By weekday, Kevin Gonzalez is your loyal U.S. Postal Service carrier, darting in and out of his truck, delivering catalogues, bills, brochures, letters and junk mail along his Florida route. By weekend, Gonzalez morphs into a globe-trotting, race-walking travel junkie, heel-striking his way anywhere and everywhere the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series travels.
During race weekend at the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, the birthplace of the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand, Gonzalez squeezed into the corrals with more than 25,000 other runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes. At the race’s Waterfront Park finish overlooking the San Diego Bay, Gonzalez was ready to break his own personalized finish-line tape.
This Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon was Gonzalez’s 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll event. The 43-year-old from Wellington, FL, just outside of West Palm Beach, wore bib number 100 to commemorate the achievement. All but two of his races have been half marathons.
“He’s as loyal as you could ever find,” says Competitor Group vice president Tracy Sundlun, “It’s an honor to have anybody believe in your brand, believe in your product to that degree.”
And to think Gonzalez nearly quit before he ever got started.
Gonzalez ran cross country at North Miami Beach High but never made it on the varsity team. By his senior year, competing with a deep crop of more talented runners, he didn’t try out for the team. But he kept running and by his early 20s was a regular on the duathlon circuit, clocking sub-21-minute 5Ks.
His weight then: 145 pounds.
Fast forward about 15 years to 2009. Gonzalez had been married and divorced, was working for the Postal Service and longed to rediscover the athlete within. By then, he weighed in at 225 pounds.
“I started running again, but wasn’t at the level I wanted to be,” he recalls.
With unrealistic expectations — and flab flopping around his waist — Gonzalez absorbed a physical and emotional beating. “My knees couldn’t take it,” he says. “It was tough on me. It wasn’t fun. I basically gave up.”
But a postal friend told him that the long-distance running culture had changed. You no longer had to feel ostracized if it took you longer than three hours to cover 26.2 miles. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had raised hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it by men and women walking 13.1 and 26.2 miles.
The postal friend said Gonzalez should consider walking a half marathon. He signed up for the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.
While he was training for the race, Gonzalez was inspired by George Clooney’s “Up In The Air” lead, a man who racked up more than one million air miles traveling for work. “I was going to focus on, instead of material things, on life experiences,” Gonzalez explains.
He didn’t tell family members about his plans, breaking the news to his father the day before leaving for Arizona. “I remember the look on his face and he told me, ‘You’re crazy,’” Gonzalez recalls.
Save for consuming too much water and losing minutes at a portable bathroom, which prevented him from breaking 3 hours (he finished in 3:06), Gonzalez savored his desert experience.
“You know what,” he told himself, “that wasn’t a bad day.”
Six weeks later, he signed up for Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, lopping 12 minutes off his time. The man was hooked on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. He walked all 14 races in the Series that year, capping it off on the Las Vegas Strip at Night, in November.
By Vegas, he says, “I sort of became a household name [with people at Competitor Group]. That’s when people started to notice me.”
Gonzalez also walked at Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first international race, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 15, 2012. From Edinburgh, he hopped on a train and raced seven days later in Madrid.
He remembers friendly Spanish spectators shouting “Animo! Animo!” “Faster! Faster!”
Now in his seventh year of following the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand and bands, Gonzalez has laced up his walking shoes in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lisbon, Portugal, Dublin, Montreal, Vancouver and Mexico City. Domestically, he has covered all four corners of the United States — Seattle in the northwest, San Diego in the southwest, Brooklyn in the northeast and Miami in the southeast — and all the races in between.
In 2015, Joe Harris of Virginia became the first person to complete 100 Rock ‘n’ Roll races. But according to Sundlun, Gonzalez one-ups Harris in one category: He’s the only person to have raced at every Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series venue.
Those “experiences” Gonzalez decided to chase instead of material goods? He toured the streets at Pike Place Market in Seattle, watching fishermen entertainingly toss their wares. He took in the Alamo in San Antonio, sipped on a Guinness in Dublin and stood bug-eyed near the top of the 108-story Willis Tower in Chicago. He has toured the Beatles Museum in Liverpool and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
How does a man see and walk the world on a postal carrier’s salary? Frugally. Having flown more than 1.4 million miles (nearly 50% of those miles accrued during the past seven years), Gonzalez knows how to work the air-miles game, and he stays at budget motels. It also helps that he’s single with no children.
“But I am available,” he says, notifying females who run/walk the Rock ‘n’ Roll circuit.
As for that guy who weighed 225 pounds when he embarked on this journey back in 2009? Gonzalez weighs a svelte 179 now. Sundlun adds, “He looks like an athlete.”