For this week’s spotlight, we talked to community members and siblings, Chris and Marisa Martinez, who fly in from across the country to run the marathon with Beit T’Shuvah.
Darrah: Can you guys tell me a little about yourselves and your connection to Beit T’Shuvah?
Chris: Both of us were raised in L.A., in the South Bay. I’m an alumnus of Beit T’Shuvah. I went through the house in 2012 and participated in the marathon program for the first three years of my recovery before I moved out to the East Coast.
This is my first time running since I moved away. My journey to Beit T’Shuvah involves many years of substance use disorder, a lot of family hardship, and a lot of really tough, challenging years surrounding that. Before Beit T’Shuvah, I was incarcerated and looking to find a new way of living. I had a friend who had been through the program who advised me to advocate for myself and get into Beit T’Shuvah.
Marisa: Well my connection to Beit T’Shuvah is Chris, when he was getting sober.
I was living in L.A. and Chris had just gotten out of prison, our relationship wasn’t great—we didn’t really talk much while he was incarcerated, and I had a lot of trust issues.
So we were able to finally rebuild our relationship together, and I was able to kind of see him go through the phases of his recovery. I would go to services sometimes on Fridays. It was the first time I’d ever really been involved in him getting sober. And then I ran the marathon with Chris. We were able to do something that would be good for me, and be good for Chris. And we got to do it together.
Darrah: Chris, how has your life changed since graduating Beit T’Shuvah?
Chris: My life has changed dramatically. My whole experience going through Beit T’Shuvah was a really positive one.
There were things that really stuck for me, and I took it very seriously. The new approach to living spilled over into other elements of my life. I got into a relationship with another alumni of Beit T’Shuvah; we’re now married and have two kids. I went back to school at Loyola Marymount University. I completed my addiction studies there. I became a certified counselor. I own and operate an adolescent and young adult extended care today. And on top of all those external things, I would say that internally, I have an ability to have some real peace and an appreciation and gratitude for this life that has been afforded to me.
Darrah: As I understand it, you guys both fly in to participate in the marathon?
Marisa: I live in Ohio. I’m a student right now. I was really seeking to do something more tangible with my life. And Leslie had reached out to me and I reached out to Chris about it. Going back to do the marathon keeps me motivated and thinking outside myself.
It’s just so wild how far we’ve come and how much of that program l give credit to, because I don’t know that my relationship to my brother would be the same if it went a different way. Chris is one of my favorite people in the world. And so the fact that I get to give back to Beit T’Shuvah for what it’s given to my family.
Chris: I think that I would echo a lot of the same things that Marisa said. When I was in Los Angeles over the holidays in December, I went out to the team to go run and it turned out that a close childhood friend of mine was at Beit T’Shuvah. And it was like, wow, that’s pretty incredible. There’s people that I went through Beit T’Shuvah with almost eight years ago that were back in the house. And I know that those beds come at a cost.
And still, like a small, simple way that I can really demonstrate my appreciation for the opportunities that I was given is by sharing that with somebody else and making a conscious effort to give back. And to remember that this is a place where I made my beginning, and wanting to have that be available for the next person that walks through the door in this really sacred place, holds a deep place in my heart.
And then the truth is that the only reason I’m actually doing the marathon is because of Marisa. I pretty much conceded that I would never do it again, because it’s a very challenging and I would even say painful experience. On the other side of pain is a tremendous amount of reward and accomplishment, but it’s a big feat to accomplish. I have a busy life and making a commitment to do it definitely required the push from my baby sister saying, “let’s do this! Let’s fund-raise some money for Beit T’Shuvah!” She totally sold me on the idea.
Darrah: It’s really amazing that you guys do that together. What is it like crossing the finish line?
Marisa: Well, last time crossing the finish line was really rewarding and emotional, but also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You can’t even really comprehend what your body or your mind are doing at that moment. But I think this year crossing the finish line will be a little different. I’ve been training in Ohio in the winter here. And so to go outside on a Sunday when it’s twelve degrees out and run a half marathon with my boyfriend—the fact that I’m enrolling him to even run a half marathon in the winter is super gnarly.
