Theresa Fragoso had just three months of preparation to run the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon, and her longest run before that was 14 miles.
Instead of panicking, she prayed.
“On race morning, I put 26.2 miles in my head,” Fragoso said, recalling the day she was sandwiched between some 23,000 other people at the Dodger Stadium start line. .
Cheered on by the crowd cheering on the runners, she remembers making “shut up and know that I am God” her mantra as she began to set her pace.
“That’s what finally got me across the finish line that day. It was really a spiritual experience rather than a race.
When she’s not showing up, Fragoso works for the Catholic Education Foundation of Los Angeles (CEF) as operations director. And so, when it came to asking other CEF members to be part of a team to raise money for tuition assistance for local Catholic school students, she couldn’t just speak, or even walk.
Fragoso ran the race, and more.
In early March 2020, when the LA Marathon was held days before the initial COVID-19 shutdown, she returned to run the half marathon. This year she is cutting the distance for the sake of her 5-year-old granddaughter, who will be accompanying her for the 5km the day before this year’s marathon which will take place on Sunday March 20.
“I want to introduce him to the idea of giving back to the community,” said Fragoso, who has been with CEF for 24 years and is a parishioner at St. Philomena Church in Carson.
To celebrate CEF’s 35th anniversary, the 60-strong race team aims to set another kind of record for the 2022 event: raising $100,000 in pledges.
They know it won’t be easy, as they and their benefactors are on shorter rest: Due to the pandemic, the 2021 LA Marathon has been postponed from its usual location from March to November. This event attracted only 13,000 runners in total and less than a dozen CEF participants.
In 2019, the team’s inaugural year, Fragoso joined CEF Engagement and Stewardship Manager Juan Munoz and Senior Program Officer Andrew Garcia to lead the charge. They found 17 Catholic teachers, administrators, parents and employees and raised more than $65,000 for tuition. They matched that amount a year later.
The team still includes Cathedral High President Martin Farfan, Bishop Conaty High School Vice-Principal Jackie Lucero, as well as Salesian High President Alex Chacon and his wife.
The team operates with an explicit mission statement: to empower and inspire Ambassadors to educate, fundraise and raise awareness of the importance of Catholic education.
“It was hard to ask others to participate without committing ourselves, but I know my team and our inspiration to run was CEF’s mission and the children, schools and communities we serve,” Fragoso said.
“We understand and know firsthand the sacrifices many families make to send their children to a Catholic school and why a Catholic school education is so important to them. It’s inspiring and we run for them and for their future.
Each participant of the CEF Racing Team creates a profile on the organization website and sets up their own pledge in hopes of inspiring family and friends to give generously.
Munoz ran the 2019 LA Marathon in just over five hours. He plans to participate more this year as a coach to train the new participants of the group. He will also be manning the health and fitness booth for CEF to further raise awareness and support the team.
His hope is that more than ten riders from the team will be able to participate in one of the three events. The 2022 LA Marathon will use last year’s route which still begins at Dodger Stadium but now ends at the Avenue of the Stars in Century City, instead of the Santa Monica Pier.
“It’s a bit difficult to ask again for loyal donors who helped us four months ago,” admitted Munoz. “But we will get there.”
Online registration for the 2022 event closes March 11. For more information call 213-637-7480 or email [email protected].