Sunday, November 6, 2011

In the "Spotlight" with Alva from California

Meet the amazing and fun Alva from California!
I grew up in Los Angeles and thought runners were super heroes. I’d watch them run up and down San Vincente and Ocean when I biked to and from the beach as a kid. I wanted to become a runner, but couldn’t find any running shoes that didn’t hurt my feet even at specialty running stores. So instead, I swam, played tennis, and basketball, but dreamed of running.

Fast forward to 2003 and I found a pair of pain free running shoes! I finally became a super hero running up and down San Vincente and Ocean. I ran with LA Roadrunners. I made lifelong friends and became part of this amazing running community. I felt like I attended the University of Running for 3 years with Coach Pat Connelly and the paceleaders until I moved away.

I love the discipline of training. Training is year round and race day is an occasional holiday. Training is free. Race miles are not. I’ve always lived below my means, so training works best for me. My paceleader used to tell us ”Do your weekly runs or else you won’t be able to keep up on our long group runs. We don’t stop and wait.” These are words I live by. I train to lessen any pain on race day. I know anything can happen on race day, so I like to be prepared and have all my gears and kinks ironed out.

I compete against myself so as odd as it sounds, I prefer to PR on training runs over races. Race day is the big party where I get to run with my friends and meet new friends. I always think training is the CAKE, Race day is the frosting, and the Medal is the big bowl of ice cream on the side. :):)

I always had my eye on LA Marathon as my 1st marathon. When I crossed the finish line in 94-degree heat in 2004, I went with my Mom straight to my Dad’s hospital room to show him my medal. He told me, “If you can run a marathon, you can do anything.” He passed away a month later. I know he is with me at all of my runs.

My foot problems haven’t vanished though I feel like I’ve tried it all. I’ve worked on my form, visited podiatrists, sports doctors, tested custom orthotics, and researched. They can’t figure out what’s wrong. I had to stop running for 9 months in 2009 due to foot pain. I always know that within a certain amount of time, the life of the shoe I’m running in will expire due to pain. Some would say this is a sign to quit. I’m not myself when I don’t run. This is just my constant speed bump. And I always get to keep up with the latest shoes. I’ve tried barefoot running and this hurts my left foot even more. So the search for the magic shoes continues.

I love trail running and trail races. I feel at peace running in the mountains on soft trail. Though I often get lost, it doesn’t deter me from continuing and running for the finish line.

12/24 loop Ultras are also my favorite. Crissy Field is my choice 1 mile course since it includes views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the SF skyline, Palace of Fine Arts, and the Presidio. I never tire of this loop. There’s something to repetition. I get to know every step of the course so well that I can run at night with my eyes closed.

I’m often asked by non-runners why I run and specifically why I run Ultras. Because life is about testing what you’re made of, your belief in yourself, and it’s about coming out the other end stronger for it. If you never challenge yourself, then you’ll never know what you are capable of. During Ultras, I find comfort in the discomfort. I like that sweet spot where your body wants to shut down, but your mind is still in the game. I play mind tricks to keep going. I find this space to be almost otherworldly and that’s why I like to be challenged on hard courses. It’s all mind over matter.

I’m never going to win anything for speed, but I can keep going till the clock stops, which is why I’ve found my home in Ultras.

Since I’m not a fan of speed work, I’ll qualify for Boston when I’m 80 years old. I can’t wait! I look forward to the day when I can cross a Marathon or Ultra finish line, look back at my decades of running and hear, “Here comes the oldest woman on the course!” Run happy. Run safe. Run forever!!


  1. Alva is such a blast to run events with! I love hearing about her eternal quest for the perfect shoe! And her struggles with trail navigation (which aren't as bad as she makes them seem). (And off topic a bit - I love this new website you've got going on.)

  2. Nice spotlight on Alva! Looking forward to seeing you on the trails or elsewhere.