For a man with a marathon PR of 3 hours, 39 minutes, Jose Zambrano’s time at Saturday’s St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon was not impressive. Try 6 hours, 22 minutes and 46 seconds.
Zambrano, though, was not consumed by the clock. A fireman for the city of El Segundo, Calif., Zambrano ran the race in his 45-pound fire suit. It has become a routine for Zambrano, who since February 2014 has run 26 marathons, all but the PR while weighed down in his fireman’s protective gear.
At first, Zambrano wore his gear to raise awareness for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. But last September, after a friend’s 15-year-old daughter died of cancer, Zambrano’s motivation turned more personal. He’s now raising money and awareness for St. Jude, which covers the cost for families with children battling cancer. Annissa Guerrero, the 15-year-old girl who died, was a St. Jude patient.
Sitting down in a white folding chair minutes after crossing the finish line in Nashville, Zambrano, who has a 15-year-old daughter, began to cry when telling Guerrero’s story.
“You always want the best for your children,” he said. “I can’t imagine losing my daughter. I felt heartbroken.”
Zambrano vows to run 10-12 more marathons this year for St. Jude, including the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in June.
In Nashville, Zambrano’s 26.2-mile journey was made more difficult by the early morning rain, then humidity. Asked what pushes him in the trying conditions, he said, “It’s the cause, just knowing the little pain I go through is nothing compared to the pain family members and their children are going through (battling cancer).”