Run into Marco Martinez often enough and more than likely he’ll be decked out in a UCLA sweater, a hat or some other branded attire. He has an evident passion for its teams when the conversation steers that way, often by his own enthusiasm and sometimes with an accompanying 8 clap.
Marco, a Special Olympics Southern California athlete who primarily competes in bowling these days, is also an avid runner in his spare time and never misses a chance to represent the UCLA side in the annual We Run the City 5K/10K run/walk that puts a fundraising twist on the crosstown UCLA/USC rivalry. This year’s event may be virtual and spread out between Sept. 26 and Oct. 10, but that doesn’t mean Marco is any less excited.
“Anyone who’s interested in doing We Run the City, you’ll be inspired,” said Marco, who plans on completing a 5K.
Participants who sign up will run or walk a 5K or 10K (or any other distance) on their own time. Registration starts at $30 and runners will receive an official We Run the City finisher’s medal, a bib number and event-branded mask. For $50, registrants will receive all benefits plus a 2020 Special Olympics Torch Run T-shirt. Runners will record their results on the official website’s mileage tracker.
Other participation options include donating in honor of either UCLA or USC, a specific participant or a team. Offline cash or check donations are also accepted.
Looking back, Marco has fond memories of the event each year, including the “exciting, new people” and fellow SOSC athletes the event brings him in contact with—and a new medal to add to his collection each year doesn’t hurt, either.
While he’s quick to assert his allegiance and fondness for all things UCLA and its campus, Marco keeps the rivalry friendly and acknowledges USC’s equal dedication to what’s most important: supporting the organization, its athletes and the fight for inclusion.
“I give USC their props because they, too, are a big-time supporter of Special Olympics,” he said.
“The reason why I love Special Olympics is just the joy of seeing the athletes go out there and give it their best and show the world that people like us with intellectual disabilities can do sports.”
As he prepares himself for his upcoming run, Marco also has considered jumping back into competing in Special Olympics track and field events.
“I used to take up track and field, but after a few years I ended up stopping,” he said. “A few people who know me in Special Olympics encourage me to come back to be with the track and field team. Maybe next year I might go back. I miss the joy of running.”
To help Marco raise money for his fellow athletes, visit his event fundraising page.