2rd Saturday in March, Catalina Island, CA, 7 AM Start. See Robert and Maria's 2013 photos.
For app and info: Click on Catalina Island Marathon above. Club 15% discount code FHFRUN.
Although this marathon is rated as the 2nd toughest in So. California (Saddleback is first) and rated #6 among the 15 toughest in the world, it is recommended often as a great first marathon by mid to back of the packers who return year after year. The reason? The predominately dirt jeep road course is much easier on your legs than a flat street marathon, and you walk the up hills and jog the down hills. Sure, Catalina will take you about an hour longer than a flat street marathon like LA or Long Beach, but save going for a Personal Record later on after you have the experience and are comfortable with your individual training and how you attack the big 26.2. Besides, it is more fun to tell people you did the 2nd toughest as your first and you can't beat the island scenery - it's where the buffalo roam.
Marathon course marshalls (foto on right) - you don't want to mess with them!
Fastest boat ride - 1 hr - is from the Catalina Express terminal in Long Beach. Call 1-800-613-1212 and at the prompt, punch 3 to get a live person to make a reservation. Best to take Friday off if you can and get one of the morning boats so you have some time to relax and enjoy the islands ambiance. Return on a mid Sunday afternoon boat - more fun to coordinate your boat rez with other club members and ride together. Most take the Friday 9:50am boat from the Long Beach Downtown terminal and return on the 11:45am on Sunday. Carpool to save on the $19/day parking cost.
It's fun to stay at a hotel with other runners. The most popular in recent years is the La Paloma - Las Flores. The rooms and cabins are reasonable and you can get a returners discount. If you want to stay on the main beach front street, there are the Hotel MacRae and the Pavillion Hotel. Vacation Rentals has condos and houses you can rent for the weekend that have multiple bedrooms, and if you can get others to share the cost, can be less cost than a hotel room. See the Avalon Chamber of Commerce website for other accomodations.
After graduating the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Academy, my first assignment was Central Los Angeles. My wife and I were a little apprehensive about our move to Southern California; we new nothing and no one about the area. We moved to the San Gabriel Valley and met Robert at church. Each Sunday, he and Maria were friendly to us and would greet us with a warm hello.
One Saturday in July, the church was having an activity and Robert showed up with some friends all decked out in cycling apparel. Being and avid rider, I asked him what he was up to. He told me about his "Weekend Warriors" group and said they go trail running every Saturday. That day was a bike ride just to mix things up. Robert invited me to run with the group next Saturday. I passed on the invitation, but said I would love to ride with the group the next time they went out.
Robert knew I ran during my time at the CHP Academy. I kept explaining to him that I was "burned out" from running and that is was not fun. Each Sunday Robert told me how much fun he had the day before on his run and would invite me to join them on the next one. He finally said, "It is not hard. We will walk up hill and run the flats and down hill." I eventually agreed and met him Saturday Morning for a run to the ruins.
Robert held true to his promise. We walked up hill and would run on the flat trails and down hill. The company of the great people there, the beauty of the hills, and Robert's encouraging words kept me going back each Saturday. I especially enjoyed Robert's picture breaks. He saw them as a "Kodak Moment," but I saw them as a much needed breather.
After running with the Weekend Warriors for a few months, Robert dropped a bomb shell on me. "Dave, I entered you in the Catalina Marathon in March." I was shocked! I heard others talk about Catalina before and how tough it is. There was no way I could prepare myself for a marathon of that caliber in only six months. Robert explained to me that I have already been training for it, and ensured me that I would be ready in March. Since the marathon was paid for, there was no backing out on my part.
The Catalina Marathon was my first marathon. Robert held true to his training style, walk up hill and run the flats and down hill. The time clock did not exist in Robert's mind. He trained me to finish, that was it. We enjoyed every mile; stopping at every mile marker for a picture, talking to aid station volunteers, and Robert kept me motivated with stories ranging from prior marathoners to Mafia members in Maria's family. The biggest sense of accomplishment came during the last two miles of the marathon. We ran at a comfortable pace to the finish, passing many who were sitting, walking, or holding themselves in pain because they had overdone the race in previous miles.
I am very grateful for Robert and his positive attitude toward life. He has a natural gift to bring out the best in others. Today, I am a member of a Triathlon club in Northern California and still enjoy running. It is hard to find someone who has a sense of competition, but not of competitiveness as Robert has. He is someone I will never forget.
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