SACRAMENTO (30-Nov) -- When Emma Bates lines up for her marathon debut at the California International Marathon here on Sunday, she won't be wearing the colorful kit of a shoe company or running club like the rest of the elite women competing in what is also the annual USATF Marathon Championships. Instead, she'll wear a singlet which says "Run for Camp Fire Relief," trying to raise awareness --and money-- for the victims of the devastating wildfire which leveled the town of Paradise about 75 miles north of here and has so far claimed 88 lives.
PHOTO: Emma Bates in Downtown Sacramento in advance of the 2018 California International Marathon (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"Just keeping up with the news, I so heartbroken by all of the devastation which has occurred," Bates told Race Results Weekly in an interview at a downtown hotel here today. "I know that it's so close to where we're going to be competing, and this is something that I've been building towards the past 20 weeks. Putting it into perspective, these people are losing their homes, losing loved ones. It touched me so much to be this close to people that are going through this that I knew I had to do something."
Bates, 26, who won the NCAA 10,000m title for Boise State in 2014, has partnered with the California's Sierra Nevada Brewing Company which launched a beer, Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, which was first brewed on Giving Tuesday earlier this week. The company donated 100% of the sales to Camp Fire relief, and is asking other brewers around the country to make the same beer using donated ingredients so more relief money can be raised. The company says that over 1000 breweries have signed up to make the beer, according to their website (https://www.sierranevada.com/resilience-butte-county-proud-ipa).
"Having the platform that I do and the followers I have, I can use it for good," Bates explained. "This is something that I've always wanted to do going into running, to have a voice and speak up for those that don't, or need help. That's one of my big goals."
Also a big goal for Bates is winning Sunday's race. Had she run Chicago or New York, she said, she would be running primarily against the clock. It would have been satisfying to run a solid time and finish mid-pack, but she wanted the competitive experience of contending for the win, an idea which came into her head after she placed second at the USA 25-K Championships last May.
"I didn't really think about it until after I ran the 25-K champs," Bates said. "Then everyone was, like, you could be in contention to win the U.S. series, road racing series (USATF Road Circuit). That definitely solidified my decision to compete here for the U.S. Championship."
A staggering 99 women have entered the women's championships division of the race, according to race organizers. The top rivals for Bates should be Stephanie Bruce (2:29:35 PB), Janet Bawcom (2:29:45), Dot McMahan (2:31:48), Sarah Crouch (2:32:44), Maegan Krifchin (2:33:14) and Esther Atkins (2:l33:15). Bates is confident that she can take them on, but also played down slightly the weight of that potential accomplishment
"I know that winning this race isn't, like, you're not the best marathoner in the U.S.," Bates said, mentioning Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle as being at the top of the heap. She continued: "I know that. But, it gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I can win a marathon. Winning a race does something to your confidence level that nothing else will."
Bates is coached by her fiancee Kameron Ulmer, a UPS driver, and the couple live in an off-the-grid house about an hour's drive from Boise. She loves it in the mountains, she said, and doesn't mind their rugged lifestyle, a big contrast to the Boston area where she lived previously when she represented the Boston Athletic Association.
"We were trying to buy a house in this two-month period (last year), then we ended up buying a house without seeing it in the mountains of Boise," Bates said. "It's an off-grid house; it doesn't have water, it doesn't have electricity. It just runs off solar."
The house has plumbing, but it cannot yet be connected to their cistern until the house can be properly "skirted" to keep the exposed pipes from freezing in the winter. They have not yet found the right contractor to do that job, Bates said.
"We just have been bringing in water in jugs, and cleaning the dishes with water jugs, and also taking solar showers," Bates said, referring to a familiar, bag-like campground accessory which, when filled with water and left hanging in the sun gets warm. "It actually gets really hot."
Bates has logged most of her miles for this race with recently-crowned Canadian marathon champion Kinsey Middleton who made her marathon debut at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last month. Bates loves training with Middleton, she said, calling her the "the most positive person I've ever met in my life." Bates, Middlton and Ulmer are the original members of the Idaho Distance Project which Bates said has seven members now, including steeplechaser Marisa Howard.
"Kameron and I moved there knowing that we'd would want to start something eventually, but we didn't know how long it would take," Bates said. "We have just been collecting runners here and there who are all motivated and want to pursue their running careers, further."
Bates's performances throughout 2018 --which did not include a single track race-- indicate that she can run around 2:30 for the marathon, and possibly faster. She ran a 1:11:45 half-marathon personal best at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships last March in Valencia, Spain, equivalent to a 2:30:38 marathon by one popular conversion formula. Her 1:25:56 at the USA 25-K Championships last May is equivalent to a 2:30:27 marathon. With comfortably cold conditions and dry conditions predicted here for Sunday, she could dip under 2:30 with some luck.
Bates said that she has sworn off of the track and will dedicate herself to road running and the marathon in the years ahead.
"I've known for a very long time that I've wanted to run the marathon," Bates said. She added: "I've had a bad relationship with the track."