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‘Lucky 13’ overcome physical odds for Carlsbad Half Marathon

REGION — When runners toe the line at the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Full And Half Marathon on Jan. 20, a “lucky 13” of them will do so in the aftermath of defying the physical odds. Two of them are North County residents. 

Those two, Vista’s Christine Anderson, 33, and Escondido’s David Zumaya, 55, have both trained as part of a group of 13 participants under the banner of the Tri-City Medical Center’s Lucky 13 program.

According to the website for Lucky 13, trainees in the program must have “overcome significant health challenges” as a participation prerequisite.

Escondido resident David Zumaya is also a member of the Lucky 13 program and plans to compete in the Carlsbad Marathon. Courtesy photo

Anderson, according to her Lucky 13 team biography, formerly suffered from ailments such as bipolar disorder, ulcerative colitis, and a torn ACL. These conditions changed her plans to become a long-distance runner. 

But training for the Carlsbad Half Marathon, she says, has proved beneficial both physically and mentally and jump-started her running goals.

“The most rewarding thing is gaining confidence as a runner,” said Anderson. “It’s been amazing to see how my body has naturally adapted to longer and longer distances (during training). I’m excited to continue with this newfound skill and passion, and to continue to use it to manage my bipolar depression.”

Anderson says training is still difficult for her as she continues to grapple with her bipolar disorder. But running often helps her with symptoms of depression. 

“I love that I can be feeling depressed, and running will pull me out of it every time, even if only for an hour or so,” Anderson said. “That brief window of joy gives me hope when I’m depressed. It reminds me that the world is still a pretty wonderful place, and I won’t always feel in despair. I also really enjoy being out in nature. I feel more grounded and centered when I come back from a run because of the sensory experience out in nature.”

Zumaya, for his part, recently had knee surgery that kept him from physical activity, gaining 50 pounds as a result. 

According to his Lucky 13 bio, Zumaya recently went on disability leave from work due to suffering from both severe chest pain and stress. That, combined with his mother’s passing away from Alzheimer’s disease, created a perfect storm and led to persistent bouts of depression for Zumaya. 

But training as part of the Lucky 13 crew has helped lift him out of the abyss, he said. 

“Training for the Carlsbad Half Marathon has been very rewarding [and so has] doing it together with a positive support group of people, from fellow Lucky 13 members and to our great coaches,” Zumaya said. “Training at Tri-City Wellness Center has been maybe the best thing about training.  I enjoy walking and jogging in North County, but this gym has everything we need. Doing a well-balanced training program with Lucky 13 has help reduce pain and injury. Swimming at the Wellness Center has really help to balance my training for the half marathon.”

His goal for the race, Zumaya said, is just to finish and to walk the course. Initially he set a goal of under three hours, but his body spoke to him and had different plans.

“I am listening to my body and it’s telling me to stay with walking the half marathon,” he said. “Past accident and knee surgery were my fear training for the run. I feel strong and really want to run the race, but as I get older, I guess I am getting a little smarter about my body. I may still sneak a little jogging on race day.”

Coach Paul Carey, who also has bipolar disorder, spoke in metaphorical terms about his duty in overseeing training and helping his runners reach their goals.

“We emphasize focusing on the journey, not the destination,” Carey said. “We all have the common goal of completing the half marathon but it is every day leading up to race day that makes crossing the finish line so rewarding. It is during that time where they develop healthy habits, form new friendships, and grow individually and as a team. The journey is where they find out who they are. Race day is when they show the world who they have become.”

Tri-City Medical Center CEO Steve Dietlin commended all of those involved in Lucky 13, saying the program exemplifies the role the facility plays as a health care provider in the broader community. 

“It’s inspiring to see friends, neighbors and other community members boldly facing health challenges each day,” Dietlin said. “We couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved in Lucky 13 program and are honored to continue providing the Lucky 13 program to the community we all serve together year after year.”

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