Chris: The feeling of crossing the finish line is pretty incredible. It’s the feeling of release. It’s freedom. It’s accomplishment. It’s joy. It’s pain. It’s a real mixed bag of feelings.
I definitely know that I’ve probably cried at mile 19 at least two different years. Seeing family rooting for you, friends and community rooting for you. After a long history of a lot of pain and trauma, to be at this place where people are cheering for you to complete this amazing thing. And then I relate to Marisa about the adversities of training at this point in our lives.
I broke a toe in January; I had a high ankle sprain. I don’t think that I’m in prime running condition. I’m actually relatively fragile right now. But I’m confident that like the two of us are going to get to the finish line because we have each other.
Darrah: Speaking of that, when the race gets hard and you feel like you’re at your limit and you can’t do it anymore, what keeps you going?
Marisa: I think it changes throughout the race. I think like having the team there is inspiring, like you were on your own and suddenly you see someone else in a Beit T’Shuvah shirt, and it kind of re-energizes you to keep going. Chris and I will be running with each other even if it slows me down. [Laughs] Kidding.
Chris: I think of it like the daily reprieve that we are offered in recovery or the stay of execution that is being a recovered man and how that can be so moment to moment. And the metaphor of how recovery and a marathon can be totally the same thing. Of course, stuff gets hard when you’re sober, just like when you’re out there on race day, it gets hard. And I know that, for me, sometimes I literally will look directly in front of my feet and just think about — sounds so cliche, — but the next step in the race. Just concentrating on each step or thinking about the next mile marker when you’re in the last six miles and kind of breaking it down, boiling it down. Just one milestone at a time.
At mile twenty one, I feel like I’m dead. Okay. Let’s get to mile twenty two. I’m already dead. But I still run. I would say my experience is, once you get to that place conversation no longer helps. The cheering on the side of the road is like not actually helping. The music that I’m listening to has not been working for ten miles. It’s such a ‘mind’ thing. Or I would even say it’s bigger than the mind. I would say it’s the spirit. And I would say it’s like digging within and just driving from that stuff that you don’t even know that you have.
Darrah: Kind of a silly question, but do you guys have any like sibling rivalry or competitiveness about running together, any kind of friendly competition or anything?
Marisa: Well, Chris definitely pulled me through on the last marathon. I mean, the whole training. And I think now I’m going to take the lead. I don’t think really we’re super competitive, but we both want to carry each other along and we won’t let each other stop.
Chris: I just think about how Marisa and I actually didn’t have a lot of sibling rivalry. If anything, I always felt like a certain responsibility in our relationship throughout our life to be someone she could rely on. And I fell short of that ideal for a number of years. And it’s so interesting how our relationship today is so shoulder to shoulder. I know that I can rely on her and she knows that she can rely on me. And so on race day, it’s like there’s zero competition, it’s like “yo I’m going to need you at some point.”
Marisa: Yeah. We don’t run with the team every week. So it’s great having someone else when you are having thoughts like “we’ll never finish”, “we should call an uber”, that one of us is going to be like: “no, we’re not!” It’s getting so close to the marathon. It’s nice to kind of talk about it. Chris and I don’t talk about the marathon all the time together. It’s more like “have you run today?” And that’s like the end of the conversation. So it’s nice to have some questions to get us thinking about what our purpose is.
Darrah: Yeah. I haven’t really talked in depth to any of the runners really about how it feels. But it’s super interesting because it’s something that I would find really hard personally.
Chris: Totally. My wife was the marathon coordinator for a number of years.
Chris: And when I ran, like, she was like, I’ll never run a marathon. And somehow I convinced her to. And she probably would have agreed with you. And then she completed a marathon. So maybe Darrah is going to run it next year. I don’t know.
Darrah: That’s what some people told me. Like, “You’d be surprised what you’re capable of.”
Marisa: Totally. Yeah. And going out with a team every weekend is so fun. It’s my favorite thing to be like, all right… No matter how late I was up on Saturday, whenever I’m doing, I get to see everyone on Sunday and we’re all going to be in it together, whether it’s three miles or twenty miles.
If you would like to donate to the Beit T’Shuvah Running For Recovery marathon team go to: