According to an article in USAToday in 2015, less than one-percent of the US population will complete a Marathon in their lifetime.
For 40 years of my life, I was amongst that ninety-nine percent of the US population. Like many, I assumed that someone who completed a marathon was a rare, gifted athlete, so the thought of me being in that category was something I never could have even imagined up until just a few years ago. Statistically, I should be in jail, on drugs or dead. Luckily, I am not a victim to any of those circumstances. The journey to get to person I am today was not easy, but I believe telling my story may help someone out there who may also one day strive to become a one-percenter.
In 1977, I was born and raised in Lancaster, Ca. Unfortunately; both of my parents were drug addicts. As far as I know, they were not picky, but their main drug of choice was heroin. This led to my older sister being born with mental birth challenges which affected her throughout her entire life. I was born, extremely underweight, but luckily I did not suffer from any mental challenges like my older sister. Three months after I was born, my mother grew tired of my father going in and out of jail and filed for divorce. Around that same time, she found another man who also had his demons, but had a good job and was able to financially provide for her and both my sister and I. Despite his addictions and many signs of anger, they married, becoming my step-father.
The first few years weren’t bad. His job provided us with a new home and two new cars in the driveway. I remember we would have barbecues in the backyard and take family trips. They even had a child together who would be my little sister. My Stepfather played a big part as the father figure in my life since my biological father was too busy hustling and scheming to be around. He would rarely come to pick my sister and I up on his scheduled visitation weekends. When he would pick us up, we would be pawned off on someone else while he and his girlfriend went on drug runs.
As the years went on, both my mother and step father’s addictions worsened, which led to my stepfather inflicting many episodes of mental and domestic violence, not only upon my mother, but towards my sister and I. Due to the paranoia that the drugs caused, he would spend hours searching the house for what he called, “The Russians” who he felt were spying on him. Eventually, he felt that my mother, sister and I, were in cahoots with these supposed “Russians” which would lead to the majority of his violent outbursts. Since he spent all of his time looking for these imaginary people instead of going to work, he was eventually let go from that good job.
Since he no longer worked and the money from Welfare couldn’t pay the mortgage, we moved to a trailer park called “Friendly Village”. This is quite ironic, because my experiences there were far from “friendly”. From this point on, my mother and stepfather were fully consumed by their drug and alcohol addictions. Screaming matches, violence and the cops knocking on our front door was a regular occurrence. This continued on for the remainder of my adolescence which led me to being extremely shy and withdrawn. I was pretty much on survival mode. The kindness of the parents of my friends or the neighbors who would have me over for meals was a huge blessing. Being around some “normalcy” from time to time definitely made an impact on me. Without that, I don’t know where I would be today.
I was determined to get away from that chaotic environment and after what seemed like an eternity, at 17, I finally got a job. Once I turned 18, which was only a few months later, I moved out and rented a room from some friends. From that point on, I was no longer on survival mode and I had to finally learn who I was. After seeing what drugs and alcohol did to my parents, I vowed that I would never…ever… take a drink or smoke cigarettes. That vow did not take long to break.
At 21, I attended a party with a friend, subsided to peer pressure and took my first drink of alcohol. I eventually became addicted to the feeling of confidence I gained while intoxicated. It also brought along with it some social popularity. I was no longer shy and withdrawn. This was the beginning of my 14-year relationship with alcohol (and eventually cigarettes).
It grew to be the centerpiece of my life. What started off as a weekend thing, eventually over the years turned into a two to three day a week thing to almost nightly. I became what I swore I would never become…an alcoholic. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I was an extremely negative, cynical person who thrived on hanging around other negative and cynical individuals.
I have a strong work ethic so I always had a job and eventually got a job with the City of Santa Monica which helped me provide for my son. I strived to be a good father to him, but I was emotionally detached. When he would go to bed I would spend hours smoking and drinking by myself, wallowing in self-pity, blaming all of my problems on my upbringing. I truly felt that I was at the peak of my achievements in life and was lucky to have what I had. No dreams, no goals and no hopes of ever finding someone that would truly love me.
At 35, after hundreds of hangovers and many bad life decisions, I decided that something needed to change. I couldn’t live like that anymore. From that moment on, I decided to change my life. Of course, it wasn’t overnight, but I slowly started going to the bars less and to the church and gym more. Little by little, my outlook on life improved.
