Running Salinas

If it takes a village to raise a child, how much more is necessary to get an entire city up and running? A wide-ranging community effort is underway right now to accomplish exactly that goal, beginning with the first annual Salinas Valley Half Marathon which is scheduled for August 7th.

For the last several years, the only road race in the community has been Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital’s popular Heart and Sole 5K/10K, which just finished its 13th edition last weekend. However, for a town that’s supposedly committed to fighting the obesity epidemic, one lonely running event seems like it’s not nearly enough.

That’s why Karen Nardozza stepped up and started planning the Salinas Valley Half Marathon. Her vision is to develop a destination race that will also showcase the Valley’s world-class agriculture, wine, and tourism industries. The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is part of a larger non-profit agency she created to promote health, fitness, and community spirit in Salinas.

Karen gathered a who’s who of Salinas professionals with a track record of success to help plan and organize the race. The list includes retired Salinas City Manager Dave Mora, retired CEO of the Central Coast YMCA Sharron Gish, recent CEO of the Salinas Chamber of Commerce Tiffany D’Tullio, Kristina Morales from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (who happens to be the race director of the Heart and Sole race), Francine Sullivan of Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, John Lewis, owner of National Property Inspections, and Brad Griffin of Alvarez Technology.

She is also getting advice and guidance from the Big Sur International Marathon organization and even had the foresight to have KION meteorologist Tamara Berg on the planning committee. Tamara, who recently ran her first marathon at Big Sur, has promised to try to predict perfect weather for August 7th.

The 13.1-mile half-marathon starts, somewhat fittingly, at Soledad Mission, the 13th Mission founded in California. The majority of the course runs north on Foothill and River Roads, traversing beautiful fields and vineyards with slightly rolling elevation changes before finishing among the vines at Pessagno Winery. Every finisher receives a medal as well as a Salinas Valley Half Marathon logo wine glass to use at the post race celebration.

As for that larger community effort: the Salinas YMCA is hosting training programs for the half marathon, and saw more than 200 people at the first training session on May 6th. Training sessions continue every Thursday at 6PM, alternating between advice and discussions at the YMCA, or group track sessions at Hartnell track. For more information, call Lulu Vargas at 758-3811.

Financially, Karen has generated overwhelming support from the Salinas business community, with generous support from Taylor Farms, Monterey Pacific, Rotary Club, D’Arrigo Brothers, Foodsource, Ocean Mist Farms, Mann Packing, Rabobank, Balance Physical Therapy, Advance Tech Aircraft, and UCP East Garrison, LLC. However, more support is still needed, so if you want to contribute or volunteer please contact Karen via e-mail at karen@nardozzaandassociates.com.

This year’s inaugural event is already selling out quickly, with entrants from 17 different states and 2 foreign countries. The race will be capped at 1,000 runners, and the $55 race fee increases to $65 on June 1st, so we suggest that you sign up quickly on active.com. You can find any additional information about the race at www.salinasvalleyhalfmarathon.org.

Whether you’re looking to run a beautiful half-marathon course, to support health promotion in your local community, or just be part of a wonderful day, get involved with the Salinas Valley Half Marathon to help get Salinas running again.

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How Young Is Too Young?

As you’re reading this, 13-year-old Jordan Romero of Big Bear, CA, is bivouacked at 22,000’ on the slopes of Mount Everest, preparing for a summit bid that would make him the youngest person ever to stand on the world’s highest peak.

Despite his age, Romero is no novice; he’s climbed to the highest points on five other continents, and has more mountaineering experience than many “tourist climbers” who pay for guided expeditions on Everest. However, his attempt has been met with equal parts praise and outrage by experienced mountain climbers. Some see him as a role model for a generation of unhealthy, overweight kids. Others consider him a poster boy for reckless ambition and misguided parental prioritization.

The question is simple, but the answer is incredibly complex: how old should kids be before taking on extreme athletic challenges?

The running community grapples with a similar dilemma – albeit on a less dramatic scale than mountain climbing – in considering at what age children should be permitted to enter marathons or ultramarathons. Nearly every race today has a minimum age requirement, but in the 1970s, very young runners were somewhat commonplace at major marathons.

Prior to instituting a minimum age of 18 in 1981, the New York City Marathon saw approximately 75 runners aged 8 to 13 cross its finish line in the late 1970s. The Los Angeles Marathon’s “Students Run LA” program annually trains kids ages 12 to 18 to finish the event. Locally, the Big Sur Marathon’s minimum age is 16 – although in an interesting twist, its medical director ran his first marathon at age 13. Last month, four 16-year-olds successfully completed the challenging 26.2-mile Highway 1 course.

So how young is too young? Is 12 or 16 more risky than 18? What about 10 or 8? And what exactly is the rationale for any of these guidelines?

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that runners focus on shorter events like the 10K or half-marathon until age 18. A group called the International Marathon Medical Directors Association cites the AAP guideline in its own recommendation for an 18-year-old age requirement. Generally, the standards are based as much on psychological considerations as they are on physiology.

For example, it’s true that kids with developing bones and muscles are highly susceptible to overuse injuries with endurance running – but this is a consequence for many adults who train excessively as well. Children’s bodies aren’t as adept at thermoregulation, leaving them susceptible to heat-related problems during a race – but the bodies of novice marathoners are equally unprepared in this regard. Overall, the physical risks of the marathon for youngsters aren’t significantly greater than those for adults.

Instead, the primary concern expressed by most running authorities, as well as grown-ups who started as extremely young distance runners, is that kids might be trying the marathon for the wrong reasons, and might burn out on running relatively early in life. From a standpoint of promoting lifelong health, it’s always better for runners of any age to build up to the marathon gradually, over a period of years instead of weeks. And if parental pressures are any factor in a child entering the marathon, the likelihood of he or she continuing as independent adults is fairly low.

In the end, every situation is unique to the individuals involved, in running just as it is in mountain climbing. The only things we can wish for Jordan Romero or any other young athletes are for them always to be safe, have fun, and develop a passion for healthy activity that lasts a lifetime.

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