Guest Blogger Charlie Johnston

On Friday, November 4, 2011, just as I was leaving home to run my first New York City Marathon, I got an email from The San Francisco Marathon’s Marketing Coordinator, Jojo. The message was to inform me that I had been selected to represent the marathon as an official race ambassador. I was ecstatic and carried the excitement all the way to a then-PR of 2:48:23.

Ambassador Susan cheering at the 2012 Boston Marathon

At first glance, the relationship looked pretty cut-and-dry: In exchange for promoting and representing the race, recruiting runners in and around Reno, Nevada (where I live), and contributing to a blog, I would receive entry to the race, San Francisco Marathon logo attire, and various running-related goodies. From the onset, I had a hunch that being a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador would be vastly more rewarding than just a free race and some cool swag, but the depth to which that premonition would prove accurate, however, surpassed even my most optimistic hopes.

Not to downplay the awesomeness of my collection of San Francisco Marathon sweatbands (they’re pretty awesome), but the single best part of being an Ambassador for such an incredible race is all of the equally incredible people I have met along the way. There’s just something about runners, their stories are always interesting and inspiring. And the 33 runners who comprise the 2012 San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors—and the two San Francisco Marathon staffers who keep us in line, Jojo and Maddie, of course—are no exception.

Whenever an Ambassador does something especially cool, inspirational, or otherwise noteworthy, we call them an “Am-badass-ador.” We use the term A LOT. From sharing their life-changing running stories, supporting myriad charitable causes, completing insanely long ultramarathons, braving the nightmarishly hot 2012 Boston Marathon, and providing invaluable training tips and endless entertainment by way of our

Ambassadors Susan and Charlie at the 2012 Boston Marathon Expo

Facebook group page, each Ambassador has proven time and time again that they are, in fact, Am-badass-adors.

They also happen to be some of the finest runners—and people—I’ve ever had the privilege to call friends. Some of my fondest running memories have come courtesy of this wonderful bunch; such as the encouraging tank top Ambassador Susan proudly wore near the Wellesley Scream Tunnel at the Boston Marathon, Ambassador Chris’s altruistic offer to stick with me when that race’s heat started taking its toll, and the well-earned beers Ambassadors Michael and Nancy and I shared after the race; and bumping into Ambassadors Alisyn and Laura before and after races in Northern California and Nevada. Ambassador Eric stopped in Reno to wait out a snowstorm and join my family and me for dinner when he moved to San

Ambassador Nancy and Charlie showing off their bling after their 2011 New York City Marathon

Francisco earlier this year, and Jojo joined Mom, Sis, and me for pre-race pasta before she blew up the Napa Valley Marathon course with a shiny new PR in March. I knew Ambassador Nancy before we even became Ambassadors, and, despite the 3,000 miles that separate us, she has been one of my dearest friends since we met in 2010. We run together to fight cancer and jump on chances to meet up when our race schedules coincide as they did for a hot 2010 Chicago Marathon and a party-crashing evening in the Big Apple after the 2011 New York City Marathon.

We’ve laughed together and cried together, introduced our new loves and commiserated in loves lost, congratulated one another in victory and consoled each other in defeat. And, with exceptions such as the anecdotes above, most of us have never even met face-to-face.

It’s safe to say that the greatest source of my excitement to run the 2012 San Francisco Marathon in just over a week is the chance to share a race and more good times with my fellow Am-badass-adors. So, if you see me or anyone else wearing an Ambassador shirt at the expo or race and smiling so enthusiastically as to give the impression of severe mental instability, don’t be scared, come and say “hello!” you too will be delighted to have met and shared an amazing race with such amazing people.