IMG_0513Shawn Ciers

What a fascinating escape to Virginia Beach during Labor Day weekend to participate in the Mazda sponsored Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach ½ Marathon with a few other Fit Fathers such as company founder Kimatni Rawlins and Delaunta Cameron, both also former Georgia Tech football players. Like a band off brothers we decided to join Team Mazda and train jointly for three months with the culmination being a splash in the Atlantic Ocean after crossing the finish line.

Of course the plan was to make race weekend also a family excursion so the wives had no problem signing up for the program and letting us run free for 14 miles on Saturday mornings. Collectively our five kids love the energetic waves Virginia Beach offers so they to were cheering us on during hot summer runs no matter if we were home or on the road. “Dad, did you run while you were in California,” was a pretty familiar question after returning from a business trip. This was actually my first half marathon so I was truly looking forward to the experience and took the training seriously through the grueling Maryland heat while tackling the hills of several local trails.  Physically I was prepared, anxiously anticipating starting and finishing the mental task of 13.1 miles.

Fit Fathers_Fit_FathersKimatni, who has run quite a few 13.1-milers including prior races with Team Mazda offered invaluable nutritional advice during our 3-month summer voyage. Not only did I shed 20 pounds but also set new pace records that were previously unfathomable. “Eating pure, whole foods from the earth over processed or fast foods is what separates good athletes from great athletes in the long run, stated Rawlins. “The body was designed to fuel from complex carbs that release glucose moderately. I began seeing enormous performance gains once inheriting this principle!” With that said, making the trip to Virginia Beach to run in the Rock ‘n’ Roll ½ Marathon was truly an amazing journey as well as a scavenger hunt for the best organic, veggie/juice bars and restaurants the area had to offer. There were not many, but Fruitive became our new best friend!

We left out Saturday morning for the 4-hour drive from Maryland and arrived a day before the race to get our bibs in advance and run a few miles before settling in. Mazda supplied us with their 2015 CX-5 Grand Touring crossover utility vehicle with all-wheel drive. Our $31,700 Deep Crystal Blue Sand model represented a great combination of style, luxury and Zoom-Zoom in a compact package. Rolling on 19” alloy spins it was the perfect road trip ride to the Beach. The stylish crossover gave us very good highway mileage and delivered on par with its entertainment interface. Mazda’s hand-free smartphone and audio connectivity was also a great bonus for providing access to our favorite Pandora stations.  Customized playlists were essential to help me maintain pre-race focus. Yes, at this point I was ultra nervous! Yep, the CX-5 is a great family vehicle for both road trips and daily commuting.

“Mazda is a brand built on passion,” said Russell Wager, MNAO vice president of marketing. “Expanding our relationship with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series allows us to meet customers within their existing passion-points of music and running, all to build a natural affinity between their interests and our vehicles.”

10620545_821310964569729_7569203185859398519_nWitnessing thousands of runners and inhaling the excitement was invigorating. What really struck was the fact that there were no two runners alike. The group consisted of men, women, young and old and all varying in shape, race and nationality; but all joined together by a shared competitive spirit and the sheer will to take on the challenge awaiting. The morning of the race I spoke spiritually within: “Shawn, you are ready, prepared, and all the training and hard work is complete; now you need to simply run your race.”  Once I entered my corral I could only feel gratefulness and thankfulness for everyone that helped me get to this point.

As the ‘World’s Largest Running Series’ with more than 500,000 runners taking part in festival events around the world every year I can attest to the magnificence of this race. The Health and Fitness Expo is also an entertaining experience since you receive a swag gift pack with a Brooks technical t-shirt, browse vendor’s “must haves” and take tons of pictures. During the race bands play your favorite tunes every few miles it seems and amenities such as showering water hoses make for a very comfortable run. Crossing the finish line with my friends and family waiting on the other side was life changing and an event I will always treasure.

2015_Mazda_CX-5Today, the series of marathons and half-marathons has spread to more than 28 destination cities, drawing visitors from around the world. “We look forward to providing Mazda with a fully integrated event platform to engage with affluent athletes and create a genuine brand connection with runners across the country,” said Bill Pedigo, CRO of CGI. “From energizing runners pre-race at the expos with inspirational promos to enhancing the participant experience.”

Fit Fathers will see you next at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas ½ Marathon in November. Until then keep rocking those miles!

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