Another mark in 46th marathon

EVERY year, I choose a particular race to achieve a PB (personal best). And every improvement I make since my Brighton Marathon last year, automatically qualifies me for Boston.

We planned our family vacation this year in California. We were to arrive in San Francisco and drive to Los Angeles and back.

The goal was to see the sights, visit theme parks, say hello to relatives, shop and, of course, to run. Donna found the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in Ventura and it was perfectly situated between San Francisco and LA.

M2B is one of California’s most celebrated Boston qualifying races, constantly ranking within the top 10 races in the US most likely to qualify for Boston. What struck me the most was when I heard that all Boston qualifiers are entitled to strike the gong at the finish area. I immediately signed up for the 42K, while Donna registered for the half, knowing that this race usually sells out fast. I allotted four months for training, not joining any single race in between, realizing every second gained requires more sacrifice.

We arrived a week early to enjoy SF and acclimatize to the weather. Two days before the race, we headed out in our rented 15-seater van. Gerald Mateo, a fellow Cebuano based in LA, graciously offered to drive us and take pictures before and after the race. It was a good thing I booked our hotel six months earlier as all nearby hotels were already fully booked. Its location was perfect with only an eight-minute walk to the race pickup and from the finish line.

The race expo this year was held in the spacious Ventura County Fairgrounds and was well organized. We got our race kits fast, bought some race souvenirs, while our friend Gerald took pictures of us at the venue.

I signed us up both for the 5 a.m. bus pick-up. We walked around nine minutes to reach it. I felt sad as Donna and I had to board different buses to take us to different starting points. It was literally the first time during our vacation that we were apart. The starting area was the small lovely town of Ojai where a Spanish-inspired bell tower dominated the skyline of the starting area.

The race started on time at 6 a.m. The race itself felt like it was a marathon for organized by runners, with no frills, distractions, on-course entertainment like bands or cheerleaders. Even the spectators along the Ojai Valley Trail were sparse. Of the few spectators, most were noticeably wearing Boston shirts, Jackets or track gears which reinforces the “made by runners” mantra.

The first 3K was a little out and back loop where you go back past the start line. Then we would run a little bit on the road before heading to a bike path with a gradual descent until the last 8 kilometers when we passed through the flat area of downtown Ventura. The highlight of the 21K was the quaint arched wooden footbridge over lethargic San Antonio Creek. The last two kilometers was along the scenic beach leading up to the finish line.

I lost steam during the last 4K. The constant downhill took its toll on my quads. I was starting to develop cramps. I never gave up even if I saw several runners at the sidelines massaging their legs. Despite the slower pace, I soldiered on to finish my 46th marathon, qualifying again for Boston and eclipsing my personal best by two seconds with a time of 3 hours, 23 minutes, 57 seconds.

What made it more memorable was that Donna was there, waiting for me near the finish line to greet me. She also hurdled the half marathon with a decent time, despite the lack of training. Gerald then accompanied me to my most awaited portion, the banging of the gong. I noticed the long queue of happy runners awaiting their turn. It was a great feeling. I’m glad Gerald was there to take a photo and video of it. That afternoon, we took the kids to the nearby Six Flags “Magic Mountain” Theme Park. Although I was in pain, reminiscent of my first few marathons, I was smiling the entire time. Donna and I didn’t get to rest anymore after the race. We had to prepare fast and take the kids, as promised, to Magic Mountain so we could still enjoy our time and make the most out of our day there.

Above all, nothing makes us (especially my wife) happier than seeing our kids happy and having a great time! Finishing the marathon was indeed one of the highlights, but that (family time), still, was the the best part of the day. See you at the 11th University Run on Aug. 28.(Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III -Contributor)
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