It’s a clear day, the early morning fog shrinking away from the starting line. The sun just touches a deep blue ocean. Hundreds of runners stretch, jog in place or stand in hushed, huddled groups chatting.
The excitement is almost tangible. It’s time to start. The gun goes off and 20,000 feet pound the pavement on the California coastal highway. They’re off, jogging in unison with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean.
This image inspired Kim Singer Babiarz, research associate at the Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (CHP/PCOR), to run her first marathon. When a friend showed her the stretch of the CA-1 where the Big Sur International Marathon takes place, she was transfixed.
“This beautiful place, this amazing road, and there’s one time of the year when there’s no cars, it’s just runners out there,” she said to herself. “I’m going to do that someday.”
And she did.
Many people imagine marathons as 26.2 miles of pain and drudgery, but for some faculty and staff at Stanford Health Policy, running is a fun and rewarding way to de-stress, get some exercise and consort with peers.
“It’s a break from work, and you get to go do something outside,” said Laurence Baker, chair of Health Research and Policy (HRP). “The commitment helps my day have different activities and makes sure I don’t sit at the desk the whole day.”
These health researchers don’t just study how to improve health policy and live a healthy lifestyle. They practice what they preach by engaging in healthy activities every day.
At CHP/PCOR, balancing work with an active lifestyle started with the centers’ founding director, Alan Garber.
“I remember one of my first days here at PCOR,’ said Babiarz. “Somebody was telling me that they had a meeting — and this was probably with Alan — a meeting while running, and I was just like ‘What?! That’s amazing!’”
The large number of runners at Stanford Health Policy, several of whom run marathons, helps create “a culture of balanced life” according to Babiarz.
CHP/PCOR faculty and staff encourage each other to keep up their running regimens. Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, a CHP/PCOR core faculty member, associate professor of medicine and decision-science expert, began running marathons while counting on support from his colleagues: “Once I decided that I was going to do the thing, announcing it and then reporting on progress to a group of friends and peers was a very useful way to keep myself on track.”
For Eran Bendavid, also a core faculty member at CHP/PCOR and assistant professor of medicine who focuses on global health, “running is a social activity.” Running with friends and colleagues helps keep him motivated.