The giant old growth redwood forests of northern California were under siege. Rain pelted the giant trees, which let little precipitation hit the ground hundreds of feet below, where waves of runners competed in The Avenue of the Giants Marathon last Sunday.
Among the legions was Nancy Nash-Mendez of Omak, easily slipping through the mist and steam like she’d never done before.
“It was almost magical,” she said of race conditions. “It was very, very inspiring.”
While other runners surrounding her ran with faces contorted with agony, Nash-Mendez strode unconcerned.
You see, she thought she was on a training run along one of the most scenic courses in the country (so says Runner’s World Magazine).
She had no reason to think otherwise.
The giant trees blocked GPS signals from reaching her watch, making it impossible for her to know how far or fast she’d been running. So she decided to just enjoy the run and views.
Nash-Mendez spent the prior months organizing, advertising and coordinating the inaugural Omak Orchards in Bloom, which went off without a hitch April 28.
Once finished, she set her sights on qualifying for her second Boston Marathon.
The goal was to get in a few training miles, use the California marathon through Humboldt Redwoods State Park as a primer for the Winthrop Marathon on June 7, where she would try to break four hours and qualify for Boston.
She skipped Spokane’s Bloomsday, and its 50,000-plus runners, to run through the soothing forests, where trees average 500 to 700 years of age, and some reach 2,000 years of age.
The trees protected runners for the 43rd time this year.
Boston is “the” marathon, probably the only race where you have to beat specific times to enter. Getting into the popular race recently became more difficult with the knocking off of about five minutes from qualifying times.
Nash-Mendez naturally started setting goals on her run, picking out a redwood in the distance and running to it. Then she picked out another tree and so forth. The miles melted away.
She spotted her husband, Paul Nash, around the 26-mile mark. He looked excited.
“He told me I was well under four hours,” Nash-Mendez said. “I was so emotional, a surprise qualification was happening. I sprinted to the finish line.”
She finished 64th out 316 runners in three hours, 57 minutes and 31 seconds. By averaging 9:04 a mile, she finished fourth in her age division (22 runners).
“My goal was to run this race conservatively to then focus to run a qualifying time in Winthrop next month,” Nash-Mendez said. “The magic of running in the redwood forest and the perfect weather condition were definitely huge contributors to a good race finish time.”
Her 31st marathon also came with her best-ever finishing time, about a minute faster than her qualifying time three years ago for Boston (3:58).
Al Camp is the sports editor at
The Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.