A marathon of meaning between the raindrops

12/03/2012 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 10:39 AM

Duane and Cheryl Hotaling have been in a marathon for more than a year.

Since May 2011, when their son lost both his legs while sweeping for explosives in Afghanistan, they have been cheering him on from the sidelines, and Sunday morning was no different.

The couple waited under a canopy in the rain and wind at the 20-mile mark of the California International Marathon to catch a glimpse of their 25-year-old son, Marine Cpl. Josh Hotaling, as he went by.

"When we saw him at the start, he was in the zone," Cheryl Hotaling said of her son, the sole hand cyclist – using a modified bicycle – in the marathon. "He may be wet and cranky at the end, though."

It was Hotaling's third marathon since losing his legs, but the Folsom-to-Sacramento event was his first marathon close to his hometown of Roseville, and the first his parents could attend.

"He was very stoic," his father, Duane Hotaling, beamed about his son before the race. "He had his game face on."

That's a face the parents are used to. They've watched their son muscle through the trials of his injuries, and now await his release from the military in February.

"Getting his legs blown off was just the beginning," Cheryl Hotaling said. "He's had to deal with infections, 20 operations, 2 1/2 months in the hospital and rehabilitation. Now, he will make the transition to civilian life. It's all about the next chapter with him."

When Josh Hotaling zipped by on Fair Oaks Boulevard, he was in the lead, with his family and spectators shouting encouragement.

"He looked great," his mother said as she and her husband jumped into their truck and hurried to meet him at the finish line at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

John Schumacher, media coordinator for the marathon, said hand cyclists typically finish the course ahead of runners. Josh Hotaling crossed the finish line first with a time of 2:13.46, just ahead of the first marathon runner.

Hotaling said he trains for marathons by hand-cycling twice a week while rehabbing at the U.S. Navy hospital in San Diego.

"I'm a big-time surfer and was a big-time runner, so this is a good way for me to keep in shape and be competitive," Hotaling said.

Schumacher said the weather was "pretty gnarly" for elite runners at the front of the event. They got the brunt of a cloudburst. Still, veteran CIM runners told him the storm of 1987 was worse, he said.

"By 11 a.m., the storm had passed and it was dry, so runners in the back of the pack actually had nice conditions," he said.

The stormy conditions cut down on the number of spectators early in the morning, Schumacher said, and made the race more taxing for volunteers but didn't seem to dampen the spirits of participants.

"I'll be looking for the perfect puddle to jump in," said Maggie Davis, 38, of Cameron Park, as she waited near the 20-mile mark for her leg of the relay event to begin. "It's only rain."

Davis was one of 46 runners from the El Dorado Hills Triathlon Club participating in the marathon.

"I ran the full distance last year and wanted to shorten it up this year," she said. "With a relay team, there's a lot of motivation. It's about encouraging each other and knowing we're in this together."

Phil Adiarte, 51, of Tracy also was undaunted by the wet weather as he waited to start the last leg of the relay. He ran with his brother and two sisters on Team Grandparent.

"We all run, but this is the first time we've run together, so it's going to be fun," he said. "It's a beautiful day."

The weather was not so exhilarating for most of the 2,000 event volunteers. Sarah Larson and son Alex got pelted by rain and blown around by gusts as they filled cups of water just before 8 a.m. at the aid station on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Watt Avenue. The two were part of a group from a local Boy Scout troop.

"We'll be here until it's over," Larson said. "Then, we'll go home and defrost."

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