A few months later, I made a commitment to truly look for love and that’s when an Angel came into my life. I met a wonderful woman and we fell in love immediately. From the first date at a coffee shop, we were practically inseparable. I never met someone so kind, loving and most importantly, supportive. I was still drinking and smoking, but she told me that she was okay with it as long as I didn’t do it in front of her. That didn’t last long.
Six months into our relationship in May of 2013, before I got home, she came over for Mother’s Day. She found my ashtray in the sink that I left from the night before (Busted!). When I got home, she gave me a very loving, but stern ultimatum. It’s either her or the cigarettes. The decision was not hard, I quit immediately. Since drinking was a huge trigger for me to smoke, I quit that also. That moment was a huge turning point in my life and was the final boost I needed.
I distanced myself from the negative people in my life and started to surround myself with only positive, kind and goal driven individuals. I started seeing a personal trainer and would diligently go to the gym which led to me gaining self-confidence. With my darling’s non-stop support and the self-esteem I gained from living a healthy lifestyle along with a clear mind, I started to do things in the gym that I never thought possible for myself.
In 2016, at the age of 39, I decided to go after a long time dream but never had the guts (or confidence) to pursue: To become a police officer. I was shocked that I would pass not only the written tests but the physical fitness qualifiers for numerous law enforcement agencies. I made it very deep into the process with LAPD, but unfortunately, it did not pan out. In preparation to become an officer, I was doing a lot of running, so when I was disqualified, I decided to turn lemons into lemonade and put all of that running to good use. I signed up for the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon and vowed that I was going to run the entire course!!
This was my chance to prove that the old me is gone! In March of 2017, it definitely was not easy, but I ran the entire 26.2 miles, shedding the skin of the person that I used to be and I became a one-percenter!
In November of the same year, I gained two bonus children by marrying their mom; my number one supporter, the love of my life and my angel, Jen. We now have a beautiful blended family with a house full and love. The days of being lonely are gone.
In 2018, I again decided to run the Los Angeles Marathon, but this time I wanted to do it for more than just personal achievement. I wanted to use it as a vehicle to raise money for a local non-profit. I thought to myself, what better organization to raise funds for than the place that helped my mother while she was homeless on the streets of the Antelope Valley, Grace Resources. Without them, and the services they provided to the less fortunate, she might not have lived those few extra years where she was able to get off the streets and rebuild broken relationships with family. She also had the joy of being a proud grandma to her grandchildren before she died in 2004 of cirrhosis at the young age of 54. That’s how the “Run for Grace” fundraiser was born. Surprisingly, having no experience in fundraising, I was able to meet my goal of $1500 while completing my second full marathon.
The 2019 LA Marathon was my fourth marathon and again the vehicle for the 2nd Annual, Run for Grace Fundraiser. This time, to earn more funds, I put a team together of 4 very kind hearted and goal driven people, one of them was my wife who completed her first marathon. I was shocked by the amount of growth the fundraiser had that year. A videographer, 10 sponsors and with my wife’s help as the Co-founder, we had an on-course “volun-cheer” booth at mile 11 with a dozen or so volunteers who were handing out waters, snacks and ringing cowbells as the runners passed by. This was capped off by the team collectively, raising over $5500 dollars, almost four times as the previous year.
We are currently preparing for the 3rd Annual Run for Grace Fundraiser while also making this grassroots fundraiser into a non-profit so we can help more organizations and people in our community.
On November 3rd, 2019 I will run the Heroes Edition Santa Clarita Marathon where I will proudly be wearing my ambassador t-shirt. That day is going to be extra special not only because it will be my 5th Marathon, but also because it will be the anniversary of being married to my angel and personal hero, my wife.
If you are reading this and you feel like you have nothing to offer the world, I want to remind you that I am living proof that you do! If I, someone who lived through childhood domestic violence, poverty and later alcoholism, can turn my life around to be a positive influence on not just those around me, but also for my community, then so can you! Nobody could have convinced me that I would be in the position that I am today. I am so thankful that am able to use my passion of running to help others. What passion or gifts do you have to help others? If you aren’t quite sure at the moment, I believe that if you live your life in a positive way, that doors will open up for you, much like they did for me. You too can call yourself a one-percenter. Take that first step and sign up for the one of the races on Santa Clarita Marathon weekend.
Use my code at checkout: SCM19ANTHONY
You can also see me enjoy this second version of myself on Instagram: @anthony_2_point_0