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The newest race on my calendar is one of California’s oldest races — the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon, which was first held in 1955.

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The race takes place on Saturday, June 4, 2016. That’s over five months away, so why have I already registered? Well, a few reasons. (1) Registration is (relatively) cheap right now — just $50 plus the online registration fee. (2) I am a planner. I like crossing it off my to do list and not having to remind myself all the time to register before the race sells out (the horror!) And (3) — this is the big one — I also registered my husband and my oldest daughter for the race! For each of them it will be their first half marathon. I feel if you are going to take on the 13.1 race distance, it’s very motivating to commit to the race, not just wait and see how the training goes. Having that race on the horizon holds you accountable and makes it more likely that you will get out the door and complete the training miles.

We’ve already started training together — not so much following a half marathon training plan but a training plan I put together to get them building up to running enough miles each week that they are ready to start the 8-week training plan in April.

So far the farthest my daughter has ever run/walked in one workout is 5.5 miles. Come to think of it though, she has run a 5K (PR of 24:11) and then gone right back out on the course to run it again about half an hour later — so you might count that as a 6.2-mile run. That was last May though, and now she’s working up to running about 11-12 miles per week and slowly building from there over the next five months. By June my daughter will be 14 years old and my husband will be 45. I’m proud of them both for taking on this half marathon challenge!

Have you run a half marathon? I’ve run five half marathons over the last four years.

When was your first half marathon and what was it? My first half marathon was the OC Half in May 2012.

What’s your favorite half marathon course? I loved the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 and the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon has a very similar course — a beautiful run down a mountain through a national forest.

 

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If you are lucky enough to get to participate in a Ragnar Relay, these 20 tips can help you get the most out of the experience. It takes a lot of planning, coordination and cooperation to get 6-12 runners happily across the finish line of a 200-plus mile relay race!

Finish line arch at Ragnar Napa Valley 2014.

Finish line arch at Ragnar Napa Valley 2014.

Before the race, take these 10 steps to prepare you and your teammates to tackle 200+ miles!

1. Form a Facebook or other networking group with your teammates. Before I ran Ragnar Napa Valley I only knew one of my teammates, my college roommate and sorority sister Renée. It was very helpful and fun to get to know the other 10 runners and two drivers through our “secret” Facebook group in the months before the race. Communication is the key when planning a relay race, and it is extremely helpful to have a system set up so that everyone’s on the same page.

2. Be honest about how many miles total you think you can run, and help your team captain make runner and van assignments appropriately. Legs on Napa Valley ranged from 12.3 miles total to 26.3 miles total. That’s one of the great things about a Ragnar Relay — that it allows runners of all abilities to come together as a team. If you can train up to run a half marathon, you can run a Ragnar Relay. The team captain assigns legs to each runner, and runners 1-6 go in the first van, and runners 7-12 go in the second van (or if you’re on an ultra team, all 6 runners go in one — sometimes two — vans). It’s helpful to realize that you will spend the vast majority of time with your van mates, and you will only see the runners from the other vans at major exchanges (6, 12, 18) — which is why it’s also fun to room together the night before the race and the night after, if possible.

3. Estimate your predicted running pace as best you can. When you log in to the Ragnar website, it asks you to enter your 10K pace. The Ragnar calculations assume that you’ll run your first leg at about that pace, the second leg 5% slower than that, and the third leg an additional 5% slower. Be careful not to put in a 12-minute mile pace when you actually run 3 minutes per mile faster than that (which you might very well do when the adrenaline of the event hits!) Ragnar uses your estimated time to assign your team’s race start, and your teammates use your estimated time to predict when to meet you at the next exchange. It can be tricky to manage the timing (I confess that van 2 was late to TWO exchanges — not enough to make a difference in our final race standings, but certainly frustrating to the runners waiting to pass off the slap bracelet to the next runner).

4. Pack wisely and store your clothes and gear in Ziplock bags for each running leg. Consult one of the many Ragnar packing lists available on the web and make sure to pack the essentials. The trick is to pack everything you’ll need while still saving as much room in the van as possible. By packing your clothes for each leg in a Ziplock bag, you’ll have a place to put your sweaty, stinky clothes when you’re done with each leg.

