third or fourth mile, I’m doing better than the first,” she said. “After my peak in the marathon, I see myself running ultramarathons.”

 Given her training has been limited since brain surgery, Costello’s goal Saturday is to finish in the top 10. Long-term goals once back in peak condition include running the major U.S. Marathons (Boston, New York and Chicago) and qualify for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The ultimate dream: finish in the top three at the 2024 or 2028 Trials and make the Olympic team.

 As for Saturday’s race, she’s excited to run in her hometown.

 “You can’t beat running 13.1 miles along the ocean,” she said. “I love the crowd you get at the finish line. They’re all the way down the boardwalk. You get people the entire race along the sidelines watching you. That, to me, is awesome.”

 With the race falling on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, there will be special tributes. A police helicopter is scheduled to fly over the runners. A fire truck will be positioned at the start line. A Marine Corps color guard and band will perform the national anthem, and there will be a moment of silence before the race.