Name: Al Pajak (aka. Runner Al)
Where were you born and raised? I was born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, went to grade school in Ft. Worth, Texas, junior high and high school in California. I have also live in Oregon and Nebraska and spend most of one winter in South Dakota. I have itchy feet syndrome.
When did you begin running? I first started running in 1992 when I trained for and ran the LA Marathon. After running my second half marathon in 1993, I damaged ligaments behind both knees and stopped running until 6 years ago.
How did you get started running? Six years ago, I was living in Flagstaff and hiking with a friend. I was training to hike the Grand Canyon and I was 50 pounds heavier. I had little energy and didn’t have the stamina to play with my daughter without getting winded. I was facing a future like my dad. He was 360 pounds when he retired and he sat down and never got out of his chair again. We kept talking about running as we hiked. I kept saying how much I missed running and she challenged me to run P.F. Chang’s Half Marathon. I agreed to do it and started training that fall after my family moved to Las Vegas. Although my longest run was only 6 miles, I ran the 2006 Las Vegas Half Marathon. I was a mess. Everything hurt and PF Chang’s was only a few weeks away. I continued training and finished PF Chang’s, then 6 Tunnels Half Marathon six weeks later. I haven’t stopped since.
Favorite distance to run: My favorite distance to run is the half marathon because I can easily maintain a fitness level to run half after half and I never seem to get tired of running them. I can always finish in the top 2/3s.
Favorite race: This is tough. After six years of running, I am going to be running my 25th half marathon on March second. I remember parts of every race. There are so many wonderful experiences and adventures. I love the experiences of running. I think my favorite race is one where either my family can be part of it or I run it with friends. In 2007, I ran a half marathon in Alamo, Nevada. This race was all heart. The entire community came out to support the runners as a benefit to raise funds for a new track at the high school. There were 22 runners and I came in third in my division. What made this race great was the kids’ race. This was my daughter’s first race. I guess she was 5 years old. I couldn’t help but think about her running as I ran. I was trying to see her race from mine. As I made the last mile, I had a strong head wind, which I really like. A head wind makes me push even harder. I came around a bend and could see Elizabeth at the finish line holding two medals, hers and mine. I started running and screaming and grabbed her and carried her across the finish line. These are the only medals I have ever engraved.
Favorite Track N Trail event this year: I consider training for Chicago as an event. Running with Matt Watson every Saturday in a dream-like trance at 3:30 in the morning was surreal. The persistence, the exhaustion, the sweat, the pain, the camaraderie, the sights and then the triumph of the race in Chicago built a lifelong memory of friends, faces, and memories.
Favorite place to run: My favorite place to run is Zion Canyon in Zion National Park. I ran up the canyon twice and once along the east rim. The first time I ran up the canyon, I started before sunrise. I did not have a headlamp. I trusted the trail. As I wondered up the trail along the river, the blackness slowly gave way to a growing purple hue on the towering cliff walls. The sunlight rolled slowly down the canyon walls, I continued along the river and past turkeys and deer. On the way back, as I crossed a bridge, a photographer took my picture. The second time I ran up the canyon was in December and it was pouring rain. I am strange, I love running in the wind and the pouring rain. The dry canyon had become a canyon with thousands of waterfalls. The Virgin River was at flood stage. I could see trees floating by and hear boulders bouncing along the bottom. I made it up into the canyon when I noticed a landslide on the opposite side of the river. I considered this to be a message and headed back. I was drenched and happy. They closed the park about an hour after I returned to our hotel. The road out of Springdale closed due to flooding within an hour of us leaving. We could see houses under water. Running is an adventure.
Favorite Quote: Never give up! Never surrender – Tim Allen – Jason Nesmith/Commander Peter Quincy Taggart “Galaxy Quest”. There are others but I really like this one.
If you could run anywhere in the world where would it be? I guess we all have our bucket list. I ran up the steps at the Philadelphia Art Institute, “Yo, Adrian!” I would like to run the Great Wall Marathon, The Sarah Desert (maybe not), Antarctica, up to the Everest Base Camp and the New York Marathon. I’ll have to bandit Boston.
Other Hobbies: I have this habit of turning hobbies into professions. Before I became a science teacher, I was a vertebrate paleontologist because I liked working with and collecting fossils. Since I became a teacher, I started collecting apps for my IPhone and IPad that I use to teach with and video edit. Video Editing is a big and growing hobby for me. I also read about marketing. I know this is a strange hobby but I really like to read about marketing.
Advice for new runners: 1. High turnover is key to distance. 2. Running slower is better than running faster. 3. Back of the pack is where it’s at! 4. Scream when you cross the finish line. You are the star and it is your race to win, every time! 5. Stretch even though I don’t. Take this advice and you will rarely get hurt and be able to run into your 100’s.