.Opinion: Exploring Running’s Popularity Boom and Health Benefits


I didn’t plan to run a marathon last year, and I certainly didn’t expect to win one. But 2020, as we all know, had no one end of bizarre twists, and for me, this was a big one. Like the first runner you’ll meet in my cover story for the Health and Fitness Issue this week, I am not an elite runner in any way, but quarantine pushed both of us to push our running goals beyond what we once thought possible.

For me, it was gradually more ambitious long runs every weekend—14, 15, 16—miles that made me think, “Hmm, maybe I can do a 20-mile run.” When I told a friend of mine this, she said, “Well, if you’re going to run 20 miles, you might as well run a marathon.” I had my doubts, since there hadn’t been any in-person races since March. But after her story about once running a marathon on her own with the assistance of nothing but a Tiger’s Milk bar, I thought, OK, maybe I can run one of these virtual marathons.”

I signed up for the Coastal Marathon, which is usually run in San Francisco every year, but last year was a “virtual race”—which, as you’ll read in my story, means you create your own course, run it in a certain window of time, and submit your smartwatch results to the organizers. I picked up a copy of Hal Higdon’s Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and eventually mapped out a 26.2-mile course along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, with lots of weird doubling-back and side routes. Even weirder was when I had to sneak around Vasona Park the night before to hide Gatorade along my planned path. But even though my legs hurt for a couple of days afterward, actually running the marathon was a crazy thrill. I was shocked to discover when the results were posted that I’d actually finished with the best time—I guarantee this is the only time in history that a 4:37 marathon led to a first-place finish, but hey, there were only six entrants. (As you’ll also discover in my story, runners are mixed on the virtual-run idea.)

It was an honor to get to talk to Higdon himself, whose book (which is basically the bible of marathon training) I credit with getting me through the race without wrecking myself, for this story. And I hope this article, besides exploring running’s popularity boom, also puts to rest some of the exaggerated health safety concerns I’ve heard about outdoor exercise during the pandemic.

One more thing: This is the absolute last week to get your vote in for the Best of Santa Cruz County, so drop everything except getting (or giving!) vaccinations to go to goodtimes.sc and vote today!




Read the latest letters to the editor here.



Re: Mass Vaccination Site

This article is very helpful. I’m healthcare provider in the area and simply haven’t known what to say to my most at-risk senior patients. I’m glad I’ve been telling most of them to call their PCPs as it seems most will be able to get it there. Thanks for writing this article.

—   Lanie Saunders


Re: Streaming Swindle

You neglected to mention that David Lowery also teaches about music and is a professor, and has his Ph.D. The man is smarter than a whip.

— Lisa



Re: Rail Trail

I think the RTC is doing a great job on our Coastal Rail Trail. We love the Westside section and look forward to the upcoming openings. It takes patience to implement large infrastructure projects, especially when sales taxes yet to be collected are a significant funding source and the engineering requirements are complex and varied. The RTC has evaluated a myriad of options and focused in on the most important characteristics of each—economics, efficiency, ecology and equity. (The “4 e’s”—you can use that). We must keep the rails to ensure we have a coherent trail from Davenport to Watsonville or large swaths of the land will become windfall gains to those with easements and their developers, at the expense of all county residents. I don’t think identity politics are at play. I think it’s a difference of views and the majority of Santa Cruz County wants rail alongside the trail. Let’s move forward.

— Dan Dion



Santa Cruz can’t afford to fix our potholes. Where will the County come up with the money to maintain rails, trestles, etc? Not to mention the misery for those living next to the tracks. I am not anti-train, my father was a career RR worker. Rather I have a realistic idea of the expense involved with maintaining a safe railway.

Aside from all of that, the tracks don’t go anywhere near most of the employment centers in the county, I believe it will be underused… actually I believe the technical term is “boondoggle”.

— Robyn Marks



A rainbow over Wilder Ranch last week. Photograph by Jan Gitler.

Submit to [email protected]. Include information (location, etc.) and your name. Photos may be cropped. Preferably, photos should be 4 inches by 4 inches and minimum 250dpi.

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Plastic packaging is a part of our day-to-day lives. But what exactly is plastic, and what happens to it after we throw it into the recycling? Open Farm Tours answers these questions and more in a free two-hour webinar on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 6:30pm. Join eight local waste management and sustainable-packaging industry professionals as they explore the life cycle of plastic around Monterey Bay. Find more information and registration at eventbrite.com/e/plastics-in-packaging-tickets-135829839707



The Distinguished Artist Concert Series hosted Amit Peled for a virtual one-man classical concert on Jan. 17. That concert is now available for free for a limited time on the organization’s website. Peled invites his audience to join him from his home in Baltimore on a charming 44-minute musical journey across Europe with his trust cello Shoko, Hebrew for “hot chocolate”. To watch the performance, visit distinguishedartists.org



“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

-Haruki Murakami


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