Reyna on comeback trail

Six years ago, Sarah Reyna was preparing to run the Long Beach International City Marathon as part of celebrating her 40th birthday.

While crossing Pacific Coast Highway on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach, one swift accident spoiled those plans and made life excruciatingly tough for the next several years.

"I was training on PCH," said Reyna, a Corona del Mar resident. "There was a car approaching the intersection. The guy who had a red light was turning right, and he floored it. I swear he looked right at me, but he later said he didn't see me. He ran right into me, I rolled onto the hood."

Fortunately, Reyna survived, but her left knee and tibia were both broken. Needless to say, she would not be running any marathons — doctors at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach said she likely wouldn't run — for at least three years.

"I had surgery on my knee," Reyna said. "They inserted screws in me."

But Reyna, a married mother of two who works as a Social Security Administration lawyer, never really took her eyes off her goal of one day running a full marathon like Sunday's 26-mile race.

Beginning this Sunday morning at Huntington Beach, starting at approximately 6:30 a.m., Reyna looks to complete that long-term goal, in the Surf City USA Marathon. The beautiful oceanfront course is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, set for April 16. Reyna's goal for her time is 3 hours, 55 minutes or faster, which would qualify her for Boston.

"If the planets align, I'll be able to run under four hours," Reyna said. "My orthopedic surgeon back then said, 'You might never run again'. He said I'd be lucky to do a 12-minute mile … I went on for three years, I'd run a little for two or three miles before my knee would hurt."

About three years ago, a group of mothers that Reyna was a part of got her into triathlons — the swimming and cycling helped, and eventually she got her running legs back. Reyna began to run 5-kilometer and 10K races in September 2010.

Reyna's most recent half-marathon was in November at the Big Sur Marathon in Monterey, where she ran a pretty respectable time of 1:57.21, which was among the top half of the final times.

"I'm kind of obsessing over it," Reyna said of running the Surf City Marathon. "I'm so happy I'm able to run it."

Reyna credited Carolyn Grabiel, her friend who has run in more than 15 marathons, with pushing her in her training for this marathon. Reyna has aimed to run at a nine-minute, 20-second pace for 16 miles, following the Hanson-Brooks distance project.

"If I do well at all, it's because of her," Reyna said. "She's been getting me up at 5:30 a.m. It's all felt pretty good. I don't think the knee has held me back."

As for Sunday, Reyna is anticipating an emotional comeback.

"I've played it through my head several times," Reyna said. "I've run half-marathons before. I feel it's twice as exhausting. I feel I might cry. I might pass out. I feel like every race has been my best."

A great comeback story has a great chance at making Sunday even better.

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