Monday, June 19, 2017

The REAL 2018 LA Marathon Ambassador Application

Thanks to those who gave me some feedback over the weekend on my original essay.  Turns out there were actual writing prompts on the application (I really should have checked that first) so I needed to do some additional writing and creative editing.  Anyway, this is faaar too long for a blog post, so,
mostly for posterity, here's my submission (photos were not included)...

There was a "check all that apply" section about my strengths, my selections were
  • My in-person promotional/speaking skills 
  • My creativity 
  • My network 
  • My experience as a runner

Please expand on your greatest strength
When I was a teenager, I told my mom I wanted to be an engineer and her reply was “You like to talk too much.”  Now as a parent myself, my teenage son tells me he is always amazed that I can find a common ground for conversation with anyone.  Being a runner is like having a cheat code to engaging a new acquaintance.  Running is a connective tissue that spans age, gender, race, upbringing, geography, any hosts of descriptors that divides people.  There’s only stories about the races you've run or want to run, the training you’re currently undertaking, the injuries you’re overcoming.  

I captained my first Ragnar team at Ragnar Napa Valley in 2016.  I recruited people from my variety of social circles that included an investment group CEO, a small business owner, a stay-at-home mom, and a VP of engineering.  The initial running bond allowed deeper connections to be discovered like two guys with sons at the same Catholic high school or another pair with a shared devotion to Napa wine clubs.  It turns out we all had a shared love of cabernet.
Team 18: Good Libations!
 In 2014, I returned to London for the first time in 10 years and googled “London running clubs” seeking good routes to follow.  I was granted membership in the Chelsea Running Club ( and enjoyed a fantastic group run along the Thames.  After my trip, I became an active participant on the message board when another member was seeking advice for their first marathon.  Training tips segued into conversations about cultural differences between our two countries, and shortly thereafter, I discovered my English FB friend was actually an American ex-pat who had grown up in Oregon, just like myself.

Discovering someone is a runner is like discovering a whole new world.  The possibilities of conversations are endless.  My best friend of 28 years and I talk briefly about running every day at work and still manage to uncover new frontiers each time.

Why are you interested in being a Conqur Endurance Group Ambassador? *
Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, to the six Abbot World Marathon Majors.  Los Angeles should be on this list.  It is the second largest city in the US, 14th in the world, one of the iconic global cities, and it deserves a marathon that befits this status.  CEG has brought a level of stability and professionalism that will allow the race to vault into the conversation of “must run marathons.”  I want to be a part of that journey and I believe I have the skills to help others see what I love about LAM so much.  Becoming an Ambassador would combine two of my favorite things: running and socializing.

How do you think the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon compares to other marathons you have run? *
I’m an Orange County runner who loves the LA Marathon.  My first 26.2 adventure was the Orange County Marathon on May 3, 2009.  I did not achieve the 4 hour marathon for which I thought I was capable, so I signed up for the 24th LA Marathon three weeks later, naively thinking I could perform better.  Predictably, I was slower, but the energy of 15,000 runners devoted to a single race - compared to the small, split crowd at the OC race (5918 finishers but only 1339 ran the full) - was exhilarating and I was hooked.  2009 was the only time I ran the OC.  March 18, 2018 will mark my 10th consecutive LA Marathon.   

The Legacy Runners are one of my favorites aspects of the race.  The special dedicated start they received in 2015 was such a fantastic way to commemorate their dedication and perseverance.  I’ve run the New York Marathon twice and Chicago once, both bigger races with longer histories and they offer no such recognition to their longest tenured participants.  Two years prior, I came across a Legacy runner for the first time in four LAM runnings.  His bib denoted all 28 years he had run the race, and it was inspirational.  I could never be a true Legacy runner, but I could certainly aspire to their spirit.  In that moment, in the middle of my 4th LAM, I committed to running 20 consecutive LAs.  “I won’t even be 60!” was the thought that clinched it for me.  Now I’m almost halfway there, and I won’t be stopping at 20.

