I heard cheers and claps coming from who-knows-where. “What’s that?” I thought, turning and snuggling even deeper in my bed. The noise continued. What the heck? Who’s yelling, and why? On a Saturday morning, my place at the end of the woods is quite peaceful — usually. It was not very early, but I had been out the night before, and at 7:30 in the morning my eyes resisted opening as if they were super-glued shut.
When I first peeked beyond my balcony, I could see people standing, jumping up and down. Then, looking a little further, I saw some runners coming down the street. Of course! I had completely forgotten that the Santa Barbara International Marathon was taking place, in both Goleta and in Santa Barbara.
It’s been a long while since I was a runner. Many years, to give you an idea. However, the whole running thing came back into my life when my best friend Lucy picked it up. She took it very seriously, as she does just about everything. I never did. For me, it was an invigorating thing to do and a great opportunity to enjoy the freshness of the early morning, feel the wind on my body, and see the greenery in the huge park where I ran. I did it to fill my senses, to replenish, day after day, my desire to “smell the roses” and to ponder the ideas that were relevant at the time. It would have never occurred to me to make that peaceful alone-time a competition.
With Lucy, the story is very different. She runs every day, seven days a week. When she doesn’t run, she’s in trouble, and the rest of the world is in trouble because of her. And so, it became clear to me that it was better to encourage her running urges than to have to deal with her titter-totter moods. However, through this passion of hers, the whole runners’ culture was unveiled to me.
I learned, for example, that serious runners are incredibly committed. From their eating to their sleeping patterns, they impose increasingly rigid trainings on themselves, particularly when they’re about to participate in a race, and they constantly work on their endurance — never mind the stomach pains, the sudden cramps, or adverse weather conditions. Sometimes runners suffer strain fractures, which take months to heal; other times their toenails turn black and fall off due to their toes smashing against the running shoes for extended periods of time.
They also have to learn how to run. Although one would think that this is a natural thing to learn when we’re toddlers, serious runners learn how to save the most energy — from pacing themselves, to running with their arms next to their body, without swinging too much from one side to the other — you get the picture. They are competitive in a very personal way because when they compete, really, they only compete against themselves. And so it is that, little by little, they reduce their time — even by a few seconds — and become faster runners.
I could never have that kind of patience, dedication, and commitment. But to get back to my point, more than half of the marathon happened in Goleta (a little over 15 of the 26.2 total miles). It started at Dos Pueblos High School, jumped the freeway and went down to the Ellwood area, then to Winchester and back up to Cathedral Oaks until it reached the Turnpike area. Then it continued through Santa Barbara, ending at Santa Barbara City College.
No matter that I had forgotten about the marathon up to that moment. Once I woke up enough to be aware of what was going on just outside my window, I immediately threw on my jeans and a T-shirt, brushed my teeth and my hair as quickly as possible, and grabbed a sweatshirt as I rushed out the door to join the crowd less than 10 minutes later. I didn’t want to miss the sight of those incredible people who are able to do something that I never will.
This is the kind of community event that Goleta residents, like myself, love to see happening in The Good Land, events that provide our children with a good example of how to live a healthy life and show them how to use their free time doing something positive and exciting at the same time.
I’m happy to report that the Santa Barbara International Marathon, with over 5,000 participants, was a great success this year, and it is only expected to become better every year. Next year’s race will be on Saturday, November 10, 2012. If you want to register, or if you want more information, go to sbimarathon.com.