This is a great article from the Press Telegram featuring our nonprofit and one of our gardeners. Way to go guys and gals!
Keisser: Marathon a place for a family stroll
By Bob Keisser, Columnist
Gavin McKiernan was running for three.
To be more accurate, he was running and his two kids, Mia and Finn, were enjoying the Long Beach Marathon from their seats in the double stroller he pushed all 26 miles and 385 feet on a cool Sunday morning.
Such are the intimate joys of what one could call The People's Marathon.
Those who came out Sunday to run the marathon, half-marathon, bike ride or kids race all had their own stories - some ran for personal achievement, some in memory of loved ones, some as part of a team and some just because it's fun and good for you.
Last year, the race staged by International City Racing and sponsored by International City Bank, set a record with 18,000 competitors. This year's field was estimated at 23,000, with all of the 18,000 bibs printed for the marathon and half-marathon gone before race day.
Gavin and Terry McKiernan are running veterans. This was Gavin's eighth marathon and his second in Long Beach. Wife Terry ran the half-marathon last year with the kids, and this year the kids strolled in their first-ever marathon with dad while mom did a half.
They were probably three of the most popular people running Sunday. Mia and Finn had all the comforts of home - juice boxes, their favorite stuffed animals, cookies and enough layers of clothes to keep them comfy while dad steered and finished in less than four hours.
"We run with them all the time," said McKiernan, who lives with
his family in the Wrigley section of Long Beach, "since they were about six weeks old."
It was partially out of family fun and partially for family sanity.
"Mia was not a good sleeper, so I'd take her for a run and then come home and Terry would take her for a run."
Mia is now 5, and Finn joined the race three years ago this coming December.
"They love it. They like the idea of a free fast ride," he said with a grin. "They especially like it when we run with the club. Some Saturdays they'll act like they might want to go back to sleep, then Mia will ask, `Will we run with people?' and they'll want to go."
The club McKiernan noted is A Running Experience Club (AREC), which has its own story.
The original club was an offshoot of a running store by the same name that opened in 1982, according to club president Todd Rose. The store eventually closed but the club endured.
"There were some lean times in the mid-`90s," said Rose, who launched his own neighborhood foundation fun runs of 5 and 10 kilometers in Wrigley this past June. "There were just a handful of people in the club when I joined 13 years ago.
"But I wanted to get it going again, and we had some money in the club account, so I did some local advertising and we slowly built back up to decent numbers."
More than decent. Two years ago, AREC had 190 dues-paying members. Last year, it jumped to 259. This year, it's at 364, and Rose estimated 120 members ran some part of Long Beach Sunday.
A lot of the members make Long Beach the focal point of their running.
"It's an Average Joe club," said Rose, a former cross country runner in college who finished the half-marathon Sunday in an hour and 42 minutes, "and available to anybody. We have some who run just one event a year, Long Beach, and we have some elite runners, and even some trail runners."
Karen Hester, who works in the city attorney's office and whose son Allen Woods is a former Dirtbag, used Long Beach last year to qualify for her first Boston Marathon, and she ran under four hours Sunday to qualify again.
"I'm going to Boston," she said. "It was tough, but when I got to Long Beach State I fed off the crowd, took off my (headphones) and just got into the good feelings.
"It's a great group of people and the club keeps growing. We had a big pasta party Friday and we push each other to reach our goals and just to enjoy the experience."
Teammate Nadine Echeverry was aiming at a sub-four-hour finish so she could qualify for Boston, but she hit the proverbial wall hard at 25 miles and didn't finish. "I felt bad for her, but she's determined. She'll make it next year."
Kathleen Phair lives in Seal Beach, joined AREC in February, and posted a personal best in her first run in Long Beach.
"I'm a new member and just getting to know everybody," she said. "There's a lot of positive motivation."
"The club is a huge help in just having people and friends to train with," McKiernan said. "This is a great course and the organizers do a great job putting the race on. It's not New York or Boston, but it's better than most. You actually have people on the course who cheer for you. It's not just friends and family."
Bob Seagren, the former Olympic pole vaulter who runs IRC, says there's no ceiling on how popular the race can become. The field was large enough this year to have staged starts, which proved popular for the runners and cyclists.
"If we ever are able to widen the bike trail, I think we could get 40,000 entries," he said.
I asked Gavin whether there's any chance Mia and Finn won't follow their parents into the running fraternity. "Mia ran in her first race this year, a one-mile fun run," he said.
So look for her in the 2019 Long Beach Marathon. She just won't be in a stroller.