5. Pack cellphone chargers and car accessories for charging your team’s cellphones on the go. As I said, communication is the key, both before and during the leg. While you might not always have cellphone reception when you’re on the course, it is a good idea to have your phone with you at all times so you can communicate from van to van and runner to runner. It’s unlikely the cellphone battery will survive the number of hours you’re away from an outlet, so having a way to charge your phone in the van is very helpful.

6. Print and laminate your running leg maps. The Ragnar Relay courses are well-marked with large signs and even flashing lights for the night legs. However, it’s a sad fact that sometimes signs get stolen, or you mis-read the directions. The best tip I heard from the Ragnar staff: follow the directions on the sign at the point at which you could actually hug the sign — so don’t turn left on the street before you cross the street and reach the sign, but rather, cross the street to reach the sign — almost hugging it — and then turn left. I didn’t heed that advice one time and I started to go off course in the middle of the night, and thank goodness another runner called out to me. If she hadn’t though, at least I would have had a small, laminated map in my running belt. To laminate the leg maps I could have gone to Kinko’s or the like, but I just used my home printer and clear packing tape.

We did have another runner on our team get lost in the middle of the night and add nearly a mile to her total (another good reason to carry a cellphone with you, along with fresh batteries in your headlamp).

7. Share cellphone contacts. As I said, you’ll want to be in contact between your vans and between runners at various points over the two days. One of our team members put together a list of all 14 cellphone numbers so we could plug those into our phone contacts list in advance.

8. Divvy up the duties for creating running costumes, planning how to secure and decorate your team vans, buying food, and arranging lodging. Who’s in charge of renting the team van(s) (or who has an SUV to loan to the cause)? Who will order the matching costumes (come on, you’ve gotta have costumes — that’s half the fun of a team relay!)? Is each person in charge of his or her own food and sports drinks, or is someone willing to make a Costco trip for the group?

9. Buy real food! Speaking of food, it’s great to bring your typical running fuel to recover after you finish a run, but you cannot survive an overnight relay race on protein bars and sports drinks alone. Some of the best food I ate on the journey was what I call “real” food: a plain mini bagel with natural peanut butter; beef jerky; coconut water; oranges and apples.

10. Type in the addresses of the exchanges into the van navigation system and/or a couple of team cellphone map apps. Of course you can do this while you’re on the road or waiting at various exchanges, but it helps if you take the time to plug in the exchange addresses in advance. Ragnar Relay exchanges are well-marked and the directions in the race bible are excellent, but in the excitement of the race it’s easy to get off track. In Van 2 at Ragnar Napa Valley, we were navigating our way to the next exchange when we saw a crowd of runners congregating around a Ragnar sign and we assumed that was our next exchange point. We pulled up to park, only to discover we were at the wrong exchange and we should have continued another mile down the road to the correct one! We ended up making a runner wait, and that’s not a good feeling (but see number 12 below — it’s all part of the adventure and you definitely need to go with the flow and shake off any mishaps. It’s all in fun!)

Once your relay adventure begins, these next 10 tips will help you have the most fun!

11. Be a team player. Normally when you run a race it’s all about you. Ragnar is all about the team! Cheer on your fellow runners. Be waiting at the end of a leg with water and a snack for the runner coming in. Share your baby wipes and toothpaste (the toothbrush might be going a little far….) Be considerate and extra kind. You’re in close quarters with several tired and hungry people. It makes for great bonding but it takes great investment, too!

12. Expect the unexpected! You never know what’s going to happen on a Ragnar relay — that’s part of the adventure and the fun! Never did I think I’d be out running past a cemetery at 3 in the morning, but that’s what happened on my second leg! Just a little incentive to make me run faster, right?

13. Turn on your cellphone in the van, and remember to turn off your cellphone during any precious opportunities to sleep. Gosh I wish I’d known about “sleep mode” on my iPhone (and I bet my teammates wish I had too). You might be conked out at 10 p.m. on a sleeping bag in a park, but your family and friends will want to check on you. Just make sure your phone won’t ring or ding when they do!

14. Never pass up an opportunity to use a restroom or porta potty. Seriously. Don’t.

15. Stay hydrated and well-fueled. Seriously. Do. Running three times over the course of 30+ hours makes for a definite challenge in the fueling and hydration department, especially when you’re trying to eat and drink on the go with less-than-ideal food choices. Pack some staples that you know work well for you — as I said above in tip #9, a plain bagel and peanut butter worked well for me. Make sure in all the excitement that you are taking the time to drink some sports drink or coconut water and eat enough food to fuel your for your next leg.

