Pacer at Heart - my running journey with the Pasadena Pacers
Last Saturday my husband and I had the opportunity to volunteer at Revel Canyon Marathon. At the end, he could not hide his excitement about how the running community is so positive and he mentioned how he admires the goodwill of the Pacers. “They are always willing to help and support other runners, they do not mind what they have to sacrifice and do not even care if the runners belong to the Pasadena Pacers or not”. Listening to those words coming from an outsider was really meaningful and reassuring that I am at the right place, with the right people and at the right moment.
Of course, he could not forget to remind me of the time when he used to call me a “Pacer Wannabe”. That was the time when I wanted so badly to go run with them, but I just stayed home saying I wanted to go. I was actually afraid of joining the Pacers. I had been running solo for 3 years and had read about all the benefits of running with people (conversational pace? Is that possible? Runners are nuts! They talk and run!!!) And I already knew Pasadena Pacers was the team I wanted to join, I mean, come on! It’s free!
But I was afraid. Why? Because I did not want to be judged for my speed, my form or the “few miles” I could run at that time. Also, because I was an immigrant and I was worried of being discriminated or that someone could make fun of my Sofia Vergara accent :P. I was afraid that people would not understand me or that I would never make friends.
I could not be more wrong.
One day, I decided to start my journey with the Pacers volunteering for the Cheer Station at the LAM 2014 and to see what could come from there. I went and introduced myself to Dr. Smith, I told him my story and he said I was a “Pacer at Heart” (a better way to say that Wannabe thing). I have never felt so welcome in my life. I just mingled with everyone as if I already was one of them. They did not mind my accent or the fact that I had never run with them.
The next Saturday morning I went to the Rose Bowl, saw the sea of red and felt extremely lost and scared. It must have been pretty obvious, because everyone wanted to help me. In a matter of minutes, I had found the group they thought was perfect for me. It was! That day I ran as far as I could: South Route, all the way to… Señor Fish and back. 5 miles. I came back to the tables and the other runners gave me high-fives and words of encouragement. I was thirsty and hungry as hell and I was able to drink and eat what I needed right away, without having to wait until I drove home. I was walking on clouds!
That day, on that very first run with the Pasadena Pacers, I stopped feeling alone because I saw people that loved running as much as I did. I stopped being afraid of being judged or discriminated, because the Pacers were kind, respectful and loving people: they made me feel that I belonged. I felt inspired by a lot of runners I saw that day and that encouraged me to start my running blog months later.
My heart was full of love, eagerness, and dreams of new distances, races and speeds. It was one of the best days of my life and I am forever thankful for that. When I got home, I registered to bring water and post run refreshments for like a month. I just wanted to give back. I wanted the new runners to feel as welcome as I felt; to feel the happiness and goodwill I felt that day. I wanted to be part of this amazing community and I could not think of a better way to do it than bringing bananas, Hawaiian Bread and orange juice.
I still do it and when I cannot, I make sure to donate some bucks to the Green Can. Why? Because that is my way to say thank you to every single runner that makes this group, the best running club in Southern California. If I mention every detail of how I came to know the Pacers or the journey and the incredible people I have met, this will be way longer than it already is. But today, I just wanted to share how good it feels to volunteer and to give back to the Pasadena Pacers to thank them for all they have done for me.
Review from #MyGivingStory
Once a Pacer, Always a Pacer
It has been a year and a half since I joined the Pasadena Pacers, which is now like a family to me. I had been through a difficult period in my life with a lot of changes – job changes, deteriorated health, and my twin sister moving abroad – and I knew I needed to get healthy and balanced again. I had been commuting to another job for a year, and now that I would be starting a new job close to home in Pasadena, I wanted to find a community and something to ground me in a world of change.
