Our Race SLO ambassadors share their stories about motivation, determination, endurance and growth to inspire us and remind us that we are on this journey together. (Psst – in this post also included a link to early bird registration for 2019 SLO Marathon, Half Marathon, Relays & 5K! Offer ends on May 6 and you don’t want to miss it.)

    Race SLO Community Ambassador John Luoma

   Race SLO Community Ambassador John Luoma

This year as I prepared to return to run the SLO Half Marathon for the third time, I reflected a bit on competition. We often think of competition as being adversarial, to compete against one another. A few years ago, a mentor of mine shared the origins of the word ‘compete’ with me and it really stuck with me. It comes from the latin competere’ which means ‘to strive together.’ There is something compelling and empowering about this kind of competition, and I have experienced it most clearly through races. My preparation and participation in the SLO Half Marathon this year were a clear picture of this ‘striving together.’

I hadn’t run consistently since my last half marathon in 2015, and when I became a Race SLO ambassador, it was part of a resolve to reestablish the healthy habits and routines required to train for the race. My goal was to PR, which meant beating my time from the last time I ran the SLO half marathon in 2013. As a grad student with an infant son at home, the road back to race shape was a steep one, which required sacrifice not just from me but from my wife. She very much partnered with me in my training, carving out time and space for my long runs, encouraging me to eat healthy and stay the course.

On race weekend, old friends came alongside me to ‘strive together’ towards my goal. My upstairs neighbor in San Francisco gave me a slick new haircut (look good, feel good, do good.) A former pastor of ours from Calvary SLO allowed us to stay at their AirBNB unit in Grover Beach. Some good friends cooked us a great pre-race meal, allowed me to borrow their car to get to the starting line in time and sent me along with a sandwich and bar for my early morning nutrition. My wife showed up to cheer me along on the course. My good friend (who helped train the Grizzly Academy team) shouted encouragements when we ran past each other. The pacers I ran most of the race with helped coach those of us in the pace group through the hills and wind, helping us reach our best effort. And I had the honor of striving together with all the other runners participating in the race that day. The good vibes were downright tangible.

 Photo credit Luis Escobar

Photo credit Luis Escobar

The result? I ran with the pace group that would have seen me beat my previous time by almost two minutes. At around 11 miles, I realized I had started out too fast and had no gas left in the tank. The pacers encouraged me to power through it, and helped me hang on with the pace group for another half mile or so before I dropped back a little bit. I ran the last mile and a half at a much slower pace, still pushing as hard as I could. I got a fresh burst for the homestretch and bolted across the finish line, content just to finish. Then I realized that I had still beat my previous time…by a matter of six and a half seconds. With a margin so slim, I am confident that I wouldn’t have beat my time without the support of each of the friends and family I mentioned above (and more I failed to mention). I mean we’re talking about less than a half second per mile pace differential. The thing I love about this vision of competition is that it has more to do with community than contention. And we’re better for it.

I’m already looking forward to next year. Will you sign up for 2019 and strive together with me?

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION for the 8th Annual SLO Marathon + Half + Relay Races is now open. Racers can register HERE. Early bird pricing runs through May 6, with half marathon as little as $55 and full marathon $75. 5K and relay races registration is also available.


Established in 2008 to bring world class sporting events to the beautiful California Central Coast, the Race SLO endurance event portfolio includes the inaugural California Warrior Experience (Spring 2018), 7th SLO Marathon + Half, Relays and 5K plus Kids Races (Spring 2018), 3rd SLO Ultra trail races (late Summer 2018) and the recently added US Trail Running Conference (late Summer 2018).

The Race SLO Team produces both fun & competitive running events year-round to create human connection through fitness and raise funds for local nonprofits: Jack’s Helping Hand, The Land Conservancy of SLO, Team Red, White & Blue, Grizzly Youth Academy and SLO County Parks.

Our mission: Through human experiences, we create social & economic impact to share our legacy.