Sandra Marquez: Running In Tribute

January 18, 2017

sandramarquez-relief-leadSandra Marquez is a registered nurse who works night shifts at a very busy trauma center in downtown Los Angeles. She started running toward the end of 2007 because she was overweight and her health was at risk. She was guided toward group training and soon found running eased stress and kept her balanced physically and mentally.

Initially, Sandra says she raised funds for the American Heart Association and ran with that group for two years. She finished her graveyard shifts then went to Griffith Park and trained starting at 7 a.m.
Since 2008, Sandra has completed at least eight half marathons and she runs 5Ks for fun. Finishing a half marathon is a mental challenge because your body is going to tell you to do whatever your mind tells you to do, Sandra says.

“I feel that pushing yourself to finish makes you mentally stronger. Even when I train, sometimes I don’t want to, but it’s a release. It’s just me and the road and the goal. While you’re running, you get this euphoric feeling that they call the runner’s high, and it just makes you feel so much better. This is how I’m able to deal with the night shift and with work life balance.”

A long-time volunteer with the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund, Sandra started volunteering in 2007. “I was in a relationship with a fireman who was a trustee at that time. His name was William Dunn and we were together for three years, but sadly in the last year he got diagnosed with cancer,” Sandra says.

Will was a Firefighter III Paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was last assigned to Air Operations, Fire Station 114-A platoon. He also was a board member at the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, which runs Widows & Orphans. Sandra says his partner was Firefighter/Paramedic Bob Steinbacher, who also serves as 2016-2017 Relief President, and that history makes her feel like she still has a connection to the organization.

w-dunn

Willie Dunn

Sandra was in nursing school when Will got sick. “Cancer sucks, as we all know, but when you’re dealing with someone who is suffering, you lose a lot of yourself and there are a lot of daily things you need to take care of. The Relief helped Will by making sure everything was taken care of…the family was set and even though we weren’t married, they always made sure that I was okay.”

Sandra says the Relief made sure she had a place to stay and helped her look after Will. “They all knew I was going to school so they scheduled themselves around my schedule to make sure he was never left alone. I feel that the support alone while dealing with an illness like that is priceless.”

Sandra will run the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, her first full marathon, in Will’s honor to keep his spirit alive. “Before he got sick, he was actually present in the last half mile of my first half marathon. He actually ran with me that last half mile and was there cheering me on. He was there when I finished my first challenge.”

Will was her biggest supporter in running and when he finished work at the fire station he would watch her run and cheer her on. “The anniversary of his death was November 21st and it’s still hard, but there are times when it gets better, and this is part of life. Running this full marathon will be a big mental challenge for me, but it will be in memory of Will. I feel like just how he was there for my first half marathon his spirit will still be alive for me during this first full marathon.”

Sandra says Will was one of a kind. “It was such a treasure to be able to take care of him. He always made the room pleasant for his colleagues and all the people who knew him because of his smile. He had so many friends who he always made feel so special.” She says he would always say he worked for the public. People less fortunate, like homeless people, would come up to Will and he’d say “ ‘You know what, I work for you, you’re my boss so you tell me what to do.’ ”

Sandra tries to get in at least three runs a week saving Saturday or Sunday for her long runs in preparation for the marathon. She hopes to raise at least $1,500. “I have a lot of supporters who until now didn’t know my story and they get choked up when they hear it.”

When she encounters firefighters who are unfamiliar with the charity, she tells them, “It’s not only about you, it’s about your family. They take care of your family, your loved ones. They take care of you, but also people who are a part of you. Why not support that?”

Sandra hasn’t shared her story outside of her circle of friends before now and she says it feels good. “For those who knew Will and who knew me, hopefully that will help the Relief reach a higher goal, because it’s for a great cause.”

To help Sandra reach her fundraising goal, visit her marathon fundraising page. And check out other ways to support the team and even participate in the L.A. Big 5K.

-Denise Schlegel, Freelance Writer

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