I'm Going to China as a Columbus Marathon Ambassador

It's Global Running Day and I have very exciting news to share. I've been selected as an ambassador to Hefei, China to represent the Columbus Marathon. I'll be running the Hefei International Marathon on November 12th with four other ambassadors. This is part of the Greater Columbus Sister Cities International (GCSCI) program. Read the official announcement here.

Get out there and run anywhere, any distance today

I first learned about this program and applied back in April. At that time I didn't expect much, as I'm sure there was good competition for the ambassador slots. On the application I had to choose between Dresden, Germany; Curitiba, Brazil; and Hefei, China. I thought that China would be the most unique international experience, and it's a country I've never visited, so that's what I chose. I filled out an application with some background on my running and travel history, and hoped for the best.

In late May I was offered the position to represent Columbus in Hefei. It was uplifting news to hear, especially given my stalled job search. But I had to keep the news quiet until now.

Sister Cities Overview

The Sister Cities program is not just about running. Columbus has 10 sister cities, and as of this year only 3 of them are represented in the marathon exchange. With all cities, there are various cultural and business exchanges that take place throughout the year. The focus is on fostering communication and quality of life for both Columbus and sister city residents through these programs. The marathon exchange is in its 6th year with Dresden, Germany, but the Hefei, China and Curitiba, Brazil marathon exchanges are newer. I'm so excited to be a part of it!

GCSCI Mission (photo credit: GCSCI)

My Columbus Marathon Story

My history with the Columbus Marathon goes back to 2006 when I ran it as my 3rd marathon ever (blogged about here). At the time, my father was terminally ill with cancer. He had not been able to see me run my two previous marathons (in New Orleans and Dublin, Ireland), so I wanted to run one in my hometown, for him. I started my training program with a local charity group back in DC. And then my father died that summer a few months before the marathon. Now I had even more reason to dedicate that day to him. I trained more seriously and at a faster pace than I had before.

2006 Columbus Marathon medal; I know that times and slogans change, but I loved  "Our World is Flat"
2006 Columbus Marathon - the medal

Marathon day came, and for the first time I had family and friends on the marathon course and at the finish line to support me. It was a cold morning in October 2006 when I lined up at the start. I set out with the 5:00 pace group and ran with them for the first half of the marathon before needing to drop back. Although I was up to this pace, I had trained with walk breaks every five minutes, versus the straight running that the pacer did. My body needed those walk breaks. And my mind also needed the second half of the marathon to focus my thoughts.

I talked to my dad a lot during the second half. I believe he was there with me. I finished a little bit over 5 hours, but that was OK. It was my fastest marathon finish to date, and a new PR that I didn't break until several years later. I had a good race, and was able to celebrate my finish through the sadness of missing my dad.

Sandy running by Ohio Stadium during the 2006 Columbus Marathon
2006 Columbus Marathon - running by Ohio Stadium
Sandy finishing the 2006 Columbus Marathon with a new PR
2006 Columbus Marathon - finishing!

Years later, I returned to the 2012 Columbus Marathon as a spectator. I was in town for my grandma's (father's mother) memorial service, which happened to be on the same day as the marathon. I got up early and headed down to cheer on the runners near Mile 16 on Lane Avenue. It was my first taste of real spectating, and I stayed in my spot cheering on everyone until the sweepers came through. I saw several friends from the Marathon Maniacs club running the race. And then I spectated again in 2013, this time stationing myself on High Street near Mile 13 just after the half marathoners split off for their finish.

And now, this year I'll run the Columbus Marathon for my second time. I registered even before I knew about the Sister Cities program. That's how excited I was to run this great marathon, now that I'm living back in my hometown. Runners from Hefei will be here to run in Columbus on October 15th, so I will get to meet them before I visit their city.

What's Next

I'll share progress about my training and planning for Hefei in future blog posts. I have the training part pretty much under control. But now I'll need to get acquainted with my fellow ambassadors, with the city of Hefei and with the Hefei International Marathon. And I should practice speaking a little Mandarin as well. There will be a lot to learn, and it's going to be a blast!

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