Letter from a Runner


I cannot believe it has taken me a week to write this email, and for that, I apologize.

I’m not sure where to begin so I will just speak from my heart and tell you how great each and every person involved in this race is!

I have been overweight most of my life. In January of last year, I decided to change that. I began eating healthy and took up running, as that seemed to be the only exercise that I would see weight loss results in. April 2013 marked my first half marathon. In September, I took the challenge of running a full marathon in the Auburn, CA trails – what an experience that was! Because I was slow, it took me quite a long time to finish. The volunteers at that race were great as well. I ran several more half marathons and lost a total of 75 lbs by December 2013 – just in time for the California International Marathon. It was a dream of mine to run that race. The cut off time was 6 hours and I knew I wouldn’t make that cut off time, but I thought I would be close. Long story short – I don’t wish to bad mouth another race, but my experience at CIM was not a great one and I will definitely not be returning. They weren’t kidding when they said all aid/support/mile markers would be pulled exactly at the cut off time. The last mile marker I saw was at Mile 9 – it was a lonely 17 more miles and I was only able to finish because of the support (emotional and water/food) of my family. They also supported a few other runners who were behind the cut off time with me. We got to the finish line and the clock had already been disassembled. It was, and still is, heartbreaking to see a DNF by my name in the results, knowing that I finished and received a medal. Again, I knew the cut off time going into it, so it’s not CIM’s fault necessarily – I guess I had just been used to the awesome world of runners that I had come to know, and it was disappointing to feel as if I wasn’t good enough to have aid support along the course and an official finish time like the rest of the runners.

After my disappointing experience/performance at CIM, I got down on myself and thought that maybe running wasn’t really for me. I had achieved my goal of running a full marathon and in fact had run two, but I felt like I would never be fast enough to run a marathon and still feel like a winner. I took a break from running and only ran here and there. However, I had already signed up for the Modesto Marathon before CIM, so I knew I had to at least make it to the start line.

My family and I are from Antelope, CA (Sacramento area). So we drove down the day before and stayed in a hotel which I hear uses some great RevPAR software to ensure it all runs smoothly. We went to the expo and my family mapped my route. While I was excited for the race, I still had doubts, wondering if I would be able to finish and unsure if all aid would be pulled if I wasn’t on pace to finish in 7 hours. I began the race well, but at Mile 9 I had a set back – a mental set back. The self doubt set it. I finally kicked it to the curb at Mile 14, but that was a crucial waste of 5 miles of practically walking that ate up some serious time. By Mile 14, I knew there were only a few runners behind me. I knew I wasn’t on pace to finish in 7 hours. I saw the volunteers in the cars and I was just waiting for one of them to tell me to hang up my shoes and accept a ride back to the finish area.

That never happened. Instead, every one – EVERY SINGLE volunteer – was supportive. They cheered for me. They encouraged me. They asked me if I needed anything – water, food, gels, medical aid, you name it. I was SHOCKED to see the aid stations still in place after I fell behind the time limit. I was shocked to see volunteers on bicycles encouraging me to push hard and finish. I was shocked to see how many people drove by honking their horns and giving me a thumbs up. I thanked them all. But I’m not sure they realize how much it meant. I don’t think they know how much it means to someone like me – to be so slow, to have lost a lot of weight yet still have so much more to go, to have a dream of finishing a marathon on a positive note without feeling like a loser. To them, they were just doing their “job.” But I hope they know that they changed my life and I’m sure they changed many. I was again surprised when a CHP motorcyclist pulled over around Mile 22 to tell me how to safely run back in – watch for cars, stay on the left side of the road, and use the sidewalks when I got back into town. And even more so, I could not believe that there were still aid stations open the last few miles of the race. Not only were they open, they were genuinely excited and were cheering for me. And last but not least – I got to the finish line at 7:37 and saw my family waiting for me. I then saw the clock – it was still on! And the announcer was still there. Really? For me?! Still announcing names! And I saw the amazing volunteers with smiles on their faces, handing out medals. After I received my medal, the nice woman (who I tried to find via the Modesto Marathon Facebook page but was unsuccessful) who put the medal around my neck took me aside and gave me encouraging words, showed me some stretches to do, and even talked to my family about how “great” I did. It was above and beyond.

I left the Modesto Marathon feeling like a winner. I exceeded the time limit. The organizers and volunteers took extra (extra!) time out of their day to see that I (and the few people behind me) had a great race even though we were the slow bunch. I’m slow, but I have dreams just like the rest of the runners out there that day had – only my dream was not to qualify for Boston. My dream was to finish and to FEEL like a winner. To hear my name announced, to get a medal, and to see my name with a finish time on the results page did that for me. To have the aid stations open until everyone was accounted for is maybe a small gesture to some, but a huge gesture to someone like me – it made me feel like I was good enough. I can now wear my awesome Modesto Marathon jacket proudly! 🙂

Another fabulous thing was to send out an email survey of our opinions of the race. I have NEVER seen that done before. Wow!

I have a lot of work to do – a lot of training to do to get better. But I will be back next year! Only this time, my goal will be to finish in sub 7 hours. THANK YOU, Modesto Marathon! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Keep up the amazing work!


Marisa Dixon

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