16. In between your running legs, stretch and use a “stick” or other tool to roll your muscles. It can be especially difficult to stay limber when you finish your run and hop right back in the van to drive to the next checkpoint. A small “stick” or even a rolling pin can provide much-needed relief on the go!

17. Take pictures whenever you can. Ragnar is all about the experience. Capture the journey on your cellphone or digital camera and upload the photos to the community you’ve created with your team (see tip #1 above!)

18. Cheer on the other Ragnar teams and runners, not just your own. Ragnar is a giant people-watching fest! Many of the teams get exceptionally creative with their costumes and decorating their vans. Some even go the extra mile and create magnets to use to “tag” other vans. It’s all in good fun, and cheering on other teams gives you a boost of energy, too!

19. Catnap. A little sleep goes a long way (pun intended) in covering 200+ miles of the Ragnar journey. A neck pillow can help you sleep in the van, and earplugs and a good sleeping bag will help you catch some ZZZs at the major exchange points.

20. Celebrate your achievement! Gather your team together just before the finish line to meet runner 12 so you can all run to the finish line as a team. If you can, have everyone stay at a hotel or house for an extra night of camaraderie after the race.

Do you have any tips for a Ragnar relay race?

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I have mixed feelings when it comes to my recap and review of the 2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon, so I’m going to break it down by the race elements.

Race Expo

I love a relatively small marathon (1,199 finishers) and a small marathon expo is just fine with me. I want to be in and out and not on my feet for a long time. This expo was held at a company warehouse in Azusa with ample parking. I had no trouble picking up my bib, gear bag, and t-shirt. This race offers a lot of runner-friendly features, one of them being a t-shirt exchange at the expo — if the size you ordered doesn’t fit you can trade yours for another size, or you can pay to upgrade to a long-sleeved shirt or tank top!

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher's medal

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher’s medal

It was nice to be able to check that my timing bib was working and that my name, age and gender information were correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

Race Day Parking and Buses

The race did a good job communicating the with runners about the location of the parking lots and bus pickups for this point-to-point course. Unfortunately, while the parking map said we could just plug “701 E. Foothill Blvd” in Azusa into our navigation system to get to the full marathon parking, when I did that on my iPhone it directed me to a dead end in a new subdivision of homes! And I know I wasn’t the only one, because there were at least four cars driving around that subdivision at 4:30 a.m. and a lot of runners panicking about making it to the buses before the last one left at 5:00 a.m.! I plugged the address into my car navigation system and that took me to a road that was blocked off for the finisher’s chute! I drove around in a big circle and in a stroke of luck eventually made it to the right entrance. The irony of the whole thing is that I’d written down directions on paper before I left and I had them in the car with me, but I couldn’t see them in the dark and just blindly relied on the iPhone. Never again! I boarded the bus at 5 a.m. (there were still several other buses so I know people were able to board after that time) for the 1-hour bus ride up to the race start in the San Gabriel Mountains. Tip: Make sure to board a bus with a bathroom! It’s a long ride to the start and the race nerves can get the best of you. Plus, it’s nice to use the warm facilities on the bus before you step out into the cold at the top of the mountain.

The Marathon Starting Line

It wasn’t as cold at the top as I’d expected, maybe 45 degrees? The race goodie bag included gloves and a mylar blanket. I brought hand warmers (a brilliant suggestion by Hungry Runner Girl) and those kept me toasty and happy.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

As you can see it was a gorgeous day for a race. There were plenty of porta-potties and I never waited in line more than five minutes, even as it got close to the race start. I ditched my sweatclothes in my gear bag and had that in the truck by 6:45 for the 7 a.m. start. At the very last minute I tossed my hat and mylar blanket but kept my gloves and hand warmers (tossing those at mile 3). It was so warm I decided not to wear my arm warmers and just went with shorts and a t-shirt.

The course starts at the Crystal Lake Cafe at the top of the 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It’s just a spectacular location for a race.

Out of respect for those in the campground next door to the start (I assume) there was no music at the start and not even a bullhorn for announcements, a national anthem, or starting horn. We started at exactly 7:00 a.m. with a countdown by the race director and the crowd.

