April 2, 2020

These have been challenging days for everyone. According to the United Nations, this is the most challenging global crisis since World War II. “I want us all to remember: we are not passive participants in this pandemic,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “We each have the ability to make choices that can change lives--that can save lives--whether it be by physically distancing, staying at home, or using every asset at our disposal to keep our people safe.”

I was on a conference call on Wednesday, April 1, organized by the White House for local, state and tribal leaders that included Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci said that, “We need everyone at the local level and citizens to adhere to the state at home and physical separation guidelines. We are a strong nation. We have been through incredible adversity in our nation’s history. Getting through this will require us to work together to end this and recover.”

Addressing this challenge requires drawing strength from experiences in our own lives, from others and whatever inspires us to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. I learned early to find ways to keep going when things got tough from my experience as a competitive runner while growing up in Imperial Beach. I joined the cross country team at Mar Vista High as a freshman and was coached by Benny Holt, an inspirational coach and mentor (and longest serving Imperial Beach Lifeguard). Benny would have us run to the base of Monument Mesa in the Tijuana River Valley from Mar Vista High (MVH). We then had to run to the top of the mesa ten times and then run back to Mar Vista. Benny told us, “When you get to the top of the hill in a race, that is when you need to go faster, because the other runners will be slowing down.” There is a reason Benny produced champion after champion and created a life-affirming and changing running program for hundreds of Mar Vista students. Coach Holt coached his runners to believe that they (and each and every one of us) has a reserve of inner strength that helps reach the finish line when we feel like quitting. Finding that inner strength and helping others find theirs is our task at hand in Imperial Beach.

Many in Imperial Beach have found solace and inspiration from multiple sources to help us cope. Kristeen Roberts writes, “I’m reading the trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII by Hillary Mantel. Why am I reading these books? They take me out of the here and now and drop me into the sixteenth century.” Estelle Dorado likes “Miracle in Cell No. 7” on Netflix, “I loved it because people need to be kind to people with disabilities.” Councilmember Mark West has, “begun rereading my favorite surf novel, ‘Barbarian Days’ by William Finnegan.” My neighbor and multi-sport athlete Katrina Czajkowski (all the Czajkowskis are very impressive and determined athletes) knows Benny and his methods well. “We coached together at MVH in the late ‘90s. I just read ‘Running with Sherman’.”

That book recounts Christopher McDougall’s adventure training with a rescue donkey to compete in one of the toughest races in America.

I have found solace during this crisis in books (through the excellent Libby library app) such as “Salted,” “ Born to Run ” and more recently “North,” Scott Jurek’s inspiring memoir of his record run of the 2,200 mile Appalachian trail. Jurek reports on how he ran through incredible pain and dealt with mental anguish that required the assistance, support and love of his family and friends. “Keep going: it’s as easy as that,” he writes. “A single focal point. Keep going. Stay in the now. Every moment contains only one thing: the potential to keep going.”

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