My running club

I have been running for nine years and in that time, I have had plenty of reasons to run, think time while I run, training calendars to follow, and miles to cover.  A few years ago, my friend and fellow runner Alejandro posted an online challenge.  He challenged us to offer the names of our departed family and friends who lost the battle with cancer. He would wear their names on ribbons on a flag he would wear during the race. He would also think of these people during his training.  While I did share a few names, this challenge changed the way I ran. My running club was born.
Inspired by my friend, I began to devote my training runs to those I have lost.  I honor those I lost to cancer. I honor those I lost to AIDS and suicide.  I honor those I lost to accidents and old age.  Every single mile is spent with one person.  I remember them and revisit the memories we shared.  Sometimes I do talk to them. I ask what they might do in a situation I am currently living. If I feel tired or unmotivated, their memory pushes me forward.  So many of my antepasados fought to their last day. Their courage inspires me.

Since my running club began, a few traditions have been established.  I always run with my grandfathers and my uncles who have died. I always run with my baptismal godfather. The first mile, so often the most challenging, is usually offered to someone who passed recently. In recent months, I have lost my Tio Mario, our host when we visited Peru last summer, and one of my mom’s best friends, Rosario Otarola. The last two miles are offered to two special people. The second to last mile is offered to Luz Nieves, my best friend’s mother. Mama Luz was a vibrant, beautiful woman and devoted mother. She cheered for my best friend and me during a few of our races; it was my best friend who first inspired me to run.  The last mile and therefore every crossing of the half-marathon finish line is devoted to Brett Haagenson, one of my dearest friends. Brett was a coach and teacher and he still plays those roles in my life.  Currently, I am dealing with workplace challenges so they are on my mind while I run. Thinking of Brett helps me smile and shake that negative energy away. 
I am truly grateful for the amazing people in my life. My running club has allowed me to stay close to those who have passed. 
I remember and honor these people and ask that you lift them and their families up in prayer.
Tio Mario
Rosario Otarola
Rafael Medrano
Abuelito Marcelo Calderon
Abuelito Rodrigo Urbizagastegui
Tio Delio Calderon
Tio Armando Villa
My nino Malaquias Mercado
Godfather Alex Loza
Charlene Brown
Keith Rodgers
Marco Ortiz
Father Bob Mathews
Remy Watson
David Villalpando
Danny Pastor
Donnell “Don” Grant
Luz Nieves
Brett Haagenson

A mile in the right direction

I left the serenity of my Lenten desert for the raucous alegria of Carnaval and the subsequent busyness of a school year’s end. I have missed the silence that comes when I cut back on social media and television. I have missed books. I have missed the freedom of an empty schedule and calendar. Summer begins and with it, an opportunity to truly rest.
I began my summer by going for a run. It is the first run I have completed since I finished my half-marathon in February. It is the last run I will do before my surgery Monday.
Running has always been my time to unwind and to reconnect.  I reconnect with the outdoors, the air, the sounds I miss because I’m always in conversation.  I reconnect with my body, with my muscles and lungs.  I reconnect with my running partners, those who went before me, with whom I run every training run and every half-marathon since last year. Running helps me to be grateful and strong. 
With that mere mile, another season begins. I will embrace the weeks that follow the way I do Lent.  I will reconnect with all that nurtures my soul. 

Evolution of a half-marathoner

It began as a bet. Under the mentorship of the amazing Mama L of East Bay Team in Training, my fabulous best friend had recently earned her first half-marathon medal.  At the time, I didn’t run (ok that one time in college at the Q-Dogs party when someone shouted that there was a gun; I ran then), not since high school PE. In fact, I barely passed high school PE. I always had a twisted ankle, an infected bug bite, or cramps. Nevertheless, I had signed up for a fitness boot camp.  My best friend pointed out that I would likely run at each workout. I complained that I’d likely strain my bad ankle. So she bet me I would survive without injury and that if I did, I would run alongside her at the inaugural Rock N’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon. Fine, I said.
It wasn’t fine. It was miserable. I could deal with everything but the running. I hated every second of it. The sweat. The breathing. The impact of my feet on cement. How damn slow I was. But I never got hurt. So I joined my best friend at the San Leandro Marina for my first training run with Mama L. She helped me adjust my posture and my stride. She taught me how to breathe while running (3 inhales through the nose, 1 exhale from the mouth). She was easily the most positive person I had met, full of insightful advice about life as a whole. Despite the physical challenge, I found myself motivated by the mental training. So I committed. 
In the eight and a half years I have been a runner, my commitment has never wavered. I’ve had to drop out of races at least three times, twice because of tendonitis in my bad ankle (see I wasn’t whining) and once due to my long recovery from surgery. But as soon as my body felt ready, I was back out on the asphalt and the trail. Running has become such a part of me. It is my time to meditate, to celebrate, and to just be. I owe my best friend and my running coach many thanks. 
Those first two miles are never going to be exhilarating. I will probably never get much faster. I may never look like a runner. But I run. 
* Today marks my fifteenth half-marathon!  

