Race SLO Community Ambassador: Stephan Cugnier

Our Race SLO ambassadors share their stories about motivation, determination, endurance and growth to inspire us and remind us that we are on this journey together.

In 2010, I decided to quit my job in France.

I had been working for ten years as the editor in chief of an important newspaper and my life was absorbed by my work. I even slept once a week in my office and spent too little time with my family. I wanted to see my kids growing and be more supportive of my wife’s career, so I made a radical decision. I was 39 and found myself at home 24 hours a day.

I enjoyed my first months as a house dad, but I also felt that I needed something else. I was very competitive in my work, so I was looking for something with a bit of a challenge. I’ve always been in love with sports, playing basketball in my younger years at a semi-professional level, then playing tennis for quite some time.

I was living 10 miles from Paris, near an empty field and a forest, so I started to run. At first, I was pathetic. I wasn’t able to do more than 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) in 20 minutes. I was totally red, huffing and puffing, and my body was so sore the days after that I considered quitting to do something else.

But I have my pride, so I trained more, and quickly made some progress. I joined an amateur running group with some friends and neighbors, and I was hooked.

Six months later, I moved to Santa Barbara. The perfect weather conditions allowed me to run more often, but without any training plan or watch to keep track of the time and distance. I wanted to listen to my body and find my own natural pace.

Finally, two years after my first awful workout, I signed up for a 10K in April 2012. I managed to cross the finish line in 47 minutes. Not a great time, but it made me realize that I was able to do more. And I did.

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Since that first race, I ran more than forty of them, in Europe and in the United States, every distance: mile, 3K, 5K, 4 miles, 10 miles, half-marathon. I had some good results and some bad ones. I made some mistakes along the way, then struggled with a plantar fasciitis for eight months at the beginning of 2014. But I’m still running.

I also had the chance to meet some great people, some fantastic runners and the “camaraderie” is something I have never experienced in other sports. That’s what makes running so special – I don’t “fight” the other runners, I admire them and I’m inspired by their performances.

So far, my greatest satisfaction was when I officially became a marathoner. It was on May 1st, in San Luis Obispo. Even if my time wasn’t great, I enjoyed every minute of it. The course was gorgeous, the volunteers amazing and the organization more than great. I cannot wait to do it again, this time with the secret goal (not so secret anymore!) to get my BQ.

Running is now a big part of my life. I can’t describe how good it is to put my running shoes on every day. I’m not a great runner, but I enjoy the feeling and the experience, even on a bad day or a bad workout. Moreover, I love to compete… against myself. I don’t run to be better than anyone. I run to be a better me.

Favorites races: SLO Marathon and “Paris-Versailles 10 Miler” in France (you start under the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the finish line is in front of the Palace of Versailles! http://www.parisversailles.com/site/en/)

Stephan Cugnier

Santa Barbara, CA


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Established in 2008 to bring world class sporting events to the beautiful California Central Coast, the Race SLO endurance event portfolio includes the inaugural California Warrior Experience (Spring 2018), 7th SLO Marathon + Half, Relays and 5K plus Kids Races (Spring 2018), 3rd SLO Ultra trail races (late Summer 2018) and the recently added US Trail Running Conference (late Summer 2018).

The Race SLO Team produces both fun & competitive running events year-round to create human connection through fitness and raise funds for local nonprofits: Jack’s Helping Hand, The Land Conservancy of SLO, Team Red, White & Blue, Grizzly Youth Academy and SLO County Parks.

Our mission: Through human experiences, we create social & economic impact to share our legacy.