The First Half (Average Pace 7:25)

I love running downhill and the speed that comes with it, and the first half of the marathon course is a downhill lover’s delight with over 4,000 feet in elevation drop. While I practiced on the course in training (see my 20-miler REVEL Canyon City course preview for more photos of the course), in retrospect I should have practiced the downhill running at race pace. As it turns out, running those 20 miles at a 9:00 easy pace did not prepare me at all for running the first 13.1 miles at a 7:25 pace! While people warn you that downhill running will trash your quads, I didn’t find that to be true at all. What hurt were my calves! Perhaps my form changed as I ran faster, or perhaps I just wasn’t well-trained enough to hit that pace during the race. I took a calculated gamble on letting my legs fly on the downhill, and I paid for it. Every race is a learning opportunity and now I know what I would do differently for a downhill race: in addition to doing wall sits to strengthen my quads, I would do lots of calf raises, and I would log several downhill miles at race pace. This course could offer a huge PR if you train properly for it.

I wasn’t the only one who got chewed up on the first half and spit out on the second. I bet if you looked at the race results you’d see a lot of positive splits by a huge margin. Many people were walking up the hills around miles 14-16 and 19 and even on the slight downhill in the last 5K of the race.

I should mention here that every single runner in the full marathon cut the course. You’re supposed to stay to the left of the cones (the right lane was open to occasional traffic guided by police cars), but I did not see a single runner adhere to that. I tried but gave up.

Miles 13.1 to 23.1 (Average Pace 9:10 for those 10 miles)

The aid stations in general were well-stocked and manned by enthusiastic volunteers, which is especially important on this course since spectators are not allowed on course until about mile 23. However, the aid station at the half marathon point (which you’d expect to be very well supplied since it was the start for the half marathon race) was lacking. A few volunteers held out cups of water and one cup of sports drink. I reached for the sports drink just as a guy behind me was calling for sports drink. When I took that last available glass, the guy yelled, “F***ER!” That took some of the wind out of my sails for sure, but I shook it off as best I could. I’m hoping karma took care of that guy.

The course hits some rolling hills over the next six miles, nothing too troublesome as long as you run by effort and not by pace. As I said though, several people chose to walk those hills, including me at some points.

The 3:25 pacer passed me at mile 16.4. I wasn’t surprised and didn’t even try to keep up. I did hope to keep ahead of the 3:35 pacer.

Miles 23.1 to the Finish (Average Pace 9:43 for that last 5K)

The 3:35 pacer passed me around mile 23. It was very motivating to me to see him holding up that 3:35 flag and I hung on behind him for dear life. I wanted to come in under 3:36:58 — my PR from the Phoenix Marathon last February — and I thought if I could just keep him in my sights I would be okay. WRONG! The 3:35 pacer completely fell off the rails and started walking in the last 5K. He finished behind me, and I finished in 3:39:08. I sure could have used his help in those last difficult miles. The last mile or two of the course was different than last year’s and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t an improvement. I ran the 25th mile okay but the 26th felt uphill until the last two turns into the finisher’s chute.

Overall I’m happy with my time, especially given that I qualified for Boston 2017 with 15:52 to spare (I’ll be in the 45-49 age group for that race and the women’s standard is 3:55). I really had high hopes for this race though and I wish I had done a few things differently. It just wasn’t the joyous experience I’d had at the 2014 REVEL Canyon City Half last year, or on my 20-mile training run. I can finally admit to myself that if I want to run a BQ effort, it’s going to take a level of mental and physical output that takes everything I have, to the exclusion of a joyous race. Which leads me to the conclusion that I’m going to run Boston 2016 for fun and for the experience! Thank goodness I have that on the horizon. I can enjoy a month of recovery workouts on the bike and in the pool and on the roads, and then training for Boston begins in December.

The Verdict

Would I discourage someone from running the REVEL Canyon City Marathon? Absolutely not! It’s a gorgeous course and a well-run (no pun intended) event. But if you’re going to go for the full, take my advice and strengthen your calves and quads. Practice downhill running like I did, but take it a step further and practice downhill running at race pace. And then go out and get that PR!

Would I encourage someone to run the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon? Absolutely. It remains my favorite race ever to date. All the fun of the downhill and the views without the punishing of the extreme elevation loss.