Another thirteen more miles

I have registered for the Oakland Half-Marathon. Once again, I’ll be subjecting myself to hours of training, backaches, blisters, and unsightly tan lines. Blues will have to sit through hours of Dora the Explorer and The Wonder Pets on weekend mornings. I’ll question my sanity.
And then I’ll get a medal.

Another half-marathon, another medal

I did it again! Another 13.1 miles, this time down the Las Vegas strip(and the neighborhoods that boast real strip clubs)in the cold crisp morning. I was joined by hundreds of Elvis impersonators, brides and grooms, and a dragon. I walked 4, ran 9, and smiled all the way.
More to come.

Dream Recollection 25: The Race

I’m supposed to be running a race but I am taking care of Watts’ baby boy. Finally race day arrives and it is both foggy and drizzly. Part of the race is on a gently sloping overpass. Part of the course is indoors, the final leg in a ballroom with hardwood floors. I pass an open bar, district employees including a higher up who radios for my running coach. At one point, four of my work friends, including Work Mommy, throw a heavy canvas tarp over me. I growl that its not funny and that I need to keep running. I crawl through the final carrel.

500th blog and 7 more miles

My morning run took me through the Manor, my neighborhood(perhaps not as desirable as the Bay-o-vista hilas or the Shoreline, but popular for its small town feel and fruit trees) and through industrial San Leandro. As I passed the Golden Grain pasta factory, I noticed a rainbow in the sky, another sign of my Play Brother’s presence, back in my dreams again. I headed to downtown to the Main Library and back past the BART station and a dozen warehouses and furniture outlets. I ran to my iPod’s melange of disco, gospel, reggaeton, and house, mostly happy, if feeling a slight ache in my left foot. My newly busy social life has put me a week behind in my training for Vegas. But the 7 miles felt great, a testament to my tenacity, optimism, and love of the universe.

The first mile is the hardest

After more than two weeks since I fell down onto the hard concrete of an outdoor breezeway at work, I tied on my Saucony Grid Hurricanes(ouch! the tops of both of my feet are still tender) and strapped on my hot pink iPod armband. I ran a mile to the shoreline, the Bay cloaked in so much gray fog, I couldn’t see the City. Didn’t matter. I love the Bay in the morning. I love the Bay.
And I love to run.
Missed it.


I am heartsick.

Don’t worry. It’s not over what you might be thinking.

Today I am gloomy because I am NOT READY for Sunday’s half-marathon.

As GI Joe used to proclaim, “knowing is half the battle.” I can admit that I have neglected my training program for several weeks, mostly because I was in an out-of-state city on Saturdays. My longest run has been 6 miles which I did on my birthday three weeks ago. I considered running 9 miles today but my ex-coach advised against it, given that my last run was in New York nearly 2 weeks ago and only 2 miles. So I ran 2 miles at hilly Lake Chabot this morning and am feeling a growing sense of dread about Sunday.

Failure has never been comfortable for me. I know I often set myself up for failure by overextending myself, overanalyzing myself and others, or overimagining failure/rejection/abandonment. But I don’t enjoy failure in a masochistic sense. I detest and dread it. So did I set myself up to fail in preparing for this half-marathon? I don’t think so. I was undisciplined and now my weak ankles may pay the price on Sunday.

Part of me would like to donate the $65 registration fee to the many charities spo, onsored by the San Francisco marathon. But then I tell myself that failure teaches. So, as nervous as I am, I’m going to show up in my running gear in the chilly Golden Gate Bridge fog at 6am Sunday and if necessary, I’m going to crawl across that finish line, medal or no medal.