This is no casual run. Coleman's team is one of 300 from around the country that will make the challenging trip, which must be completed in roughly 30 hours. All have pledged thousands of dollars through entry fees and other contributions, with runners, transplant recipients, donor family members and others having generated $25 million in their promotion of organ donation needs. The Fat Boys, which includes six men and six women from 24 to 62 years old, are shelling out $300 each to join the event. Although the event is not competitive, the serious runners keep tabs on the results, with a Google team covering the 199 miles in 21 hours, 9 minutes last year. The Fat Boys, who admit to having fun along the way, including stopping during each leg of the run to down a Guinness beer, clocked in at 31 hours.
Here's how it works. The Fat Boys runners have leased two 15-passenger vans that they are loading today with sleeping bags and food. The first six runners in Van No. 1, starting with Coleman, will each run from 3 to 7 miles in relays. Van No 2 with the other six runners will meet up with the first group and then take its turn while the first group eats and rests. There are several major meeting points where all 300 teams rendezvous. The San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge is one, where Coleman's wife Peggy is on The Relay's volunteer staff. Another, at Cañada College on the Peninsula, has offered runners accommodations to relax. Some groups, including the Fat Boys, also rent out a couple of motel rooms along the way for more comfortable breaks, which is probably why it takes Coleman's team longer to reach Santa Cruz.
The Fat Boys team is also known as the rowdiest, carrying noisemakers and stickers to tag other teams they see on the run. Some of these "no fun" teams that put their running shoes to the pavement and never stop include Applied Biosystem's Yaks, The North Star's Better Than Naked, Shell Oil's Outta Gas and the Woodland Police Department's Pigs in Pursuit.
At 57, Coleman's not really fat, more on the stocky side, weighing 200 pounds. When his father died of heart problems in his 60s, Coleman decided early on to ward off high blood pressure and cholesterol problems by running. The Huffers & Puffers he started has become one of Pleasanton's best known runners' clubs. Meeting every Saturday at Fleet Feet on Main Street to begin their runs, many in the group also meet at Coleman's practice, Hands on Chiropractic, at Hopyard and Valley Avenue on Wednesday nights to run another 2 to 10 miles. Then, 12 years ago, Coleman and his friend Dave Christian, started the Fat Boys to participate in ORU's The Relay. The Relay also has walking teams for reduced runs of 125 miles, an option the "aging" Fat Boys team may consider in another year or two. But only after finishing off a few more Guinnesses on the Calistoga-Santa Cruz run.