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I ran the REVEL Canyon City Marathon this morning and while I didn’t PR in the full, I clocked a PR in the half if you count my chip time at the 13.1 mark (which I don’t, but for the record it was 1:37:19 compared to my actual half marathon PR at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon last year — 1:41:58). I took a gamble on letting my legs fly on the 4,000 feet of elevation loss in the first half, and it didn’t pay off. On my 20-mile training run on the course I didn’t get sore muscles when I ran at a 9:00 pace, but when I ran the first half of the race at a 7:25 I could feel it in my calves. My quads were fine, but my calves started feeling sore by the half marathon point and got more and more sore as the race progressed. I also developed a quarter-sized blister on the ball of my left foot. That’s never happened to me before in these shoes and socks, so I was surprised, but in retrospect I think the downhill running contributed to that and I wish I’d used some Glide on the bottom of my feet.

By the next checkpoint at mile 23.1 my time was 3:09:00, still on track to beat my PR of 3:36:58 from the Phoenix Marathon if I kept up the 9:10 pace I had run for those previous 10 miles. But my pace dropped to 9:43 for the last 5K of the race and I finished in 3:39:08. The good news? That is a Boston Qualifying time for me for Boston 2017 by 15 minutes and 52 seconds! While I am 44 years old today, I will be 45 for Boston 2017 and that puts my qualifying time standard at 3:55. So I’m thrilled overall!

By the numbers:

Chip time: 3:39:08
Pace: 8:21
Overall place: 293rd of 1199 finishers (top 25%)
Overall female: 85th of 536 finishers (16%)
Females 40-44 age group: 12th of 109 (11%)

I’ll be back later with a more comprehensive race recap. Right now I’m busy icing my calves and contemplating pizza for dinner!

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It’s the last week of taper here and I got in a nice four mile run on Monday morning — two easy and two at marathon pace. And it was a good thing I wore my new Garmin 220 to pace myself because I realized that when I originally set the data screens, I chose “average pace” (average pace for the entire four miles) instead of “average lap pace” (average pace for the mile you are currently running). For marathons I like to keep an eye on my average lap pace, and that will be particularly important for this downhill marathon, REVEL Canyon City, because I expect the pace to be faster in the first half than the second. In fact I used the pace band feature at FindMyMarathon.com to create a free pace band that is specific to the REVEL Canyon City course. Other marathons I’ve generally tried to run an even pace, but that doesn’t make sense for this course. It’s nice to see what the predicted adjustments to pace are for the hills — both up and down — for this specific marathon.

Yesterday I did an easy three-miler that nearly undid six months of marathon training when I got distracted and rolled my ankle on this sucker:

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

In the instant my left foot rolled on the pod, pain shot up my left ankle and the marathon flashed before my eyes. My run came to a screeching halt. I quickly took a tentative step and tried to walk off the injury. By some miracle it felt a million times better after a minute of walking and I was able to finish the run. Throughout the rest of the day it stiffened up and became sore, but I iced it before bed and this morning it’s almost back to normal. Every taper has its aches and pains and this one is no exception. Now I just need to do one more easy three miler (including three strides and not including magnolia seed pods of doom) on Thursday and I’ll be ready for the race on Saturday.

While I ran on Monday I listened to an inspiring Runners Connect podcast interview with Olympic medalist Deena Kastor. Usually before a marathon I watch the movie Spirit of the Marathon again to see Deena race at the Chicago Marathon, but this time it was nice to listen to her advice for getting ready for a big race. She suggested that a runner list five reasons why the upcoming race should be successful. That helps calm your nerves and gives you things to draw upon during the race if and when your confidence falters.

So, here are five reasons my sixth marathon could/should/will go well:

1. With my switch to a traditional training plan that had me running five days a week, I managed to hit my highest mileage week ever (40.5 miles) and highest mileage month ever (156.3 miles in October). Not exactly numbers to write home about but pretty darn good for a 44-year-old mother of three.

2. I had that successful and joyful practice 20-miler on the course in the San Gabriel mountains.

3. I looked back over my training log (I keep one on my paper training plan and one on MapMyRun) and reminded myself that I kept consistent with the training. I didn’t miss a single run. Several times when the plan called for cross-training or rest, I rested, but I did every prescribed run. One 16-miler I cut short at 10.6 miles because I felt dehydrated and under-fueled and it was more important to set my ego aside and call it a day than continue and risk injury just to hit that 16 mile number. Sure enough I went on to have several confidence-boosting long runs after learning from my mistakes on that one “bad” run.

