In his working life in Santa Barbara, Jake Clinton’s business has been making sure people have a good time.
He ran an arcade and owned a pizza parlor back in the late 1970s and 80s. Today, people know Clinton as the man who owns and directs the uber popular Nite Moves Summer Sunset Series at Leadbetter Beach and Shoreline Park. The Wednesday after-work endurance/social event in the summer months symbolizes the Santa Barbara lifestyle.
Clinton also runs two traditional holiday running events in the community: the Pier to Peak Half-Marathon during Labor Day weekend and the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler.
For all the work he’s done in the running community and promoting healthy living on the South Coast, Presidio Sports is pleased to name Clinton as a Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month.
Nite Moves celebrated its 25th anniversary this past May, and the City of Santa Barbara recognized Clinton for his dedication and work in running the weekly event with a proclamation.
Clinton, 63, cofounded Nite Moves back in 1989 with Chris Holmberg and Eddie St. Clair. He took it over in 1992.
Holmberg came up with the initial idea of putting on an evening run before the conversation turned to doing a series, Clinton recalled.
Clinton pushed for doing it midweek, and the rest is history.
“Both those guys looked at me as if I was nuts,” said Clinton about staging the event in the middle of the work week.
On just five days notice, the first event drew 298 people.
SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH
Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community. It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in our sports community, whether it is an inspirational athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.
“That first year we averaged 500 a night for a total of 3,000 for six nights,” Clinton said.
The first year, the “Bud Light Summer Series” consisted of 5k and 8k runs and a kayak paddle.
“That first year we tried to do kayaks and it just never got off the ground,” Clinton said. “I think if we started with stand-up paddle it would have taken off.”
The swim was added the second year, and the event’s popularity exploded.
Participants have the option of running a 5k, swimming 1k in the ocean or doing both events, known as the aquathon.
What started out as an every-other-week activity has become an 18-week series that runs from late April to the end of August.
Clinton said men made up the majority of the entries for the first event. But it didn’t take long for the women to join the fun.
“The women came after the third event,” he said. “If you look at the pictures of the first event, it’s almost all men. By the end of the summer, it was a social event. And it just snowballed.”
Later, Clinton noticed more participants were bringing their kids to the event.
“Ding. That’s when I started a children’s run.” he said.
Nite Moves developed into a fun, healthy, family night out, where everybody benefits.
“A big part of Nite Moves is getting people off the couch,” Clinton said of how the activity promotes good health. “I made it easy.”
He related a story about a woman named Rosemary who came out with her daughter, Heidi, and walked the 5k course up Shoreline Drive and back.
“She ended up winning her age group because she got a point for just being there every week,” Clinton said. “By the second year, she started running. She was a cancer survivor and she started running marathons. She passed away two years ago, but for 12-14 years, she did it.”
Nite Moves also has become a hit with triathletes in training.
“I think triathlon really added to it, having the swim element,” he said. “If we just had the 5k (run), it would have been boring.”
Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Champions Paula Newby Fraser and Kelly Jones have participated in Nite Moves, as have other elite endurance athletes from around the world.
The event has received media coverage from such publications as Runners World and Competitor Magazine. Bob Babbitt, a respected Hawaii Ironman historian and author of “25 Years of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship” has written about and participated in Nite Moves.
Clinton directs Nite Moves and his other runs under his business Run Santa Barbara. It is a for-profit company, but he is quick to note that he makes contributions to several non-profits, including the Downtown July 4th Parade and the Equestrian Rescue Team.
“All these little nonprofits over the years have helped me out; they’re in the loop,” he said.
The Echelon Bike Club, Santa Barbara Bike Club, Santa Barbara Tri Club also are primary beneficiaries of Run Santa Barbara.
Before he got into the business of running, Clinton ran the erstwhile State Street Arcade for video games pioneer Joe Keenan of Atari fame. He later opened and operated Mr. C’s Pizza, in the Magnolia Center.
The first Thanksgiving 4-Miler he held finished at the pizza parlor.
This year’s holiday run will be the 16th annual. He said he got the idea from an event held in his hometown in Connecticut. His Santa Barbara event has grown from 27-29 entries the first year to 950 last year.
He took over running the Pier to Peak from run originator Bobby Powers 15 years ago. The grueling run from Stearns Wharf to La Cumbre Peak had more than 300 runners this year.
His next project is a Feb. 15 couples 805 run, where the men run an 8k and the women a 5k in a team competition.
Just another activity for people to have a good time.