Carmel Valley teacher wins Carlsbad Marathon in first try

Sarah Raskin was the female winner of the Carlsbad Marathon.
(Nate Raskin)

Carmel Valley’s Sarah Raskin won the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon on Jan. 19 in her debut at the distance. In her first-ever marathon, the 42-year-old was not only the first overall female finisher but also qualified for the Boston Marathon which she plans to take on next spring.

“It was really exceptional, it was really quite a surprise,” Raskin said two days after her big finish, her hips slightly sore but itching to go for a run.

Raskin, a Del Mar Union School District teacher, ran her first marathon with a time of 3:07:53, swapping leads with but eventually beating out the second overall female finisher Rachel Cluett of Washington, D.C. (3:08:12, 31 years old) and third female finisher Janel Zick of West Valley City, Utah (3:08:49, 28 years old).

Her proud husband Nate and daughter Ella, an eighth-grader at Pacific Trails Middle School, were waiting to greet her with smiles and hugs at the finish line of the ocean-view course.

Sarah Raskin crosses the finish line at her first marathon in first place.

A longtime athlete, Raskin got her start as a standout basketball player winning three state championships and a national championship with Brea Olinda High School in Orange County. She went on to play basketball at Willamette University.

For many years, she ran just for fitness, logging about 10-mile weeks. About a year ago, she made the commitment to completely overhaul her lifestyle, focusing on her health, wellness and nutrition and bumping up her mileage.

“I really just wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone,” said Raskin, whose weekly long runs became progressively longer.

Soon she was putting in 60-75 mile weeks, working up to long runs of 22-24 miles. She did a lot of reading about what it takes to qualify for Boston and created her own plan, cross-training and lifting at Bay Club Carmel Valley.

Her training process was similar to what she does as a design engineer at Del Mar, creating authentic learning experiences for students as they work to break away from the traditional school system. Through design thinking, Raskin aims to prepare students to solve real-world problems by teaching them effective ways of learning and collaborating. Design thinking includes maker-centered learning where students are asked to research, plan, reflect and build.

Raskin’s running took the same route that she taught her students: “Set clear goals, plan for success, be willing to take risks and persevere through the challenges.”

As a former basketball player, Raskin is also a big believer in the philosophy of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won 10 NCAA titles. Wooden defined success as the “peace of mind and self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

So Raskin focused on being her best, “to put myself in the best condition to be as successful as I possibly could,” she said.

She arrived at the starting line fully prepared but as with trying anything new, she still had a little self doubt. Before the race began, her husband asked if she would join up with one of the pace groups but Raskin declined—at the time, she was thinking that she just wanted to finish.

She started out at about a 7:20 pace, working up to an average pace of 7:10 per mile, “I just felt good all the way through,” there was never even a hint that she would hit the dreaded wall. Raskin ended up coming in about 30 minutes faster than she had anticipated—and after 26.2 miles, she still didn’t feel like stopping, she felt like she could keep on going.

As the 29th overall finisher, Raskin surprised not only herself but the race director—she had slipped past the spotters and gotten in front of the motorcycle that guides in the race leaders. After she broke the tape and had a flower lei placed around her neck it started to sink in that she was the winner.

Her new goal time is to shave off six minutes for a PR of 3:01 and Raskin is eying a few races to compete at throughout the year.

Training for and running the distance of a marathon can be a transformative experience and it was no different for Raskin, who learned so much from her first 26.2. As writer and runner John Hanc put it: “Finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind that says anything is possible.”

“I learned not to be afraid and to push beyond the limits of what we set for ourselves. I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s when the learning and growth happens,” Raskin said. “I planned to succeed….and the fun was the run.”