Personal Stories from Team Parkinson at the US Half Marathon, San Francisco - 10/19/2003

John Ball, Team Parkinson Co-chair, shares his experience from the US Half Marathon:


I love San Francisco for several reasons: there are great restaurants, beautiful bridges, and there is plenty to do. But I never really loved it for the weather. Now, I may have to love that too.


My wife Edna and I just returned a few days ago from our Team Parkinson event in San Francisco, and I have to tell you, it was perfect! Not just one thing or another, but everything! On Friday, October 17, 2003, we had a comfortable drive up from Los Angeles. We found the hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf on the first try.  We hooked up with our friend Carol Walton from The Parkinson Alliance almost immediately. And we met with Jennifer Bugnatto’s family for dinner in Ghirardelli Square. At dinner, Jennifer explained the status on all the different aspects of the event and how they were progressing.  It was all just like we had planned.


On Saturday, we set up our booth in the Expo for the US Half-marathon and prepared to meet our new team members as they came to pick up their runner’s timing chip and goodie bag from the race organizers. Fortunately, our booth was well located in the small Expo area, and we were able to get our team name, and the names of our corporate sponsors, Titan Pharmaceuticals, Franklin Templeton Investments and Mark X Inc., out in front of people where they could be seen.  Several of our new members of Team Parkinson were able to spend some time in the booth with us where we got to know a little bit about them and their reasons for joining Team Parkinson. Jennifer Bugnatto, our local chairperson for the event, worked the booth with us for several hours, along with a couple of her training partners. The Expo lasted most of the day, and during that time we spoke with several prospective new team members for next year’s race. When the Expo finished at 4 PM, it was nearly time to get ready for our big Carbo-load dinner.


Jennifer had arranged for dinner to be held at a nice Italian restaurant called Buca di Beppo. The food was great, the service quite friendly, and the spirit in the place was just terrific. Team Parkinson filled a large segment of the busy restaurant, with more than 30 people attending. The only drawback was that the noise level was far too high for good speech making.  So we kept the speeches short and just enjoyed the good food, the great company, and the big bottles of Chianti wine. We gave Jennifer the opportunity to announce that the team had raised over $25,000.  I think that surprised everyone.  All in all, it was a lovely evening, and capped a fine day at the Expo.


The next morning we all met on the sidewalk next to Ghirardelli Square at 6:15 AM for a group photo before the race. Well, that was the plan, but it was still quite dark at that hour, far too dark for a group photo. So we headed over to the start line and waited for both the sun and the starting gun. The sun came up just minutes before the start of the race, and we were greeted by almost perfect conditions for a long run. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue, the wind was light and cool, and the air temperature was about 60 degrees.   Most of Team Parkinson that morning was new to the art of distance running, and I could feel both the excitement and the uncertainty. In fact, for several it was their first-ever competitive run. We had gathered in a large group for the start, but didn’t stay together long.  Since I had not trained very effectively for this race because of an injury earlier in the summer, I just set off at my own pace and let my body set an appropriate tempo for the run. I think most of the team members felt the same way and so we gradually separated into smaller and smaller groups. At about three miles into the run we came upon our cheering section on top of a small rise near the foot of the climb to the Golden Gate Bridge.  At that point we were all feeling comfortable and boisterous. But we were soon gasping for air as we were routed up and down the hill twice before reaching the bridge. Once on the bridge, the beauty of the Marin Peninsula was so great that many runners just seemed to stop and stare with their mouths agape. I heard an almost constant sound of cameras snapping pictures, frame-after-frame. 


We were over 7 miles into the race by the time we completed the turnaround at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I knew it was going to be a challenge to reach the finish, but that big beautiful city at the other end of the bridge just pulled me along like a magnet.  I had begun the day with around an 11-minute per mile pace, but miles 8, 9, and 10 just kind of flowed under my shoes. It was a glorious feeling, even if I was still just going between 9 and 10-minutes per mile. I knew it couldn’t last, and it didn’t. By the end of mile 11, I was just back to slogging out the steps, alternating between a medium walk and a slow jog. I knew I could finish, but it was going to be hard work. I reduced my targets to the smallest units possible: I’ll walk to the next telephone pole, then jog to that next street sign, and so on, and so on…eventually, if you do that long enough, the finish line finally comes into sight. Once you know you’ve got it made, then you can relax, and pretend you knew it all along. It’s always good to finish with a smile on your face, regardless of the pain in your body. It is also good to know that your team is there - waiting to cheer you in. There were cheers and hugs from Edna and Carol and Pete Bugnatto, and my joy upon finishing was mixed with relief, for I had not hurt myself, nor let the team down. I was certainly not alone at the finish. Everyone from Team Parkinson who entered this 13.1mile race finished the event. My congratulations to all of you!


There are many people who helped make this a wonderful weekend, but a few deserve special attention. I’d like to thank Carol Walton, our sponsoring angel from The Parkinson Alliance, and her key people, Terri and Gloria. And I’d like to thank the Bugnatto family, Maggie, Pete and Jennifer who accomplished all they did with love for their husband and father. Jennifer in particular deserves our greatest thanks for being so organized and efficient, and so dedicated. Best of all, Jennifer has committed to chairing the event next year as well! Finally, I must thank my co-chair, my wife Edna, without whom none of this would even be possible or seem worth doing. You give me reason to go on.


John Ball

Co-chair, Team Parkinson


Mariah Smith, Team Parkinson Athlete, shares her experience from the US Half Marathon: 

 "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly


Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.

Mariah Smith