What makes the Pasadena Pacers unique in my mind is the sense of community and fun. When I first came to the Pacers, I felt so incredibly welcome and first joined the pre-conditioners, then half marathoners. We genuinely come to enjoy running at 7 am on a Saturday, and we love the people around us in the sea of red Pacer jerseys. I see another thing in common that motivates us – we want something better for ourselves and to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Early on, a friend told me her philosophy that it is good to run with both someone who brings you up and someone you can bring up. In the various Pacer groups I’ve run with, I always find this to be the case. I find so much inspiration in my peers, and it’s so rewarding when I am able to inspire others to improve or challenge themselves.
After running my first two half marathons in 2014 with the support of numerous friends, I woke up one January morning knowing I needed a new challenge. Our coach Edgar had been encouraging me to join the 20 mile challenge group for quite some time and I was finally ready. Even though I was at the back most of the time the first few weeks, I was happy there and knew I’d eventually work my way up. I wanted to share my excitement with others, so I introduced several of my close friends – Ren, Keelia and Liz – to join the Pacers and have seen them grow so much.
I began training with everyone for the Los Angeles Marathon, even though I would be abroad in Chile for my sister’s wedding during the race. Each weekend long run, we were accomplishing new distances I’d never run before. Usually the last mile or so was really hard, but going the distance and still feeling alive afterward gave me the confidence that I could do a marathon.
At my sister’s wedding in Chile, I met an amazing man, Martin, and I fell in love! He loved my passion for running and started running, too. We would follow each other’s runs through RunKeeper while abroad, and he trained for his first 10K with his brother in Argentina and a few weeks later I ran my first marathon at Mountains to Beach! (Big thanks to my friend who transferred me her race bib for this coveted race!)
My running friends were some of the first to know when I decided to move to Argentina with Martin. They’ve supported me whole-heartedly and have plotted so many thoughtful going-away parties and presents. I cannot tell you how thankful and blessed I feel to be part of the Pacer family. I wish I could take them with me! This has by far been one of the hardest communities of friends to leave, but I am so looking forward to this next phase of my life, love, and career living in a beautiful new country. And as I move to Mendoza later this month, I will take running with me. This will be my constant amidst a world of change again.
I wish it were easy to find a free running group that is as much fun as this one anywhere you go in the world. It’s not as common as you’d think. So I’m personally very invested our initiative to share the Pacer model with other groups who want to establish free running groups in their community. I am so grateful for the difference Pacers has made in my life and I want others to have this opportunity as well. So I will continue to support with my time, philanthropy, and love. I will always be a Pacer at heart, no matter where I am in the world.
Review from #MyGivingStory
When I run, I am free: how running with the Pasadena Pacers saved my life and made me a better parent to my autistic children
“Autistic? You mean my son Omar can paint pretty pictures?” It wasn’t until the psychologist repeated the word several times until I realized what he meant. Autistic. Autism. Scary words. So I did what any parent would do. I researched... and what I discovered wasn’t very inspiring.
Some places I researched mentioned my boy would never speak, that he would never feel emotion, that he would never ever be independent. The emotional strain as unbearable…and the financial strain of various treatments and therapies began to challenge my family as well. It was a shock I could never have anticipated. I looked to my spouse for comfort, but discovered he was just as lost. So I had no one to talk to, no family or friends, with whom I could share the burden I was feeling.
Shortly afterward, Omar’s twin brother, Georgie was also diagnosed with autism. I had been in denial for the longest time because I didn’t want to think it could happen. Why us? Why our family? My marriage began to crumble because of our lack of communication and our inability to manage the trials we were going through.
So I grieved. I grieved the life I IMAGINED my kids would have had. I grieved my marriage and the life I had I IMAGINED for myself. The darkness was all-encompassing, and the weirdest thing is that it seemed worse the more I tried to shake it. “Be strong…” “You have to be there for your kids,” people meant well with their advice, but when the storm of depression is raging inside you, no one really understands.
