For California woman, Marine Corps Marathon will be like running with family

WASHINGTON — They say life is a marathon, not a sprint, and for Selina Ruiz, of San Francisco, the Marine Corps Marathon is “a huge metaphor” for her story.

“(It’s) kind of been the story of my life that Marines have motivated me and my family the whole way,” said Ruiz. “Even when my dad was gone, there’s always brothers looking out for you.”

And so even though she’s run three marathons before, this race, on a course that winds its way through the nation’s capital, lined with Marines yelling and cheering the runners on, “means more.”

The Marine Corps is as much a part of Ruiz’s family as her siblings. Her dad spent 30 years on active duty before retiring, and now her brother is a Marine stationed in Japan.

“The Marines have been just a staple in my life,” said Ruiz, who said the lessons she learned as her family was moved around from base to base still serve her well. “I learned how to make friends very quickly. I became a very good people reader.”

You can tell by talking to her that the heavy involvement of the Marines is what makes this race so appealing for Ruiz, who works as a literacy coach.

“Having Marines on the course, whether I know them or not, is kind of symbolic of Marines having my back my whole life,” said Ruiz. “I don’t count on knowing any of them. The Marines are so huge, but I think there have been so many father figures in my life that have been my dad (or) Marine Corps brothers.”

Then, jokingly: “When they’re all wearing uniforms they all kind of look the same, so it’ll be very easy to just kind of remember my childhood and think of the Marines who came in and out of my life to support my family when my dad was there, and also when my dad wasn’t there. So I think it’ll be a big reflective moment of the hundreds of Marines that have been a part of our life, and that will continue to be a part of our life.”

While she admires the corps, Ruiz said she’s really running for her family, “part tribute to the years of service that my father did, and (also) to the years of service that I’m sure my brother will do.”

She also witnessed firsthand the need to develop a “never give up” attitude to life. Selina describes her mother as the one who had to be both the disciplinarian at home, and the one who could be warm and fuzzy when things got rough.

“She never showed how difficult it was, which I think was another Marine Corps value,” said Ruiz. “You just grit through it.”

And so it’s only fitting that Ruiz’s mother will be the one waiting for her at the finish line this year, though she expects her dad to be following along online, cheering her on from home.

The 26.2-mile run is sure to be grueling, and there will be times where it won’t be much fun. But she has faith in the all those Marines — like she always has.

“They’ve always been there; they’ll always be there motivating you, pushing you, and knowing you can do better even if you think you’re doing your best they know that you can do better.

“So I hope to feel that on the course,” said Ruiz. “I think that they’ll provide that, because I know that they’ve provided that for me my entire life.”

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