Gold Story: Inmate to Marathoner. How Running A Marathon Can Change Your Life.
December 16, 2019 | On December 24, 2017, Waldo got out of prison.
He had spent his late teens and early 20s with the wrong crowd. He did drugs, he had a friend who died in his arms, he was involved in a carjacking. And then he was caught in possession of a firearm, which is ultimately what sent him to prison.
He took a plea deal, but the judge allowed him to be free until after the birth of his second son. But, after his son was born, he turned himself in and he served for nearly a year.
Waldo feels lucky though: “I feel like I should have had to do a lot more time for the things that I did.”
And when he first got out he had a lot of motivation to do better, to be a better person. He now had two sons that he needed to take care of.
“I was doing very good,” Waldo said. “I was making money. I was going to school. I was taking care of my family. I was being a man.”
But, about a year after he had gotten out of prison, he noticed that he was losing that drive.
“That motivation I had within, that fire that I had within, was dying. I was going back to my old ways — going out over the weekend, partying with friends, and not coming home. Going on 3 or 4 days of binge drinking. Blowing my money. I was losing that passion, that flame, that motivation that I came out with,” Waldo remembered.
He was also having back problems at the time, so he started doing physical therapy. They recommended that he lose some weight.
Waldo knew that he needed a change in his life. He needed something to motivate him again to do better.
It was around this time that he decided to give up alcohol for Lent. He became a pescetarian, and then, about halfway through Lent that year Waldo said, “You know what? I’m going to start running.”
That first day he ran 1.8 miles and he came home feeling sick and out of breath, not sure if he would really be able to do this.
He told himself that he needed to set a high goal for himself. Something he knew that he could complete, but it would take dedication.
Waldo’s Gold Goal: Run the San Francisco Marathon in July 2019.
Why San Francisco? His oldest brother had run the San Francisco Marathon in the past and had said it was a hard race. He wanted to challenge himself, and decided that this was the way to do it.
“I felt like if I could accomplish this goal, then I can accomplish anything,” Waldo said. “If I can dedicate my time, my effort, my sweat, my tears, my blood to this, then I can do anything I set my mind and my heart to. And that’s exactly what I did.”
He called his little brother and told him he was going to sign up for the marathon. His brother didn’t believe him, so Waldo registered right then and sent him the confirmation. Then Waldo’s brother decided he would register too and travel from Hawaii to come run with his brother.
“Oh no, now I HAVE to do it!” Waldo said. If his brother was going to fly all the way from Hawaii to run with him, now Waldo really had to run.
So, Waldo got motivated. He paid a coach to set him up with a training plan and he started training. He bought shoes and a tub for his ice baths, and he started running.
As part of his training, he ran two half marathons a couple months before the San Francisco Marathon.
He ran the Bay Bridge Half with a time of 1:56 and then two weeks later he ran the Surfer’s Path Half Marathon in Capitola and beat his time by 10 minutes, even though it was a much tougher race, with rain and lots of hills.
“I felt like that was a huge accomplishment,” Waldo said. “That just gave me that boost, that motivation to keep on trying because if I was able to cut my time down by 10 minutes with that hard of a run and soggy shoes, I knew I could keep going.”
And he did.
On July 28, 2019, Waldo and his younger brother from Hawaii ran the San Francisco Marathon.
He ran the first half with his brother, but then he felt like he needed to go faster, so the second half he ran on his own. It was challenging, but Waldo said it wasn’t as hard as he thought it was going to be.
Miles 20 to 26 were tough. His foot started hurting and he questioned whether he’d be able to finish, but he knew he couldn’t stop.
“Crossing that finish line was the most beautiful moment I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life. I’ve never felt that love,” Waldo said, getting choked up remembering it.
Waldo also had another plan for the end of the marathon — he chose that moment to propose to his girlfriend. He got on stage, thanking her for working hard and taking care of their son while he was in prison. Then, Waldo got on his knee, proclaimed his love for her, and asked her to marry him (she said YES!).
Talking about his fiance, Waldo said, “She’s been super supportive of me. She sees the growth in me. She knew that I needed to do this for myself to become the man that I am today. The old me is long gone now. Now I’m a person who’s full of love and I know I can do whatever I set my mind to do. The San Francisco Marathon set me on to that spiritual path. And I’m forever grateful for it.”
Waldo’s 2020 Gold Goal: 1 Marathon Per Quarter & Raise Awareness for Charities
Going from inmate to marathon runner has set Waldo on a new path, and that journey has really only just begun.
Waldo’s goal for 2020 is to run one marathon per quarter (including the San Francisco Marathon again on July 26), but now he wants it to be even bigger.
He has a friend who is helping homeless children and planning to start a charity. So, Waldo wants to run marathons in the coming year for that charity and others. He wants to raise awareness and funds for kids who are in shelters.
“I want to run for something bigger, something better. This is just the beginning,” he said.
In honor and celebration of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that will be happening at the same time as the 2020 San Francisco Marathon, we are telling runners’ Gold Stories.
For many, running in the Olympics may be a far off dream, but we know you have your own goals and achievements that we want to hear about and celebrate, because everyone can have their own version of a Gold Goal!