Alan Riquelmy: The next run

The line of cars wasn’t going anywhere.

They sat bunched up in a Sacramento suburb, blocked by marathoners running their 26.2-mile race. Their end was still about 22 miles away at this point. I didn’t envy them.

A few runners saw the line, laughing. “They’ll be here for awhile,” one said passing by. It was one of those rare times when 5 miles an hour looks pretty good.

And as they ran, more vehicles joined the line. I wish I’d had a sign. “If you read your local newspaper, you wouldn’t be in this traffic jam.” Too long, though. Wouldn’t fit on the poster board.

Besides, that wasn’t why I was here.

It’s my pilgrimage, visiting certain spots along the California International Marathon route. Any spot won’t do. You’ve got to find a handful appropriately spaced out, but also accessible by car. It must be close to the route, have parking, and an exit route.

And, of course, I’ve got to be there before she arrives.

A little planning goes a long way, in both pilgrimages and journalism. Park, walk the short distance to the runners, check the watch, and wait. Maybe take some notes for a future column.

Everyone needs some help on a marathon, whether it’s water, nutrition, or someone to take your gloves because you don’t need them anymore.

“Am I going fast enough?” she asks. Having arrived, she slows for a bit and I jog with her in my jeans and pullover. “Am I going too slow?”

You’re doing great, I say. What a cakewalk. Nothing to worry about.

Then she’s gone, and I’m trudging back to the car. There’s a runner sitting in the cop car nearby. The officer is radioing for a medic. Four miles in, and it looks like the race is over for someone.

It’s still warm in my car, and the next stop is 15 minutes away. By motor vehicle, of course.

There’s time for quick grocery shopping, along with a small breakfast. I can do 40 mph in this thing, maybe more. I’ve got plenty of time before Mile 10 and Mile 17 roll around, my next stops on the moral support tour.

Things seem better the next time I see her. More confidence, more ease at the prospect of running this thing. She’s even stronger at Mile 17. Barely time for a brisk walk before taking off again, water on the run, then disappearing into a crowd of marathoners.

Miles later, the crowd of spectators is thick at the finish line, but I’ve got a good spot near the “Mile 26” sign. Watchers spot the runners they’re waiting for, then make a short dash to the finish line to catch the last moment.

Standing there, I wonder, can I make a running-as-an-analogy-to-journalism comparison? Could I make it a whole column, or maybe just stick it in at the bottom of something I write?

This isn’t a tough leap, I think. You build up to this big run, or story, or even career. The day comes, and all your preparation is put to the test. There are hills to climb, challenges to defeat, and not enough downhill. At times you question why you’re doing this. You wonder if this is the right move for you.

Then, suddenly, there she is. A small speck growing larger, passing me and now I’m racing to the finish line — a shortcut for spectators to get there in time for a final picture.

Those last moments, a tough grin, and it’s done. We sit on the street curb for a bit, and then slowly walk to the car, cushioned and out of the cold.

The next day is for rest. Maybe the one after that, too.

And then you start training for the next run.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief of the Sierra Sun and editor of The Union. He can be reached at 530-477-4249 or at

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