Rachel McLean

Rachel McLean finishing the Bakersfield Marathon. 

The new year is here and with it comes reflecting on the year past and setting new goals for the future.

As I’ve looked back at my 2018 fitness goals, I feel proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ve never been an avid runner or even enjoyed running just for fun like most do. I’ve watched my husband over the years set personal goals for himself to participate in long-distance races –most of them in Bakersfield. He signs up, trains and finishes – most recently in record time.

I was inspired.

So I mimicked his dedication, though not his pace. I ran in several 5K/10K races and, most recently, the Bakersfield half-marathon.

Growing up, I remember hearing friends say they couldn’t wait to get out of Bakersfield, but as I ran in the Bakersfield Marathon, I was reminded of why I chose to stay. We live in an amazing community that supports its own and supports its runners. I have run in many different races, but none can compare to running the Bakersfield Marathon alongside my running buddy, Cassandra Tamayo.

Not only was I able to take in the sights and sounds of our great city, running down busy streets I normally drive down, but I was cheered on by those in the neighborhoods we ran through. They held up silly signs that kept me laughing and took my mind off the pain like, “You’ve been training longer than Kim Kardashian has been married,” or, “Pick a cute butt and draft.”

The support from the community was the fuel that kept me going. Every so often, we were greeted by volunteers serving us water, Gatorade or energy gel shots. As I neared the end of my 13.1-mile run, my friend encouraged me as I wanted to give up. She reminded me to “just bounce.”

Bounce I did – all the way to the finish line, where I was greeted by a large crowd of people cheering for me as I finished and received the largest and heaviest medal I’ve ever earned. It was my first half-marathon and in my hometown, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Although the run was hard, after the whole thing was over, I found myself asking, “When can I do it again?”

For 2019, I’m aspiring to be another dedicated runner in Bakersfield – and not just for the fitness challenge. I want to continue to be a part of the local running community I’ve enjoyed so much in 2018. I’ve set personal goals – like my crazy runner husband – to find races around town, train and finish with my other fellow runners.

When the Bakersfield Marathon comes again next November maybe I’ll give the full marathon a shot.

That could be a crazy idea.

But maybe, it’s because of the incredibly supportive Bakersfield community that I like to call home. 

Rachel McLean is the pastor of Bus Ministries at Canyon Hills Assembly of God Church. She is a Bakersfield native, mother of three, and wife and running partner to Nick McLean. The views expressed are her own.

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