by Mark Jimenez
About 12 years ago when I first started to take fitness seriously I picked up mountain biking as a hobby. My friend Jim and I would start many Saturday’s riding out by the Blue Diamond. We’d park either in Blue Diamond or in that old parking lot off Blue Diamond Road (that is now paved, but wasn’t back then) and go ride our bikes. We weren’t very good at it, but we had a lot of fun.
One day we were riding Dead Horse Loop. I don’t mountain bike anymore, so I don’t even know if that route is still out there. When we got towards the top of the climb something caught my eye. A pair of Oakley’s was sitting in the dirt just off the single track trail. I stopped my bike and walked over to check it out. They weren’t brand new, but they were in good enough shape for me. I picked them up and, and after asking a couple other people on the trail if they had lost sunglasses, they became my sunglasses for years to come.
Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you, and you didn’t even know you were looking for it.
When we first took over Red Rock Running Company in March of 2018, we had a “meet the owners” event at both stores. One of the first people to come in was Erica Schramm. She introduced herself and told me that she was on the Red Rock Running Company Race Team. I didn’t know much about the race team, to be honest. Most of the races I had done were out of town and I hadn’t crossed paths with the racing team, that I was aware of. It ends up that after talking with Erica she and I had actually done several of the same events together, but we had never officially met. In ay case, Erica talked to me about the race team and to be honest, I didn’t know if having a race team was something we as new owners would be doing. I was honest with her about it and we talked a few more times about it over the course of the next several months.
During this time I kept seeing Red Rock Running Company tagged on social media by a local runner I knew nothing about, JJ Santana. He always had Red Rock shirts on and it looked like he was fast. Eventually I got curious enough to ask around. Every time I asked a local runner if they knew who JJ Santana was I got a look like I was joking. Who is JJ Santana? Only the fastest guy in town, they’d tell me. He can’t be touched in any distance from 5k to 50k. And while that’s impressive, perhaps the most impressive thing I always heard was how laid back and mellow he was.
Eventually Dewey and I had a conversation about the race team. These folks who used to be on the Race Team, like Erica and JJ, were supporting us, we should support them. And so we brought back the Race Team. Of course we want the folks on the Race Team to be fast, but we also want them to support the local running community. Over the summer we’ve been at some intramural Cross Country practices, we had a presence at the Legends of Cross Country race, and we were also at the Red Rock Running Company Cross Country Invitational. They are out there supporting the next generation of runners and helping them succeed. The Race Team has found its purpose, and its purpose is passing the torch to the next generation of runners.
I have truly enjoyed my experience with the people on the Race Team. If you see them around, take some time to get to know them. They are some of the most sincere people I know. About a month ago JJ came into the store and we started talking. I quickly realized that he is doing what he is doing, namely being the fastest guy in town, without receiving professional coaching. He just goes out and does what feels good.
I couldn’t believe it.
So I started thinking. What if JJ had a coach? What if he set a goal of running the California International Marathon (CIM) and reaching the Olympic B team qualifier of 2:19:00 or better? This would make JJ the second member of the RRRC Race Team to have an Olympic Qualifying time. Christina Vergara Aleshire already has hers!
I talked to JJ about it and he was immediately interested, so we got the ball rolling. Today, I’m proud to announce that JJ has signed with a professional coach, Brad Hudson, and is receiving professional training. He is entered into CIM as an elite athlete, and is training to hit that Olympic B marathon qualifying time. I took some time to talk to JJ about his goals.
Right off the bat the thing that impressed me most about his goals of running CIM was that he wanted to use it as a way to unite runners around town. He wants the running community to grow and for people to enjoy running as much as he does. His goals are focused inward, not outward. The competition he has comes from his own expectations, and he seems to be eager to help others grow and reach their goals.
JJ ran Cross Country in high school, but only for a couple of years. He was a very successful high school wrestler, even being an individual CIF champion when he was in high school. JJ is about as mellow as they come. He views his running goals as being able to transfer into his every day life. If he works hard in practice then he’ll work hard at work and in his personal relationships. He doesn’t see running as winning or losing, he sees it as a way to improve himself.
When I asked JJ if he was scared of the training schedule ahead of him, he said, “I’m not scared of anything. I do it because I like to do it. What do I have to be afraid of? It’s all positive, what is there to be negative about?”
What a great outlook! JJ is going from running 40-50 miles a week, with occasional bursts into 60 miles a week, to a training plan that will routinely take him upwards of 80 miles a week.
About his training, JJ said, “This will be the hardest training I’ve ever done, easily.” But that didn’t scare him off. He sees it as a way to get better. “As long as I can do it, I’ll improve,” he says.
“I’m simplistic. I look at what I’ve done and what I haven’t done and I go do it. There is no being scared of a workout. I just go do it.”
JJ is about to undertake a serious adventure. But his main goal remains to unite the running community in Las Vegas. We invite you to join him on this mission. We’ll be posting blog updates and video updates on his journey to CIM. We encourage you all to follow along! We’ll even track him live on Race Day in December!
Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time being intimidated by the fast runners. For some reason I held them at arm’s length. I wasn’t sure what I’d find, and as an introvert, I was scared to put myself out there. As I’ve gotten to know this awesome group of people, though, I realized that they all want everybody around them to improve. JJ is one of the easiest-going, nicest, most mellow people I have ever met. If you see JJ or any other member of the Red Rock Running Company Race Team lined up before a race, take some time to go say hi to them. You won’t be disappointed.
Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you, and you didn’t even know you were looking for it. The Red Rock Running Company Race Team was right in front of me the whole time, but I didn’t realize what a powerful tool for the community they could be. I hope you’ll join me in uniting around JJ as he goes for the Olympic qualifying time at CIM!