Some 14 years ago, Dan Nodalo, an ER nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, took a phone call from his sister in Florida. After some chatting, sister Sol, an avid runner, informed him she was coming to San Diego in a few months to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon — and that she had signed him up, too.
Nodalo, in his 40s at the time, wasn’t a runner — not even a 5K to speak of. He offered to refund her the $95 registration fee but, as sisters can be, she was persistent.
Astoundingly, he agreed. “I grudgingly decided to try it,” says Nodalo, who admitted his eating and sleeping habits needed a tune-up. He researched training tips, ran on a treadmill and trained for the big day. He was indeed a rock star at that first marathon, where his 4:58:40 time beat that of his sister — and he was hooked.
“My tears were dripping down my cheeks after passing the finish line,” he says. “I was hugging people that I didn’t even know, and it was a very humbling experience.”
He decided to continue his training, with a goal to run in every state in the country. After completing 14 states, Nodalo took it to the next level. “I decided to get out of the country and run a marathon in every continent of the world.”
In March 2018, the 61-year-old will realize a dream that he has waited on for years, when he finally sets foot on his one unconquered continent and runs the Antarctica Marathon. “Travel to Antarctica is limited, so there’s a waiting list to run there,” says Nodalo. “We’ll end up in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and nicknamed ‘The End of the World.’”
Running, however, has proven to be anything but that for Nodalo. He’s traveled the globe to put shoe to pavement and trail, and traded in his miles for invaluable memories and experiences.
“The most memorable and emotional race I’ve done was the Knysna Forest Marathon, in the Western Cape province of South Africa,” says Nodalo. “The entire course was in a forest without any vehicles or spectators, and the only sounds you heard were the birds humming, the trees swaying and the footsteps of the runners.”
On mile 18, Nodalo says he heard someone yelling for help, so he sped up and found a runner on the ground, unresponsive. “I performed CPR,” he recalls. “When the ambulance arrived, I continued running and from then on the experience was surreal. I made it to the finish line realizing that finishing was not important to me anymore, but the journey was. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him, but he survived.”
For those who want to take up running as Nodalo did later in life, he says not to worry about your current fitness level. “If you have a pre-existing medical condition, let your doctor know you’re taking up running and ask for advice. Otherwise, listen to your body.”
For the news media: To talk with Dan Nodalo about his fitness journey for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.