In It For The Long Run

Local runner resolves to complete 12 marathons in 12 months

By Alexis Getscher, Jan. 1, 2015.
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Photos by Fernando Hernández.

This time of year is filled with reflection, goal setting, commitments to personal growth and inspiration for change. People from all walks of life will be making setting their sights on specific objectives for 2015.

Valley resident Stephen Gamboa is taking his New Year’s resolution on the road.

The Arizona State University graduate, and current master’s degree student, has pledged to run 12 marathons in 12 months – one per month – throughout 2015. And, along the way he’ll be raising money for some of his favorite nonprofits.

Gamboa grew up in New Mexico and moved to Tempe in 2009 to attend ASU. Though he had no prior running experience, he volunteered to support both the P.F. Chang’s Marathon and Ironman triathlon during his freshman year.

“I just naturally was drawn to the sport,” Gamboa said. “Once I started volunteering, I got into this community of people and then I did my first marathon, the LA Marathon, in 2013.”

Resolution Research

Twelve marathons in 12 months is a big goal, especially for someone who only has two years experience, but Gamboa said it was necessary to make such a specific commitment for 2015 instead of a general plan to exercise more.

Although he’s fairly new to the sport, Gamboa is up for the challenges he’ll face along the way.

He said he’s spent a lot of time reading online, watching YouTube videos, and speaking with runners and triathletes in his circle about training and preparing for marathons. With the knowledge he’s gained from research, and being around the sport for years as a volunteer, he created a training regimen that he implemented in August 2014.

Gamboa is confident in his physical ability and said the only thing that could slow him down is if he were to get injured along the way – an obstacle he’s already had to overcome.

“I’ve already had two separate injuries just since August and I’ve been in physical therapy for the past six weeks, so I think the biggest challenge will be just to make sure that I’m on top of that side of things, taking care of my body as best I can and not overdoing it, or over-training between marathons,” he said.

Although only one marathon is planned for each month, the scheduling sometimes leaves Gamboa only two weeks between races.

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Photos by Fernando Hernández.

“I know specifically in those places, I’ll really have to make sure I’m on top of taking care of my body,” he said.

Throughout this year, Gamboa will raise money for four nonprofits that have directly impacted him or his family members. He’ll use his races as an opportunity to fundraise and also bring awareness to the mission of each charity.

“When you’re fundraising, instead of just saying ‘I’m going to run for this charity,’ if you lay out there when you’re collecting donations, that you’re going to run 12 marathons in 12 months, it kind of provides some clout around what you’re doing,” Gamboa said. “And gives people a tangible feeling of why you’re raising money and what you’re going to do to bring awareness to those causes.”

Currently, funds are being raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Gamboa is getting his master’s degree in healthcare innovation and said he admires the work the hospital does. Plus, he knows people who have been treated there, so he wanted to extend his thanks by giving back.

“I know specifically in those places, I’ll really have to make sure I’m on top of taking care of my body,” he said.

The Trevor Project

In March, fundraising will begin for The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to crises prevention in LGBT youth. Gamboa will be running the LA Marathon in that month, so he felt it was the perfect time to bring awareness to the Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

Gamboa first learned of The Trevor Project in high school and used to read the suicide letters that were posted on the website.

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Photos by Fernando Hernández.

“When I was coming out I would read those, not that I was relating to them but that I was researching LGBT organizations in general, and I knew that once I got to a place where I was out and comfortable and … an activist in the community, that I would support that organization,” he said. “It’s just so necessary in crisis prevention and something that is heavily needed, especially in the LGBT community.”

As part of his fundraising efforts for The Trevor Project, Gamboa will host a February benefit at Tempe’s Gammage Auditorium. It will feature a panel discussion focused on LGBT crisis prevention and tickets will be available for $26.20, to represent the marathon’s 26.2 miles.

Gamboa added that he’ll also do a call for donations during the event and hopes to hit his goal of raising $5,000 for The Trevor Project.

Next, he will raise money for an orphanage in Haiti known as His Home for Children. A close friend of Gamboa’s family has adopted three boys, one from Haiti and two from Congo, so he’s raising money to help provide others with the same opportunity. His Home for Children is a private orphanage that relies solely on charitable donations.

Lastly, funds will be raised for Haven House. The New Mexico-based women’s shelter deals with domestic violence and Gamboa said he has family members who have directly benefited from the organization.

“I really wanted to raise some money for charities that I believe in and that have helped me or friends and family in the past, and I wanted to challenge myself with something new and exciting,” he said.

The Deserving Dozen

“I think running marathons is a great way to see new cities, so I just kind of came up with a plan,” he said. “[My goal is] to see a few different cities, as well as bring some attention to the charities that I’m going to raise money for.”

Gamboa has mapped out the first half of 2015, including marathons in Dallas, Seattle and San Diego. Locally, he’ll be running the P.F. Chang’s and Phoenix marathons. He recently learned of the Phoenix Pride half marathon, that takes place April 11, and will be rearranging his schedule to make sure he can run that race, in addition to his previously scheduled full marathon he’ll be completing that month.

Then, because he’s set to graduate in May, Gamboa said nothing is set in stone for the second half of 2015, but said he’ll begin scheduling races once he has a better idea of where he’ll be living.

As more details are worked out, Gamboa will use his Twitter account, @MrStephenGamboa, to promote the event and his future fundraising efforts. Also on his Twitter will be links to a weekly video blog (or vlog) he’ll film to keep followers updated on his progression throughout the year. And, he added, the vlog will also feature interviews with staff of the organizations he’s raising money for.

“I’m already talking to people from the Trevor Project who are interested in being interviewed on the vlog,” Gamboa said. “Other than having people donate, the more important part is educating people on the importance of these organizations.”

Gamboa will face many long, hard roads in 2015 but has motivators he knows will push him through.

“A lot of times, on some of these longer runs when I want to give up or quit, it’s the people that the charities are helping that motivate me,” he said. “It puts things into perspective when you’re running and you’re hurting – a child that’s going through a chemo treatment … or someone who the Trevor Project is helping is probably hurting more than I am – my main motivator is the people I’m helping and bringing awareness to.”

By the end of the year Gamboa hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon – Could that end up being a 2016 New Year’s resolution? Only time, and his race times, will tell.