Robert Mignosa will be running his 100th marathon when he takes on Huntington Beach's 18th annual Surf City Marathon on Feb. 2.
The 64-year-old Huntington Beach resident ran his first in 1964 but several years ago encountered a bump in the road. He was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 1995, and while the race already tests a person's physical and mental endurance, he has to be extra cautious about what he eats.
"I'll be looking for a bathroom real quick," he said laughing. "My son says it's an automatic cleaning device for me. So add that to the nerves and excitement about a race, and I'll be in the porta-potties a lot."
Mignosa has participated in the Surf City Marathon about seven times and has competed in marathons in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and San Antonio. He's even run in Dublin, Ireland, with his son.
He said he's a middle-of-the-pack runner and isn't looking to finish first in the races, but he is planning on finishing. His goal: five hours and 10 minutes.
"Our race is a no-lose sport," he said. "Everybody gets a medal at the end."
He said some of his enjoyment comes from soaking in the scenery, whether it's a sunrise in Hawaii or celebrities in downtown Los Angeles.
"Around the 22-mile mark, I stopped because Robin Williams was on the sideline and I shook his hand," Mignosa said about one LA Marathon he ran. "And a few years before that, Jennifer Garner was out there. You gotta pay attention to the scenery. It's sort of neat."
Mignosa will be leading a pack of runners from Team Challenge — a running program that helps raise money for the nonprofit Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
The program, started in 2007, helps people train for various marathons and triathlons, including those who have IBS or similar inflammatory bowel diseases, said Jessica Dean, spokeswoman for the organization and program.
"A lot of the participants that [Mignosa] has worked with in Team Challenge are Crohn's and colitis patients themselves," she said. "We do have to keep in mind when we're training to have bathrooms on site."
She added that though some sufferers are embarrassed to talk about their bowel conditions, the training program brings them together to support one another.
"We've had participants that have had their colon removed and they have an ostomy bag that they run and walk with," Dean said.
Mignosa has helped train runners and walkers in the program since it began. He likes he idea of giving back.
"I've always told my kids that you've got to go to church, you've got to go to school and you've got to give back," he said. "It's really neat to take people who've never run or walked in an endurance event and get them to finish. It really changes their lives and uplifts them."
Mignosa has various tips for running a marathon. He said keeping a steady pace and not pushing beyond your limit are keys to finishing.
He added that people have different ways of staying motivated. He's seen folks dragging a keg of beer during a race and once saw a man in Boston wearing a hat with a stick protruding from it, and attached at the end was a can of beer. Mignosa also had some quirky advice of his own.
"I tell my younger guys that if they hit a wall that they should find something to distract them," he said. "So I tell them to look for a cute butt and follow it, but make sure she's not moving too fast because you may be in trouble if you try and keep up."