420 Games San Francisco August 2016

What a wonderful day to have the opportunity to share a morning with so many cannabis users who defy the prevalent negative stigma associated with use and who have embraced an athletic lifestyle in cahoots with cannabis.

I rolled up the Santa Cruz mountain ridge along highway 35 to San Francisco while the sun rose through the redwoods. This route was a few miles farther and a few minutes longer than the more popular commuter route, but I was guaranteed to be one of the only cars on the road. I toked some Santa Cruz Blue Dream in my handheld vaporizer to ease my arthritic knees and focus my attention on the positive- I pulled into Golden Gate Park and lucked into the perfect parking place. Things were looking up. I made my way to the bandshell just in time to hang out in a short line, leading to the registration table, and another to pickup the sweet 420 Games tshirt and beer badge. I don’t drink, so I gave the badge to the guy with whom I’d been chatting with in line. He seemed pretty grateful as he skipped away to the beer tent.


In a few short minutes I was pleasantly and efficiently checked into the event. Though by the time I made it to registration staff had run out of safety pins used for attaching race bibs. I wasn’t intending to run and only wanted the official bib as a souvenir. I rolled the momento and stashed it in my pocket. Jim McAlpine, founder of the 420 games and cofounder of power plant fitness, seems to be bush-whacking a path for us in this small niche of cannabis advocacy and education, with a focus on destigmatization, by creating a community jog where athletes and cannabis-lovers can unite. With shorn scalp and a powerful beard, Jim wasn’t hard to spot, where he was finalizing some electrical and sound on the raised stage of the Bandshell. I introduced myself and thanked him for hosting the event. He recognized my name and remembered exchanging emails with me. I was flattered when, in a really friendly way, he stopped what he was doing and turned to focus on me. He said he’d been following Running On Reefer and that he liked what he saw! I was pretty much blown-away to even be on his radar! He obviously had a lot to do and I didn’t want to interrupt his process any more than I had. I figured there would likely be a more convenient opportunity to chat after the run. We agreed to catch up later in the day, and shook on it.

The espresso was delicious. The barista took a little convincing that I did indeed know what I wanted: four shots of espresso with a couple ounces of hot water, but once he was damnit it was splendid! Invigorated by the espresso and enlivened by the crowd, I made my way to the start line. I circled the field and snapped some pictures. Looking over the queue of participants, I was moved nigh to tears by the motley mob. There were so many different kinds of folks there – all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. I had a thought that one would have to try pretty hard to NOT fit in here. I am so proud to be a part of a community so inclusive in nature. I’ve always struggled with self-consciousness. I guess I’d say it’s been a major influence. I was grossly overweight for most of my life and consider myself a recovering fat-person. I didn’t feel worthy to participate in group activities.  I spent too many years of my life on the proverbial couch, afraid to go to a gym or break a sweat in an athletic setting. I was uncomfortable with the way I looked and assumed everyone else was too. Since I began striving for fitness, I’ve been reluctant to include others in my workouts, struggling with my own self consciousness. It’s only been recently that I’ve begun to feel comfortable exercising with others. That’s what I love about the 420 Games and what I’d like to be a focus of RoR. I want people to be comfortable…being UN-comfortable. It’s a hard thing to do, if you’re new to it – stepping out of your comfort zone– exercising, sweating in front of people and admitting that what may be easy for someone else, may be quite difficult for you. It was tough for me to get started. The 420 Games does a wonderful job making you feel comfortable. There’s a friendly vibe – no real competition. Everyone wears the same bib, number 420 of course, and everyone gets the same finisher’s medal.

The air carried a positive charge, for sure, that morning! I didn’t really intend to run or participate in the actual games, due to a nagging injury that I’d later learn to be two fractured metatarsals. I was walking around the event that morning in Prana cargo pants and a collared shirt – hardly the 5″ tech shorts in which I’m accustomed to running. I was toking on a Rilla Extracts Vape pen, filled with some primo CO2-fractionally-extracted Blue Dream. So far, Blue Dream has been the most consistently therapeutic strain I’ve come across, which treats both my osteoarthritis and ADD symptoms. What I like about the Rilla Extracts is that due to their extraction method their concentrates retain even the more volatile terpines like alpha-pinene, and therefore also retain the strain specific scents, flavors, and most importantly, effects. This, my pre-run go-to strain, crosses indica Blueberry with the sativa Haze and balances full-body relaxation with gentle cerebral invigoration. I’ve found this hybrid strain, which eases me gently into a calm euphoria, to be ideal for calming my anxieties and relieving my arthritic stiffness while revitalizing my mental energies and galvanizing my creativity.

I guess it gets me a little wound up, too! I was mid-sentence when the countdown I didn’t notice had started, ended, and horns blew the start of the run. I was consumed in conversation, ecstatic to be in the company of so many like minded people, when I realized I was running. I really didn’t mean to. I wasn’t dressed for it. I had things to carry. But what the heck?! What’s a few miles in business casual? I brought up the back of the pack, “running with the mayor”, as it were. Notwithstanding, I had an absolute blast striding over the morning sun-dappled green grass hills and along the pedestrian pathways of Golden Gate Park. Not being the least bit familiar with the park, I was astonished by its beauty. What a historic site, too! There has been so much that has taken place here! I’m awestruck when I find myself in places with that kind of historical significance. I don’t know what I’ll do once I finally make it to Europe or Asia, where the buildings and written histories are hundreds if not thousands of years old! San Francisco certainly has its’ historical significance and now a marked event in the history of cannabis de-stigmatization! I was raised in town of a little less than half a million people (when I lived there) and I feel like I had a pretty firm grasp on what was going on in my town and what my place was in it. Not so much, in a city like San Francisco, and I find that exhilarating!