4. I made sure to keep up with the strength training at least twice a week. If you asked me the one thing I would recommend to other runners to improve their marathon performance, it would be to add strength training if it’s not already a part of their regimen. As little as 20 minutes twice a week can pay off tremendously in better running form and ability to hold pace in the final miles of a race when your primary running muscles are tired.

5. I nailed down my carbohydrate loading plan and race day plan. It’s not easy to consume over 600 grams of carbohydrates a day but I’m doing my best. I didn’t mind the whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast this morning!

So, if you want to see if my ankle cooperates for the race, if my training plays off, if the carbo-loading prevents me from hitting the wall, you can track me on race day (Saturday November 7 starting at 7 a.m. PST) through my participant tracking link. The tracking registers my time at the half marathon point, 5K to go (mile 23.1), and the finish. I expect the first half to be significantly faster than the second given the 4,000+ foot elevation drop in the first half, so don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to pop back up at the 23.1 mark. Cross your fingers for a sub-3:55 (BQ) and better yet a sub-3:36:58 (PR)!

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It saddened me to read today of the plans of Black Lives Matter St. Paul to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon this coming Sunday, October 4, 2015. The protest organizers say they hope to block the road at some point on the course to prevent runners from finishing the race.

Runner’s World article: Black Lives Matter Says It Plans to Disrupt Twin Cities Marathon
Statement by the Twin Cities Marathon: Updates on the Twin Cities Marathon event page
Black Lives Matter Facebook Event: Black Lives Matter St. Paul Press Release of September 25, 2015

It’s hard for me to come up with coherent thoughts on this, so I am just going to post the thoughts that ran (no pun intended) through my mind as I read the articles, the comments, and the Facebook replies.

– I cannot see the link between police violence against blacks and the Twin Cities Marathon. Yes it’s a high profile event. Yes it is something that runners are privileged to do. But if you wish to highlight and protest police violence against blacks in your community, why choose an event at which the police will be ensuring the safety of the community? Disruption of such a positive community event is not likely to garner support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
– Why target a sport in which so many of the professional athletes are black? Twin Cities Marathon does not yet have up the profiles of the professional athletes running this particular race, but you only have to look at the finishers of the world marathon majors and Olympic races to know that the sport of running benefits many blacks.
– And forget about all the professional athletes, what about the ways in which running benefits the everyday athletes of all backgrounds? Don’t the protesters know that Black Girls RUN!?

At any rate, my thoughts will be with all of the runners and the protesters on Sunday. May the runners finish safely without interruption and may the protesters stay safe as well.

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I crossed another item off my bucket list recently! It wasn’t a marathon, half marathon or any other goal race — it was volunteering at a race! On Sunday, September 20, 2015, my three girls and I got up at 5:45 a.m. to drive out to Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California to volunteer at the Girls on the Go Los Angeles Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and 1K races. What a fun morning in a gorgeous setting!

Not a bad place to spend a Sunday morning -- Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California

Not a bad place to spend a Sunday morning — Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California

In a stroke of good luck we got the best assignment in my opinion: handing out the medals at the finish line! But first we had to unwrap hundreds of individually plastic-wrapped medals. I had no idea the medals came that way. Of course it makes sense, you wouldn’t want those shiny medals clanking against each other and getting dinged up before race day, but I never gave it any thought before. Which is exactly why every runner should make the time to volunteer at a race — to better understand and appreciate all the volunteers who make it happen!

If you are looking to boost your mood and your sense of community, get out to a local race, volunteer your time, and watch a few finishers come in at the finish line.

Happy finisher at the Girls on the Go race

Happy finisher at the Girls on the Go race

The Girls on the Go race series is particularly fun because many of the runners come in costume — I even saw a man in a tutu (what a good sport!)

While we could normally expect pleasant weather in September in Southern California, the heat wave here continues and we all roasted. That didn’t diminish the joy of the runners though and if anything, it enhanced the sense of accomplishment. Besides, who wouldn’t smile at the finish line when they receive a medal from one of these three beauties (their mother is just a little biased, no apologies there):

My long-haired lovelies handing out medals at the finish line

My long-haired lovelies handing out medals at the finish line

As an unexpected side effect/reward for volunteering, my 13-year-old got inspired to sign up for her first half marathon. We’ll build up to it by running the Brea 8K in February, maybe the La Habra 10K in March, and then a half marathon (still to be decided — her dad needs to help choose the race for his first half marathon too!) in the spring.

Have you ever volunteered for a race?

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