I volunteered at the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & Half Marathon. I will admit that getting up at 4:00 AM on a Sunday morning was a little rough. Especially since I started a new job the previous Monday and was in intense training. I felt like I ran a few mental marathons that week if that is even a thing, but I made it. I committed and let’s face it, I had the easy part. My hat goes off to all the runners. They were truly an inspiration and their energy was contagious.
My assignment was gear duty, returning the runners’ personal belongings to them after the race. The phrase “no bib, no bag” is ever-present in my mind. We opted to man the last assigned UPS truck. It was fun greeting each runner, hearing their race stories, and sharing a few laughs. We did our best to be as fast, friendly and helpful as possible. It was amazing to see some people run up to the truck. A few hobbled, and some practically crawled up to us after they crossed the finish line. I do not think I’ve seen so many people happy their last name started with a W-Z.
We met a number of great athletes and first-timers. Four runners stick out most to me. I handed a young woman her bag. She pulled out her Boston Marathon jacket, put it on, and smiled at us. I paused for a moment as an unexpected chill ran through me. I thought of that terrible day in April, how resilient we are, and that it did not detour one runner there that day. Earlier that morning, we were aware of heavy police and bomb squad’s presence walking around the finish line. A man told me he appreciated my smile. He suggested that next year he volunteer and I run the full marathon. I may take you up on that Bib #______. The hardest story for me was when a young woman hobbled over to us. She was shivering and her lips were blue. I was ready to run to the medic for her. She had ice shrink wrapped around both her knees and she could barely walk. She asked if she could step up into the back of the truck to change her shirt. The problem was she could not bend her knees. My truck buddy and I helped her on and off the truck. It was difficult to watch her in so much pain. Lastly, my favorite: A 70 plus year-old woman ran the full marathon. Her husband accompanied her to the truck. She walked with a spring in her step carrying the bouquet of flowers he gave her. She was in fantastic shape, better than people half her age, and had a huge smile on her face. She impressed me and was such a sweetheart!
A number of friends participated in the event. I asked a few of them to share their experiences, and they graciously agreed. They have their own unique perspectives. I was impressed with each of them. I also would like to take this time to wish them and all who participated heartfelt congratulations on their accomplishment.
I ran the Half Marathon.
If you train too hard, you may not start. If you do not train hard enough, you may not finish. That sums up the challenge of training for a distance event. On June 2, 2013, I completed ½ of the San Diego Rock n Roll marathon. I’ve often been asked why I enjoy running and specifically what motivates me to run distance events.
There are self-serving desires; to find contemplative time while reaping the physical benefits of running. But, the ultimate goal is to log off, shut down and go running; to an extent that is outside my comfort zone. Being a competitive person, I strive to take chances, run faster. There is simply no feeling greater than a runner’s high or beating a run time that desperately wants to crush. The day of Rock and Roll marathon was spectacular. The weather was perfect. The course was fast. That Sunday was my day. While fear of a disappointing finish always torments my mind, I knew in my heart that I had made sacrifices to support my goal. I trained for four months. I logged all my run times, compared mileage and distance results to surface success factors and identified areas for improvement. I ran three days a week. I cross-trained with barre classes. I decreased my alcohol intake. I ate better. I bought the right shoes and gear. All these factors are critical to a successful race.
In short, greatness is within reach for all of us. The key is choosing it. If you believe in yourself and think you can, you ARE right! If you doubt yourself or your training, fail to remain mentally tough or foresee failure, you will find that result. Pain is fleeting. Glory is forever. So is crossing the finish line!
I ran the marathon.
I maintained my training schedule by running more than 50 miles a week for several weeks in a row before tapering off right before the race. I lost a few pounds and increased my speed. I ended up running three ½ marathons prior to the marathon.
I was amped up in the days ahead and the night before the race. I had a fitful night of sleep the night before the race, like a kid before Christmas. I think I ended up with about five hours of decent sleep in there somehow. Race morning was beautiful. I was worried it would be warm, but the cloud cover stayed around, mercifully.
I made a mistake not purchasing a GPS watch or using my iPhone app on race day. I tagged along with a nice woman with a GPS who said she was going for a 3:45. She is faster than me. We went out hotter (faster) than I probably should have. In fact, I set a new personal best in the ½ marathon in the first half of the run. Turns out I just did not have that 3:45 in me, or if I did, I needed to run a different race. I slowed after the first half finishing with a time of 3:50:04 beating my best by about 18:30. I’m extremely happy with that. The second mistake I made was that I forgot my Earbuds. I walked around asking if anyone would sell theirs until I found a taker, one of the support staff for the race. The Competitor Group people are amazing. I had an amazing race experience as far as logistics go — water, shuttles, etc.
The biggest challenge for me was “the hill” at about mile 20. We went up the northbound lanes of the 163 all the way up the Robinson Street onramp. It was difficult, but I ran the entire way. No walking. That took a lot out of me, for sure. I had a nice surprise at about 21.5. My nephew brought my two daughters down to cheer for me. I cannot tell you how happy that made me. My youngest ran about 100 yards with me. She lifted my spirits for sure. Going downhill at 24-25, I could not take advantage and makeup time. My legs were spent, and I slowed to about 11:00 on the last mile but I made it!
I had an unexpected and incredibly pleasant surprise on the run — an escort by the name of Bob Seligman. Bob is a runner, a member of the San Diego Track Club, and also a member of the Emilio Nares Foundation board. He qualified for the Boston Marathon at the beginning of May. He ran several stretches with Richard Nares on his journey from San Francisco to San Diego. Bob popped up at mile 19.5 just as I was turning onto the 163 from Friars and says to me, “let’s get up that hill.” He paced me and cheered me up that hill and for about four more miles after that. It was his way of supporting me after I helped bring attention to ENF (Emilio Nares Foundation). They do amazing work providing information and family support for children with cancer. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had. It was like “pay it forward” with running shoes. I’ll never forget it.
The last mile I also got a big hug from my friend Leah Lacanlale Flores, a runner herself. Her and her team at Lululemon cheer and support runners as well as throw some fun race-related events. As I approached the final stretch, I pulled out the earphones and just listened to the crowd and music. It was thrilling to cross the line and saw my daughters and nephew again moments later. It was great.
I also asked that people donate to Bill and Hayley Johnston to help bring awareness and fund research for Huntington’s disease.
I ran the marathon.
I loved the new course. It was nice to run through the different neighborhoods in San Diego. I enjoyed running through Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Bay, Mission Valley, North Park, South Park and East Village.
I’ll be honest; I did not fully train for this marathon. However, I did four half marathons, this winter/spring and LA Marathon in March. I had not run over 15 miles, since the LA Marathon. The Saturday morning before the race I did a 40-mile club ride. I also attended a wedding reception the evening before.
I finished at 3:38. Not a PR (Personal Record), but I felt great after the race. My best time was 3:26 at the 2009 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.
The biggest challenge for me was the hill climb on the 163 Freeway at mile 21. At mile 23 in South Park, I was happy to get cheers of support from my running group.
Overall, it was probably one of best marathon experiences I have had.
The finish chute was awesome. When you made your turn on, I think, 11th Ave, you could see the finish banner down the hill. It was pretty cool. I will definitely do it again.