Alex Sebastian is getting his New Year’s resolutions out of the way early. In fact, if he doesn’t cramp up, fall asleep, hurt himself, or forget to eat enough, he should be done with his biggest goal of the year by 9 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Sebastian, the cross-country and track coach at , will – hopefully – have run over 100 miles around and around and around the Presidio by 9 a.m. on Jan 1. He’ll run 24 hours straight through New Year’s Eve, while everyone else is partying and just starting to think of their 2012 resolutions. And, he’ll be raising money for Headrush, a nonprofit that raises money for and awareness of brain tumors.
“It’s like a lap-a-thon for grown-ups,” said Sebastian.
Just like the students he coaches to enjoy running in Fairfax, Sebastian started running as a kid. When he was 13-years-old, Sebastian ran the Bay to Breakers with his grandfather. A few times a week, he would get up early during middle school and run three miles before heading to class.
Despite the love of running his grandfather passed on to him and his dedication as a kid, Sebastian says he was “very average.” In high school, at St. Ignatius he ran the 200 meters (one-eighth of a mile) – far shorter than he hopes to run on New Year’s Eve. And, then, for a long time, he stopped running any distance.
It wasn’t until he was in his 30s and moved to in 1998 that he thought about starting to run again.
“I kept seeing people heading up the trails,” said Sebastian. The appeal of those trails and open space right outside his door became too big a draw, so he headed out for a run. And, that first time, made it just to the end of Deer Park Road.
His first marathon wasn’t much better.
After seeing a banner advertising the San Francisco Marathon while driving through the city, Sebastian figured his ten to 15 miles jogging a week would be just fine. “It went pretty badly,” he said.
That might have been the end of his running comeback. But, on a whim, he had entered the lottery for the popular New York City Marathon and actually got an entry. That time everything came together and he had a great experience.
From then on, running became his thing. He ran marathons, 50-kilometer races, 50-milers.
“Last year, I thought ‘ok, what’s next,’” he said.
Sebastian had also been wanting to do something for Headrush for awhile. Headrush was founded in Wisconsin in 2004 after a 30-something, Chris Funk, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Last summer, Funk passed away and Sebastian, who worked with Chris’ wife Brandi, wanted to help. However, Sebastian didn’t want to ask friends and family to help him raise money for running a marathon – something he’s done plenty. He wanted to go a step further.
“I never raised money for a charity before,” he said. “But, I was inspired. Take a bad situation and do something positive.”
He estimates he’ll raise about $6,000 if he runs 117 miles.
The race is run in one-mile laps around the lagoon at Chrissy Field with a timing mat runners cross each lap. Friends and family have pledged amounts for each lap Sebastian runs, with some offering bonuses if he wins, runs over 100 miles, or captures the course record of 116 miles.
Despite all his training and running, though, a lot of things can happen when you run for 24-hours straight. Sebastian, along with coaching the Manor kids primarily to have fun, has taken on an adult training group that just ran their first half-marathon and teaches a running class based out of the . He’s had to apply some of those coaching and training ideas to his preparations. He’s done a few 30-mile training runs, gone out of his way to run when he’s tired, when he’s hungry, when he doesn’t want to run – because all those things will happen on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s going to be surreal,” he said. “Everything’s going to be great for the first six hours.”
But, he’s not worried.
“I’m actually really looking forward to it,” he said.
From Chrissy Field, he’ll be able to see the fireworks, the Golden Gate Bridge, the people going to parties. Maybe, he’ll even be able to convince some of the party-goers to get a head start on their New Years resolutions too.
“It’s my favorite place in the world to run,” he said.