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Marathoner is in it for the long run
Sister signing him up for local race ignited a life-changing passion for 26.2-mile hauls
Subject: Dan Nodalo
Nodalo was trudging along his busy life path in 2003 when a phone call from his sister changed everything.
The registered nurse with a wife and three children was working two jobs, catching sleep when he could and eating too much and at the wrong times (especially late at night) when his sister signed him up for a marathon.
Nodalo wasn’t a runner and wasn’t interested in running. He remembers listening to his sister talk about races and being bored. He didn’t even know what a marathon was.
But when Sol, who lives in Florida, called to tell him she was coming to San Diego to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in a few months — and had signed him up, too — his first thought was, “No thanks.”
But she was insistent, and he grudgingly decided to try. He looked online for training tips and ran hours on a treadmill. Friends were incredulous. He’d never done even a 5K, yet was jumping into a 26.2-miler.
“They said, ‘You’re crazy. Why would you do a marathon right away?’” he recalls, laughing.
But when the day arrived, he not only completed the race, but beat his sister, running 4:58:40.
“I had a great time,” he says. He loved the act of running, being in the moment and letting his thoughts wander. It felt like freedom. He soon set a goal to run a marathon in every state. Then he decided to run one on every continent.
Thirteen years later, Nodalo has run marathons in 14 states and across the globe. He’s scheduled to run a half marathon in Moscow this month and a marathon in Antarctica in 2017 (that will be his seventh continent). He’s dropped about 40 pounds, eats a much healthier diet and works a better schedule (he’s an emergency room nurse for Sharp HealthCare) that gives him more free time. He also co-founded a running club (San Diego SoleMates) and became a fan of hot yoga, thanks to a running friend.
“I have a better life,” says Nodalo, who grew up in the Philippines and came to San Diego in 1984. “I’m open to new stuff.” Where once he only wanted to spend time with co-workers or people he already knew, now he likes making new friends. “Everyone’s my teacher,” he says, smiling.
He runs at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, usually doing 5-10 miles with his club. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he does hot yoga.
With the club, Nodalo helps novices prepare for their first race. He says their enthusiasm energizes him. “I’m not very technical,” he says of his coaching. “Mostly it’s 90 percent motivation. I think that’s what people need.”
He stopped eating late at night and focuses on healthful foods. A few years ago, he found out his blood sugar was high, and a dietitian discovered he was eating too much fruit and had eliminated almost all fats from his diet. When he cut some fruit and added some eggs and meat to his usual fare — oatmeal for breakfast, salads for lunch and sensible dinners — his blood sugar plunged.
“I like to drink wine with dinner,” he says. “It makes me eat slowly. I savor it.”
Before he took up running, Nodalo was too busy working to explore the county. Now he’s run on Sunset Cliffs, through Balboa Park and Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, as well as on beaches and trails throughout the area.
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