The runner on the Fullerton trail keeps a relaxed but steady pace as he makes his way up and over short, modest hills and lengthy stretches of mostly flat sections of smooth, hardened dirt and occasional patches of woodchips.
On a recent weekday morning, Amador Nunez greets the steady flow of hikers, fellow runners and pedestrians he comes across during his four-mile run on the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt Trail, which in some sections is lined by landscaped gardens, citrus trees and high palms.
It’s a beautiful morning to run, and Nunez drinks it all in.
It’s an approach he always takes to running, which in September will culminate with a milestone race: his 50th half-marathon (13.1 miles) in as many states.
For the veteran Anaheim PD officer currently assigned to the Resort Team, completing the 50-half-marathons-in-50-states feat will be an achievement he certainly will be proud of, but nothing to rest on.
Up next: 50 marathons (26.2 miles) in 50 states.
“I used to worry about my (finish) time all the time, but veteran runners told me if I wanted to complete this (50 half-marathons in 50 states), I needed to slow down, enjoy it and not worry about my time — just finish,” Nunez says.
The strategy is working.
And on Sept. 23, if all goes as planned, Nunez, 55, will complete his milestone race: The Morgantown Half-Marathon in West Virginia.
Two years ago, Nunez scratched No. 48 off his list by completing a half-marathon in Alaska, and in April he completed No. 49 in Hawaii.
Nunez is a member of the 50 States Half Marathon Club, and will be recognized in October at a ceremony in New Mexico.
Although Nunez ran cross-country at Anaheim High School, and had to run as part of his physical training when he served as a Marine from 1981 to 1985, he never took up running seriously until 2004.
The 24-year veteran of the APD, who prior to that spent eight years at the LAPD, took to the pavement to shed some weight and hasn’t looked back. Nunez, an avid power weightlifter who stands 5 feet 7 inches, had gotten up to 225 pounds. Now he’s down to a solid 200.
Nunez’s running journey all started when he ran a 15k (9 miles) with members of the Loma Linda Lopers, a running club.
“Oh, this is fun!” Nunez thought of the 15k race.
Soon after that, Nunez was flipping through Competitor magazine while eating at Rubio’s with his wife.
“Oh hey, look,” he told her. “There’s a half-marathon in Arizona, and they give medals.“
Then Nunez thought:
I’ll try it, why not?
And so he completed his first 13.1-mile race, the Rock ’N’ Roll Half-Marathon, in Tempe, Ariz., in 2004 in 1:58.
Then Nunez completed the Rock ’N’ Roll Half-Marathon in San Diego the same year, following by the same race in La Vegas.
He had three states under his belt.
Then he thought:
Why not do a half-marathon in every state?
His wife thought he was crazy, but supported him.
And since then, they’ve enjoyed seeing a lot of the U.S. on trips scheduled after his half-marathons, sometimes joined by their four daughters.
“This country is very, very beautiful,” says Nunez, who runs his official races wearing a kilt. “The Midwest is just unbelievably gorgeous.”
While running his official races, Nunez makes sure to slow down and appreciate the scenery. He takes pictures.
Now, Nunez typically finishes his half-marathons between 2:30 and 2:40. An injury in 2008 to his right meniscus that required orthoscopic surgery ended his obsession with running his races as fast as possible.
Nunez’s first half-marathon, at 1:58, remains his PR (personal record).
Many of the half-marathons Nunez runs raise many for law enforcement-related charities.
Along the way, he’s made friends all over the country.
And during the races, he loves to encourage struggling runners. And sometimes, he races while pushing his 3-year-old grandchild in a stroller.
Nunez’s favorite half-marathon probably was the Covered Bridges race in Vermont.
“It was gorgeous,” Nunez says.
His favorite marathon?
Not content to just run, Nunez has ventured into triathlons, which in addition to running includes swimming and biking.
Last year, he completed his first full Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon) in Arizona, and he has a tattoo on his calf to prove it. His finish time was around 16:30.
Running clears Nunez’s head, and is a great way for him to decompress from his often-stressful job of police officer.
And he plans to keep running after he retires in two years.
To date, Nunez has completed 28 marathons (typically finishing in 5:30 to 6 hours) in 14 states and 151 half-marathons in 49 states.
He will take his time working on his 50-marathons-in-50-states quest, maybe doing five a year — with his last one planned for Hawaii.
Nunez trains by running about 20 miles a week and cycling 35 to 70 miles a week.
His advice to other runners who want to achieve what he’s achieving?
“Don’t worry about your time, and find a nutrition plan that works for you,” he says.
For Nunez, who runs the Surf City Marathon every year, it’s Gatorade and Infinit, an electrolyte drink.
And the critical mindset of enjoying each step of the journey.