Similar to any other fun run, I found my pace group and wasted no time in chatting them all up. Surprisingly, there were mothers, a teacher, a former US Marine, a grad student, and the list goes on. My heart was warmed by the mellow, family friendly vibe when I saw a father of three running with his two toddlers by his sides and pushing a stroller, the whole family group wearing their new 420games shirts, bibs, and medals! These are normal people. These are citizens who were there for the same reasons: cannabis enthusiasts who are productive, supportive, and active members of their communities  and they want the public’s perception of cannabis to change. Destigmatization was the driving force that morning. I think we all wanted to show the tourists in the park – anyone who would see, even each other – that the reality of responsible cannabis use does not jive with the old stereotype bought into by our finger-wagging parents. What I experienced running through golden gate park, running with hundreds of fit and happy ‘pot heads’ proudly wearing matching race bibs emblazoned with the rallying digits 420, was nothing short of elation! Inspiration! And when my fellow jogging pack members started chanting to on-lookers “What are we running on?! …..We’re running on REEFER!”, my heart swelled with their overwhelming, ecstatic support for this labor of love blog/educational organization I’ve begun.

When the cadre of cannabis enthusiasts with whom I was lumbering down the avenue reached the turnaround at mile 1, we assumed the course would be a couple of these out-and-backs. When we reached the start/finish archway, some 420 games staffers were handing CBD infused living water out from large tubs of ice as a finishing treat. I held up a hand and said I had only been out and back once, to which they replied ‘that’s the course’, I thought they were joking, so I turned and started out again. I was a only a few paces away from the arch when I heard their laughter. I guess they were serious! I walked back to the arch to claim my 420 games finisher’s medal and tasty beverage. I was so stoked to have one of these of my own, now! I have participated in a bunch of events, cannabis cups, foot-races, triathlons, etc., and I’m certainly not a collector of these medals, typically, but this one was different. Never have I been a part of a single event that felt so guinuinely me, and this medal represented that. I arrived that morning with no intiention of running. I was injured, overdressed, and under-fed, but how could I have not? This gathering was all the things that have come to symbolize wellness, both emotional as well as physical, in my life. Fitness was the way out I found from the seemingly endless cycle of addiction and alcoholism (that story is for another time).

The City was the muggiest I’ve ever experienced it that day. I loped back to my car, parked just around the corner to change into dry clothes. Once I was comfortably changed, I headed back to the event to capitalize on the enormous networking opportunity. I rounded the corner and headed to the coffee cart, for a second time, straight away.

After I regained composure from my jaunt through the park, I rounded the hedgerow at the back of the bandshell. The sun was starting to peek through the San Francisco fog, by that time. I had been looking forward to the Games in theory so excitedly that I hadn’t really considered what to expect to see once I was there. What I encountered so far exceeded any idea of what I may see there that day. Around the bandshell were arranged rows of vendor booths; about a dozen, two rows on the far side, one row nearer. I started there. At the very first booth I approached, Harborside Healthcenter, I recognized a social media acquaintance who also shares a love for running. It was really refreshing to talk to someone else who runs, who loves cannabis, and who works in the medical marijuana industry in California. I hung out at the Harborside booth quite a bit that morning. I was having such a blast sharing trail-tales and budtender’s banter! I was most interested in how he’s managed to get a Harborside race sponsorship and uses a busy race schedule to stay “in fighting shape”, drawing awareness to veterans of war and PTSD, encouraging others to pursue a fit lifestyle, and show the world that we cannabis users aren’t losers. We had a lot in common and I hope our paths cross again soon.

I was stoked to meet such a prolific activist, savvy businessman, and just a damn cool character. Steve D’Angelo stopped by, but he blew through pretty quickly and I didn’t get to talk to him much more than an introduction and photo-op. When next we meet, I hope to have more time to talk. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking I  would bring up prop 64 and maybe discuss what language in the potential new law he may or may not like.

Badass ultrarunner Avery Collins was the winner of the run, laying down a couple of four and a half minute miles! I was really pleased that I got to meet him after so long of following each other on social media and texting here and there. He was polite and well spoken and I am glad that such a righteous dude is repping cannabis to the ultra community. I hope to have as positive an impact on the sport as he has, granted I won’t have the scorching times that he’s becoming known for such as the Ouray 100! Word is he spent two hours lost, off course, and still broke the course record! He won a tough 100mile race in what I believe is record time! And how can this be? For he is, a Canna Athlete!

What an incredible day!  I ran a couple of miles with a few hundred fitness-concerned cannabis enthusiasts in a beautiful and historical park. I networked with new people; members of both cannabis and athletic entrepreneurial spaces. I met professionals and activists whom I admire and I experienced firsthand the joys of community sharing my passions with others of Iike mind! I look forward to getting to know my new friends and concentrating on building this community of cannabis athletes! I’m so stoked to be in the company of the folks I’ve met along the path.
See you high on the trails!

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