On March 29, the Carlsbad 5000 will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Six runners have participated in the previous 29 races. In the coming weeks, Competitor will profile the six athletes who have never failed to reach the Carlsbad 5000 starting line.
Athletically, first and foremost, Michelle Wilson is a soccer player. She plays right wing and sweeper, the first an offensive position, sprinting down the field, arcing passes across the pitch, hoping to feed a teammate for a goal or punch one in the net herself. Sweepers do not score. They prevent scoring. They are rugged, unafraid of contact, fearful of nothing, except their team surrendering a goal.
Both positions require a passion for running, which Wilson possesses.
“I love to run,” says the 57-year-old Wilson, who works as a senior administrative assistant for Scripps Research.
It is the love of running that led Wilson to register for the first Carlsbad 5000 in 1986. Running improved her soccer. Soccer maximized her running. Five years at the Carlsbad 5000 became 10. Ten morphed into 15, 15 to 20.
“It became a little accomplishment I wanted to stick with,” says Wilson. “To me, the Carlsbad 5000 signifies that spring has arrived.”
There is much the woman likes about the race. She’s a dancer and favors the taste of a cold beer on a Sunday morning after logging 3.1 miles, so she can be found in the post-race beer garden, swinging and swaying with the entertainment.
She lives in Carlsbad and takes pride that the city she calls home has hosted the civic treasure for three decades. Like most anyone, she feeds off nature and it’s difficult to beat the view of the Pacific Ocean, waves crashing to your right or left, depending upon which direction you’re running along Carlsbad Boulevard. And like any runner who seriously laces up the racing flats, her respect for the professionals, creating all that clamoring when sprinting toward the finish descending Carlsbad Village Drive, is off the charts.
“I watched it grow from the time there were 500 people running to now when there are thousands,” Wilson says.
PHOTOS: 2014 Carlsbad 5000
Like anyone with a running streak, there were times when events caused the streak to be jeopardized. She broke the little toe on her right foot once (playing soccer, naturally) and could not really run. She hobbled through the 5K.
In August 2005, she tore a knee ligament. (You need not ask what sport caused the injury.) By April 2006, she had sufficiently healed to barely muddle through the race.
She remembers the year when a hail storm bombarded the women’s race. Men recall it fondly, too, seeing as how it created a virtual wet T-shirt contest.
“It was crazy,” recalls Wilson. “You could see it coming off the coast. The hail was hitting hard off my sunglasses.”
Wilson, you may gather, is the competitive type. The event awards a special medal to the top 250 finishers in each race. If Wilson hung all those medals around her neck for a significant period of time she would soon be sitting in a chiropractor’s office.
Instead, the medals are draped across the hook of a hanger, attached to her bedroom door handle. Opening and closing the door creates an audible ruckus, which you’d expect from so many clanking medals. Her collection of T-shirts are stored in a plastic tub in the garage. She recently viewed the T-shirts, paying special attention to the Year 1, 1986, long-sleeve gray model.
“Even though it’s in crappy shape I don’t want to get rid of it,” Wilson says. “There’s sentimental value.”
Wilson was asked what it would take for her Carlsbad streak to end.
“Probably something pretty critical, like a family member needing me to take care of them. Some major emergency,” she says. “That, or somebody kidnapping me.”
Turning serious, she adds, “I hope they never stop the race.”