Thump…breathe in. Thump…breathe out.
Sweat dripping down his face, utilizing all of the strength in his body to keep himself pushing forward, Ojai Valley School history teacher Fred Alvarez was a mile away from completing the Boston Marathon last month, having spent half the race battling unseasonably warm temperatures and the other half fighting a less-than-friendly headwind.
Twenty-five grueling, yet exhilarating miles down. And one tough, heart-pounding mile to go.
But somehow, through it all, he was smiling.
On April 18, Mr. Alvarez successfully completed his third Boston Marathon, logging a personal best time for the course of 3:20:47.
But while he was pleased with his performance, all he really wanted to talk about afterward was how lucky he was to be competing at all in the modern world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon race.
While he had qualified long ago for the event, he had some doubt as to whether he had the funds for lodging and travel to the East Coast.
Enter Ojai Valley School to the rescue.
The school this spring awarded Mr. Alvarez its Faculty Enrichment Grant, which each year is provided to select teachers to pursue passions that will reinvigorate their spirits and positively impact the OVS community.
“I could not have gotten to Boston without the Faculty Enrichment Grant,” said Mr. Alvarez, who also coaches cross country and track at the Upper Campus. “This was a dream of mine, and the school helped that dream come true.”
The Faculty Enrichment Grant was started in 2002 by Lower Campus parents Peter and Diane Goldenring.
There are no true limitations on what faculty members can request the grant for, and teachers have used those funds over the years to do everything from volunteer work in India to dressage riding in Spain to tracing the footsteps of William Shakespeare across England.
“They started the grant with the intention of provide an ability for faculty to recharge their batteries around travel and exploration,” said Tracy Wilson, the school’s director of advancement and admissions. “Running a marathon might not necessarily be something that translated back to the classroom, but it does fit perfectly with our philosophy.”
The grant allowed Mr. Alvarez to spend spring break in Boston, visiting OVS alums on their college campuses and hosting an alumni event.
And it allowed him to take part in the 120th running of a race that, since a pair of bombings at the finish line three years ago, has taken on special significance to all those who take part, both for those on the course and those cheering on the sidelines.
Knowing he wanted to participate in this year’s Boston Marathon, Mr. Alvarez planned his attack back in December, embarking on a grueling, 18-week running schedule.
That meant 18 weeks weeks of early morning workouts, running with the glow of the moon behind him and the glow of his headlamp leading his feet.
But after it was all said it done, Mr. Alvarez said all of those hours of training and preparation were well worth it
“It’s such an amazing race, and it was an honor and a privilege to take part in it,” said Mr. Alvarez, who because of the school’s generosity was able to bring his daughters, Apple and Alex, with him.
“That made it extra special,” he said of his daughters. “To have them both there together as my support system was fantastic.”