This month I interviewed one of our San Diego Race Guards team member, Heather Pearl. Heather is not only a wonderful asset to Race Guards, but she also works for the event management company that is coordinating “Finish Chelsea’s Run” this year!
Q. How did you first become interested in Race Guards?
A. I ran into a few friends at the Safari Park Half Marathon in May 2012 in San Diego. I asked what they were doing, what they were wearing and how I could get involved. The rest is history.
Q. What do you do professionally and how does that fit in with being a Race Guards member?
A. I work in race event management. I manage running events from conception to finish line. Permitting, vendor orders, registration, customer service etc. I’m not a doctor, not a nurse, not an EMT… I’m a running enthusiast that loves the running community and loves helping people get from start line to finish line.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in Finish Chelsea’s Run?
A. I was a Race Guards team member at Finish Chelsea’s Run in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, I had a vendor booth in the vendor village. I’m back this year as the Operations Manager for High Performance Movement, the event management company for the 2017 Finish Chelsea’s Run. I’m involved in the planning process from obtaining the permits to ordering t-shirts. I’m one of the people responsible for getting thousands of smiling faces to ban together to finish the run Chelsea King started in 2010.
Q. Can you give an example of someone that you helped at a race and how it impacted their race experience?
A. I was partnered with one of my favorite Race Guard, Erika, at the Carlsbad Marathon in 2014. We were about one half mile from the finish line and we saw a guy sitting on the ground with a sneaker off and a sock full of blood. We ran right over to him and introduced ourselves. We found out that his name was Dennis. He told us that he might need a sag vehicle because a blood blister popped on his foot and he didn’t think he could go anymore. He then got upset because he was on a 30 minute PR and he knew the finish line was close but he couldn’t go any farther.
I sat down next to him and said “Dennis, we are happy to call you a vehicle. BUT if there is any part of you that will be angry tomorrow morning, let us know now. Erika and I will give it all we have to carry you to the finish line.” He laughed and said “let’s give it a try”. We cleaned his foot, bandaged his blister as best we could and got him on his feet.
Dennis put his right arm around Erika’s shoulder and his left arm around my shoulder. While holding his sneaker in his right hand he hopped on one foot. We had to take a few breaks; that was the longest half mile any of us had ever done. When we got to the finish chute his adrenaline kicked in and he started to use both legs to jog/limp his way across the line. He gave us each a hug, smiled with tears in his eyes and said, “I still PR’d by 5 minutes”. I think about Dennis often.
Q. What is your funniest Race Guards moment?
A. My funniest moment was at the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon around Halloween in 2012. Erika and I decided to dress up as cowgirls while running with the Race Guards team. It seemed like a good idea until we saw how serious the participant field was at the race. We immediately regretted the matching gold lame shorts and sequined cowgirl hats.
Come to think of it, after that race, Race Guards members started to have a uniform of black shorts. Coincidence? Or did people complain about the gold shorts?!
Q. What is your favorite post race or training pig-out food?
A. Do mimosas count? I kid I kid, but I’m a fan of breakfast foods. Eggs, bacon, French toast, waffles, breakfast burritos etc.
Q. What is your fitness background and have you had any physical challenges or injuries along the way?
A. I joined the track & field team in Jr. high school because I didn’t make the volleyball team (or the basketball team, or the field hockey team). I’m not very coordinated but still wanted to play sports with my friends. Running just takes determination, so anyone can do it!
I ran my first marathon at age 23 and got hooked. I’ve now run 7 marathons and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I was sidelined for a year with a hip injury but I’m back on my feet now and ready to crush a few more
Q. How would you sum up your philosophy of life in one sentence?
A. May the only thing negative in your life be your splits!
Q. How does being a Race Guards team member tie into your philosophy of life?
A. Race Guards team members are there to make you happy; whether it’s a smile on the course when you need one, Blister Shield in your sock or PERFORM Pain Reliever spray on your calf. We want your day and your race to be positive the whole way through. If you’re going to have any negatives that day, I hope it comes through only in your mile times the second half of your race!
Q. Is there anything that you would like to add?
A. Being a Race Guards member has had an amazing impact on my life. I’ve met friends, saved lives, run races and traveled with some fantastic people. Running a race in a jersey with a first aid kit and hearing a participant yell “thank you for being here” gives me chills every time.
Helping others reach their goals safely while having fun is what being a Race Guards member is all about. And if anyone happens to see a Race Guards team member in gold lame shorts, you will know who it is!