Three days after celebrating his 70th birthday, Clovis native Ed Borjas will make his marathon debut at the Two Cities Marathon.
A runner ever since his wife of 44 years, Mona, convinced him to run a 5-kilometer run (about 3.1 miles) in Disneyland six years ago, Borjas is no stranger in the local running community.
That is because he is a member of the Bad News Runners club, where every member gets a nickname that includes ‘Bear’ as part of their name. Thus, ‘Papa Bear’ (who actually wanted to show up at Disneyland for the park’s attractions) will lace up his running shoes and attempt his first-ever 26.2-mile run.
But, the U.S. Air Force veteran has a purpose for his marathon debut.
Younger brother Ernie Borjas, 65, was diagnosed with cancer three months ago.
“He’ll be on my mind,” said Borjas on a recent morning, looking like he could still fit into his Air Force uniform. “I’ll be running for him on Sunday.”
Borjas will be running the marathon without his wife or two daughters, veteran runners Linda and Yvonne Borjas, because they will be running one of the two half-marathon races that are part of Sunday’s events.
I just want to finish. I’m not out to break any records.
Ed ‘Papa Bear’ Borjas
“There will be no distraction. I’ll just focus,” said Borjas, who retired as a furniture craftsman following 40 years making cabinets.
“It’s got to be this year,” said Borjas about tackling a marathon. “You don’t know what’s coming. I could sprain an ankle or something and not be able to do it.”
His family is confident that Borjas is ready for the marathon. He has trained up to 22 miles (taking 4 hours and 50 minutes), and has no time goal in mind.
“I just want to finish,” said the 1966 graduate of Clovis High School. “I’m not out to break any records.”
His daughter Yvonne has provided plenty of instructions, like increasing his mileage every week and making sure he ices his legs and elevates them after each run.
So far, so good.
Borjas has come a long way since his Disneyland race. He thought 3.1 miles would be nothing.
“Every time there was a turn, I kept thinking the finish line would be right there,” said Borjas. “Man, that was a long way!”
Last year, he ran the Two Cities Half-Marathon “and felt good.”
He will be pleased if he finishes Sunday’s run in less than 5½ hours.
It will be special for Borjas to run the course as it winds through Clovis streets. After signing up with the Air Force as a jet mechanic, he was sent to Spain and worked his way up to sergeant before heading to North Carolina.
That was where he found himself in two feet of snow.
“I’m not a cold person,” he told his commanding officer, and asked for a transfer elsewhere.
Instead, he volunteered for Vietnam because “at least it would be warm there.”
Upon his release from the Air Force, he returned to Clovis and looked for a job where he could work with his hands. The closest jobs for jet mechanics was in San Francisco and Los Ángeles.
“I’ve been away from home for 3½ years and I’m not moving,” was his attitude.
So, he took a job as a data transcriber with the Internal Revenue Service. To his surprise, he was one of only two men surrounded by dozens and dozens of female co-workers. One of those female data transcribers was Mona.
He left the job after two years “because I couldn’t see myself doing that for 25 years.”
That’s when he began to work in a cabinet-making shop, eventually working at several places and moving up to supervisor and design manager.
“I never regretted any of these decisions,” said Borjas.
Borjas studied electronics at Fresno City College and planned to continue his college studies until the day his father, an immigrant from Guanajuato, México, said he couldn’t afford to pay college expenses for Borjas and an older brother (Alfred, who died two years ago).
His father worked as a foreman at a local winery for 35 years.
That’s when Borjas decided joining the Air Force would suit him better than getting drafted by the Army.