I could start a new legacy club for those who have run the Stadium-to-Sea course every year since its 2010 introduction.  That route change elevated the race into a unique experience that brings me back every year.  Running has allowed me to connect to the other cities around the world I've visited because I can see all the small details.  LAM offers that same opportunity to the 26,000 that sign up each year because Los Angeles is a fabric of communities, each with a distinctive personality.  The joy of LAM is having so many of them threaded into a single 26.2 mile journey.

The dragon dancers in Chinatown...the taiko drummers pulling you up the big 1st Street hill to the Disney Concert Hall and Ahmanson Theater..the iconic Echo Park Lake fountain that’s in every B-roll shot of LA.  Winding along Sunset Boulevard until you can look up at Mile 8 and see the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign.  Passing by the landmark theaters of Hollywood Blvd: Pantages, El Capitan, Dolby, TCL Chinese  (it will always be Graumann’s in my heart.)  The opulence of Rodeo Drive.  The roar of dozens of local high school cheerleading squads as you pass into Century City.  The sereneness of the VA Hospital.  The Brentwood families enjoying Sunday morning brunch coffee and cocktails, cheering us on as we challenge the last hill up San Vincente Boulevard.

Every year since 2014, I’ve convinced a friend to run LAM for the very first time with these scenes.  The conversation starts the same way every time: “I'm thinking about running a marathon,” they’ll say.  “You should come run LA with me!” is my instantaneous response.

What is the most important thing you want us to know about you? *
My ability to develop connections with people on a personal level plus my deep affinity for the race will allow me to be an impactful champion for the LA Marathon.  My social media footprint to date is fairly small and will likely fall short of a “social media accounts every runner should follow” list, but my ability to speak passionately about the event, to close my eyes and see every mile of the course, to tell stories about all nine Stadium-to-Sea races and their four incarnations, is just as likely to convince someone to sign up.  It’s happened four times already.  And now there are four more people with a personal story about the LA Marathon.  That’s how a topic goes viral.

I was just across the start line at the 2015 race, making the slight turn past the KTLA cameras, heading towards the Dodger Stadium exit to Cesar Chavez when I spotted a familiar black and white striped singlet, the distinctive moniker of the Fulham Running Club from London, England.  I managed to catch up to him and started a conversation.  
“I ran the Fulham Palace Park Run last year.”  
“What a coincidence, I manage the Fulham Palace Park Run!”
“My name is Darren!” “I’m Bob” “You came a long way for this race, have a great race!”
I’ve met a lot of people at races, riding a shuttle to the start line, waiting in the starting corral, but usually those interactions are transient, a forgotten memory once the gun goes off.  This time, randomly discovering a connection to a different country moved me to post a blind greeting and congratulations to Bob on the Fulham Palace Park Run Facebook page.  A few comments from fellow parkrunners later, and Bob and I were FB friends.  
Got my picture in the 17 April parkrun newsletter!
I made it back to the Fulham Palace in London this spring, shortly after completing the Paris Marathon, hoping to have a pint with Bob, but ironically, he was in the U.S. for the Boston Marathon.  He made sure the Park Run volunteers knew I was coming, and I was heralded as “Bob’s friend” the entire morning.  I became reacquainted with two runners I’d met at my first Park Run in 2014.  And I made a host of new friends, includin one who just set a Guiness World Record for the “Fastest Marathon dressed as a Cheerleader” and another who has a sister, who lives in LA, who’s encouraging her to come run the 2018 LA Marathon.  I know the perfect person to give her all the knowledge she needs to run this city’s magnificent course.  

Would you rather run a marathon barefoot or run a half marathon in high heels? Why? *

Running barefoot over a longer distance is an easy choice for me versus a high-heeled 13.1 miles.  It’s simply a physiological choice: I’m 46 years old, technically a Master’s runner.  I’m finely attuned to my running shoes because I need to minimize the stress on my legs.  I’m confident I could learn how to run without shoes.  The soles of my feet would have to become so much tougher, probably irreparably altered beyond the limits of a pedicure, but I would have a wide base to support my body weight.  High heels would focus so much impact right up my leg I might be irreparably altered from running ever again!

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