April 19 was supposed to be the culmination of a teenage love affair.
Corrin Juré had secured a date with thousands of others in the town of Bend, Ore.
After six years of falling in love with long-distance running, he was ready for the ultimate relationship challenge — the Bend Marathon.
Yes, 26.2 miles — the ultimate test of one’s affection for the grueling sport.
But like any young love, there was bound to be unforeseen obstacles.
This time, it came in the form of COVID-19, the ultimate destroyer of a good plan.
The race was off.
And Corrin was left with a choice: Find a new way to make the long-distance relationship work or move on with his life, always wondering “what if.”
Corrin was already five months into his training with longtime marathon runner and Lompoc firefighter, John Steffens.
There was no way he was giving up on what had started as his Senior Project at Cabrillo High School — but quickly turned into a passion project that left Mr. Steffens and Corrin’s entire family in awe.
There were other areas of Southern California that he could take advantage of, normal marathon routes.
But Corrin has always held a sense of pride about home, tucked away in Vandenberg Village, population 6,500.
As Corrin put his head together with Mr. Steffens, the latter wondered out loud how far it was from the village to Jalama Beach — knowing that Corrin also had an affinity for the Pacific Ocean.
So, Mr. Steffens took the short ride — for exactly 26 miles.
“I couldn’t help but laugh, it was like it was meant to be,” Mr. Steffens said.
There was one caveat — the course was absolutely brutal, featuring steep climbs, massive drop-offs and terrain not necessarily meant to be run upon.
Corrin didn’t care, it worked for him.
Mr. Steffens, who has run more than 20 marathons, likened it to a back-to-back he has done in his running career — doing the Boston to Big Sur, which features doing the Boston Marathon followed by the Big Sur Marathon just six days later. The latter is known as the hilliest marathon on the West Coast.
“The run to Jalama is on par with that two-marathon combo, that’s how hard this run was,” Mr. Steffens said.
But there was no quit in Corrin, who simply trained harder, impressing Mr. Steffens along the way, including the duo’s final training run of 24 miles.
As they set out, the weather featured scattered clouds, but as they moved along, the rain clouds continued to roll in. Eventually, they were running in a complete downpour. But, Corrin didn’t want to pack it in and call it a day — he accepted the challenge and pushed back.
Over the final two miles of the training run, he actually dropped time to under 7-minute miles.
“He just has it,” Mr. Steffens said. “Is he the fastest? Maybe not. But he definitely has a lot of drive, and that makes him a great competitor. That’s what you want in a runner.”
On Sunday, Corrin and Mr. Steffens set out on their journey from Cabrillo High school, down H Street to Highway 1, eventually to hop on Jalama Road all the way to the sandy beaches of Jalama.
Along the way, there were dozens of well-wishers holding signs, encouraging both runners — “I can tell you, I didn’t think about running once. All of those people helped that,” Corrin quipped.
There was Corrin’s former cross-country coach, Steve Anderson, who has known him since seventh grade at Vandenberg Middle School, just there in case he needed a word of encouragement.
“He’s driven, I’m not surprised that he wanted to finish what he started,” Mr. Anderson said. “A lot of time and effort went into it, and this course was physically demanding. I’m sure he felt it, but he put all of that time in, that work and he completed his task. He had such great support behind him all the way, but he also gave us all an escape. I wanted to thank him for that.”
Prior to meeting Mr. Anderson and acquiring the “running bug,” as Mr. Anderson described it, Corrin was your typical young athlete, putting on any and every uniform possible in an attempt to find his passion.
Football, soccer, rugby — “I kind of liked rugby because it was so different around here,” Corrin said — you name it, he tried it.
But running seems to have been his destiny, as Mr. Steffens was also once his baseball coach some 11 years earlier and recognized the small world that led him to help Corrin find his real passion.
“To be able to help guide him on this journey, it gave me great joy,” said Mr. Steffens, who works alongside Corrin’s father, Gus, with the Lompoc Fire Department. “I see a lot of myself in him, with the way he trains and the friends that he keeps. He’s a quiet kid with a core group of friends. I was the exact same way.
“I didn’t have a mentor to help me learn how to do them, so I’m just happy I could help him find his way.”
As a senior at Cabrillo, it’s not lost on Corrin that 13 years of hard work will end in a unique fashion — no graduation ceremony, no tossing hats into the air and no track season.
But he refuses to look at it as a negative.
“I know so many people that look at it as a bad thing, but I look at it positively,” Corrin said. “We’ll always be the Class of 2020, the COVID-19 year. That makes us special.
“Plus, I’ll have a college graduation that I’ll walk for. We can all celebrate then.”
Corrin’s mother, Khrystal, is following his lead, even if her heart aches a bit to not see her first-born walk across the stage.
“I’m following his lead, if he’s ok, then I’m ok,” Khrystal said, also a Cabrillo High grad. “When I was in school, the proms, the graduations, those really meant a lot to me, as I was very social. But Corrin is so determined, he knows this isn’t his final step.”
The discipline that running has given him is something that he plans to utilize moving forward, choosing to attend Hancock College for a year before moving on to the Air Force, where he will follow a passion for aviation.
“I’m not the kind of kid that has the brains to get him in somewhere or the money, and the Air Force can help me with a bit of that,” Corrin said. “I like the way they go about helping build what you want to become, that appeals to me.”
With the marathon now checked off his young to-do list, he has a long-term goal that should keep him focused.
“I want to own a small plane.”
That should help with any long-distance issues he might have in the future.