One evening I met a young lady who told me about her running group, the Pasadena Pacers. “Come run with us, you’ll have fun.” I had never imagined doing such a thing, I wasn’t a “Runner,” but I joined them anyway on their yearly “Homegirl Café” run in 2013.
The first thing I noticed is how EVERY single person was smiling…and not just nice-to-meet you formal smiles, REALLY BIG we’re-glad-you’re-here smiles. I felt at ease but very insecure…I didn’t know if I would return. Eventually, I came back. The people I met that day were the reason I returned.
Slowly, (very slowly) I started filling my days with a run here, a run there. And a haze began to lift. My depression became manageable, I dropped some weight (30 lbs.), and I found this willingness to fight. Yes, my life and my children’s lives did NOT fit that perfect “mold” that I imagined, but whose life does? With every mile conquered, I began to realize that I was a fighter. I was going to fight to make sure my children would have the best possible opportunities they could in this life. It was on me. I could do this!
Two years later, I am in such a good place. I am thankful for my kids’ progress, I have a great relationship with my ex-husband, (we are awesome co-parents) and I honestly tell you… Running saved my life, and running with the Pasadena Pacers enriched the quality of my life and made me a better parent. It made me normal.
Nothing is perfect. Yes, I still have bad days and loads of stress on my back from the ugly woes that Autism throws my way. But I look forward to my Saturdays with the Pacers so much…because when I run, I am free. All the loads of negativity and stress and depression melt away. And I am me again. I am alive. HOPE is alive. I AM a runner. Thank you Pacers!
Review from #MyGivingStory
From Running In Fear To Running In Honor - Pasadena Pacers
San Jose City is a small city in the northern part of the Philippines. Children run around playing hide and seek until dusk. One may hear in the neighborhood, parents screaming their childrens’ names to come inside because it’s getting dark.
I was told that my parents divorced when I was only two months old. My father was abusive and my mother ran away. I rarely saw my mother while I was growing up. Out of my mother’s fear of returning, her sister, my Tita Elle, would visit me during that time.
My father was a drunk and an abusive person. He would beat my eldest sister with a two by four plank or a belt, or anything he could get his hands on whenever he got home and thought his house was not cleaned. My sister ran away and came to the United States of America with my mother, my older sister Leoren, a stepfather, and two half younger sisters.
Life comes with hardships and memories. After my sister had left, I inherited the abuse she was getting from my father. One night, my father came home drunk as always and told me to sit on his lap. I obeyed like a good son who only yearned for his father’s love. He asked if I cleaned his house and I responded with a yes. As we talked more, his hand landed between my legs. I wiggled to get free and stood up, stared him down and in my head, I punched him. I felt betrayed. I took off running towards the front of the house and towards the gate. My only thought was to escape the hell I was going through in that moment. I took off running, darting to exit to the gate as my Tita and Tito stood crying for me.
I ran for a very long time. I kept on running until I was a city away from San Jose City. I kept on looking back, with the thought that he was chasing after me. Every time I saw his image behind me, or so I thought, I would keep running. I kept running until the thought of not having a home, a bed to sleep, or food to eat dawned on me. I ran until I could not run anymore. I was a ten-year-old boy in a dark street with tears flowing down my cheeks at three in the morning. I turned around and went back home. By the time I got home, I was expecting my father and Tito to be out and gone looking for me. It was my Tito Teody that was gone. My Tita Consuelo hugged me tight, while my father was passed out asleep and snoring.
I learned not how to run, but I learned what I was capable of enduring as a person. My mother later took me to California, where I was reunited with my sisters. I began a fresh start as a kid. With my newfound talent, I joined the middle school track & field after the P.E. teacher witnessed me run the mile P.E. exam with the time of six minutes and thirty-six seconds. In high school, I excelled in track & field and cross-country. I took my talent with me as I joined the United Stated Marine Corps in 2007 as an infantry and was honorably discharged in 2011.
After taking a two-year break from running, I discovered the Pasadena Pacers through my friend Lara. The Pasadena Pacers is a group full of runners with positive vibes and they are all oozing with motivation. It was time that I made a come back. Although it was a slow come back having not run for two years, I started coming out joining the group every Saturday morning. Two months after my first run with the Pacers, I decided it was time to officially claim a slice of ownership by purchasing a Pacers singlet. Since my time running with the Pacers, I gained my confidence and speed back. The Pacers gave me reasons to run: focus on what is important in life, goals to achieve, and challenges to overcome.
I found a list of The Top Ten Marathons, dedicating each to someone in my family, a brother in arms, or someone that made an impact on making me the person I am today. Five months after joining the Pacers, I ran my first marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon, with the time of five hours and thirty minutes. Seven months after that, I ran Portland Marathon with the time of three hours and fifty-one minutes. I am thankful for having been introduced to the Pasadena Pacers and am glad I am now able to give back to the group by being one of the Pasadena Pacers Los Angeles Marathon 2016 training coaches.
I run for those who cannot fight. I run for my mother and those who suffers from being in an abusive relationship. I run for my brothers in arms I had the pleasure of serving with who did not make it back home. They are the reason that I can run and enjoy life freely. I run for my Tita Elle who died of an aneurism. It was her looks and similar features to my mother that gave me comfort as a child. It was her hugs and kisses that came closest to my mother’s. I run for my Tito Teody who died of a heart complication and did not have a fighting chance. It was him who taught me how to cook. He set an example for me to see that we all have options in this world and we can choose what we want to do in life. I run for my brother in law who died in a car accident due to poor weather condition when he was heading to work. It was him who showed me how to have fun. It was he and my eldest sister Krystina that would get me out of the house and show me how to have a great time in my pre-teenage years when I first came to the United States. I run for my sister Leoren who is suffering from multiple sclerosis. She taught me how to be strong and how to be stubborn and to keep on fighting even when hope seems to fade away. I run… for my Tita Consuelo who never smoked or drank alcohol and is now suffering from a stage-four lung cancer. It was her who taught me patience and to always do the right thing. To always treat others how I would want to be treated.
I run to inspire others…that no matter what or how big the obstacle is in your life right now, all you need is a pair of running shoes, a great group of people to run with and everything will be okay.
Learn how to join and support the Pasadena Pacers at www.pasadenapacers.org
Review from #MyGivingStory
The Pacers have changed my life - Pasadena Pacers
I came to the Pacers about 3 years ago. I was just trying to find a running group that I could run 10 miles a week with, with the idea of maybe running my first marathon several years later. I was tired of doing my long runs alone after my 4 running buddies quit running after we ran our first 3 half marathons together. Within weeks of joining the group, I found myself running in the marathon training group with the feisty & spirited Coach Hilda in late 2013, and now I have run 2 full marathons with the Pacers and am training for 2 more in 2016.
It's amazing how many good friends I have made in the Pacer group. After about a year with the group, John Beatty asked me and Charlene to take over the weekly Saturday volunteer organizing (aka The Water Mafia).
Being a Pacer means staying fit and healthy, eating like a horse, giving to people, helping people reach their goals, getting to see the same joy/excitement in them that I felt after running my first marathon. 'Being a part of', Getting pumped up, and pumping others up! It has got me looking forward to my Saturday mornings...especially the cold ones! I love running in the cold!
Now I take my running shoes every time I go on vacation. I never used to do that.
The main reasons that I give back and that I will always give back to the Pacers are:
On my very first run with the Pacers, I fell behind, the hills were tough. I believe it was John Beatty that came back out to check on me and make sure that I was okay. He had heard from the others that I was new and that I was still out there. I'll never forget that and I often share that with others. It makes me feel good to help the group out and to hear them say 'thank you'. Our group breeds givers and selfless people. There are many people that help out time and time again. And of course, our Mile 20 cheer tent in the L.A. Marathon is the best in the world. Not exaggerating!!
I love the Pacers. I am very blessed to be a part of this group. The group has changed my life for the better and I know that my life will continue to get better the longer that I stay in the group!!
Review from #MyGivingStory
It's Not About The Pace, It's About Living
The last few years have been very tumultuous for me. I lost a good paying job due to the recession. I was unemployed for a year and was later reduced to working in a roach infested warehouse for $13 an hour. I went from driving a nice car to driving an economy car with an air conditioning system that would shut off when I hit the accelerator. All these events are bad, but what is worse is the damage done to the soul. You start to give up. I gave up.
I started to feel weak after eating, kinda like having the flu. Or sometimes the room would start to spin if I didn't eat. I was hungry all the time, even after eating. These symptoms went on for a while. At the time, I had insufficient medical insurance with a very high deductible. I didn't seek help until I had another job with better insurance. When I finally saw the doctor, the tests revealed I had high cholesterol, high triglycerides (fat lipids in the blood), abnormal liver function test results/fatty liver, and was pre-diabetic. I also weighed 230 pounds.
You would think I would do something about my health. You would think I would listen to my doctor's advice. I did the exact opposite. I was in a state of denial combined with an attitude of defeat. I had a mentality of 'I'll deal with it later.' The symptoms started to get worse, but yet I did nothing. Some of the toes of my feet started to turn black and blue due to diabetic neuropathy. I still did nothing. I didn't do anything about my health until my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
I was in shock, more than that, I was dropped into a surreal nightmare. My mother was the oak tree of my family. She always took care of herself, watched what she ate, and exercised daily. Even though she was almost 70, she looked like someone in their 50s. And the type of cancer my mother had was even more unbelievable, lung cancer. My mother never smoked.
Hearing about my mother's cancer was a very horrific wake up call. I had to do something about my health. But how? I didn't know where to start. I had no money. I could not afford a gym membership. Also a lot of physical activities require resources, i.e. bicycling required a bicycle. Then I thought about running.
I Googled running clubs. Some were too far away from where I lived or charged too much money, almost as much as $100 a month. I couldn't afford that. Then I found a link to the 'Pasadena Pacers.' The Pacers met in the Rose Bowl and it was FREE to join. But sadly, I couldn't even afford the running shoes or the clothing to join the Pacers. I had to wait for my tax return in order to buy running shoes. I wanted to join the Pacers in October, but had to wait until February of the following year.
I was so nervous and apprehensive when I joined the Pacers. I couldn't even run a mile, let alone walk a mile. I started my path as a runner in the 'Pre-Conditioner' program designed for new runners. I was so eager to start running with the Pacers that I joined the Pre-Conditioners in the middle of their program, which was tough. I remember huffing and puffing like I was going to hyperventilate. But as time went on, running got easier. I could remember a time when running the Rose Bowl 3 mile loop was hard, now I do it with ease. I then graduated to the '10 Mile Challenge' and was able to run 10 miles. I'm currently training for the Los Angeles Marathon and ran 16 miles a few weeks ago, the farthest I ran in my entire life!
A few months ago, I had my first physical since last year. Thanks to the Pasadena Pacers, I now weigh 197 pounds, my liver function test results are normal, and my cholesterol is normal. My A1C is still high, but with changes to my diet and more weight loss I believe I can get my A1C within the normal range.
I used to obsess about my running pace. I would get angry if my pace dropped below a 12 minute pace. During this time period my mother's condition got worse. She was admitted to the hospital for a minor side effect to the chemotherapy and radiation used to treat her cancer, and never left. In the end, I witnessed a lot of pain and suffering. Lung cancer is an insidious way to die, it's like watching someone you love drown to death and you're unable to do anything. My mother would have given anything to be able to breathe normally, let alone run. So just being able to run is a privilege, it's a gift. Running is not about the pace or the distance, it's about living.
Review from #MyGivingStory