To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Sanam Ross and, along with my husband, Dax, I am the captain of the Penny Pines 1 aid station at the San Diego 100 Endurance Race. It has come to my attention that Myriam Gurba and Geoff Cordner have stated that they had a bad experience, including racism directed toward them at our aid station this past June. In Myriam’s article, we are called racists and conflated with the Ku Klux Klan. I generally wouldn’t want to give any further attention to this article, but I feel that the personal attacks against me and my family warrant a response.
I would like to recount my interaction with Myriam and Geoff. Myriam recounts how as they entered the aid station, they were approached by volunteers who snapped “No crewing allowed at this station!” She goes on to say that as she approached the food table to throw her gum away, a white woman snapped at her, “DON’T TOUCH THE FOOD! IT’S FOR RUNNERS ONLY!”
As an immigrant and a woman of color, I am very sensitive to racism and in tune to when it is happening. I will not tolerate any racism, and would actively curtail any such behavior in our aid station.
I was the woman who approached the two as they walked into the aid station. Honestly, I don’t ever remember speaking with Myriam, as my whole interaction was with Geoff. I approached them, as I have with every other crew/family member that enters our aid station, and stated that there were no crew, friends or family members allowed at this aid station. I also explained that the next crew accessible aid station is 5 miles up the road. Geoff responded, “We’re not crew, we are tourists”, to which I responded, “ok, I just want you to know, if you do have a runner coming through, they could be penalized if you are here.” Geoff’s response was not something I am unfamiliar with. He seemed agitated, stepped toward me, raised his voice a little, and forcefully repeated, “We are tourists.” Being a petite woman of color, this is not the first time I have been challenged in this way by a man. I found his demeanor to be rude and threatening, but I did not care for a confrontation, so I responded, “ok, enjoy” and walked away.
I find Myriam’s claim that a white, blonde woman at the food table snapped at her a complete falsehood. This aid station is run by my family, and the food table specifically is managed exclusively by my daughter, who is most definitely not white, or blond, and her boyfriend (who is Hispanic). My role is to give medical support to the runners, and when not needed, I help my daughter at the food station. I do remember Myriam and Geoff sitting across from the food table, close to the runners’ drop bags (using chairs meant for tired runners). When their runner came through, they talked to her and took pictures with her. I didn’t say anything or confront the runner with a penalty because of the initial confrontational nature of Geoff. I was disappointed with their sense of entitlement and the attitude that the rules didn’t apply to them.
Over the past several years that we have run this aid station, we have had many instances where crew and family members have stopped by, and we have sent them to the next crew-accessible station. I have always taken the time to explain why they can’t be there and have never experienced any resistance to the rules of the race. Most people understand that the rules are in place in order to ensure access to trail users not involved with the race. If crew, friends, and family members of all the runners were able to use the very limited parking at Penny Pines in the middle of the day, there would be no remaining place for hikers, mountain bikers or tourists to park their vehicles.
My husband and I have tried to instill a love of the outdoors and of public lands in our family. We mountain bike, hike and trail run together and we feel a bond with everyone who we see enjoying themselves on the trail, especially during the San Diego 100. We would never deny food or hydration to any trail user. We gush over the rare PCT through-hikers that come through Penny Pines while we are there, and we fill them up with food and water before they continue their journey. We offer food and drinks to the mountain bikers and hikers that come through. We also tell them there will be runners coming up Noble Canyon and answer questions about alternate trails that might be less crowded on race day.
Our whole family volunteers for the San Diego 100 every year. The race organizers, the other volunteers, and the participants have been welcoming and inclusive of me and my family. There’s a reason we bring our kids to this race every year. We want them to see what a bunch of strangers can accomplish together, regardless of race, sex or orientation. We want them to see the selflessness on display at this race, and we especially want them to see that no matter how hard things can get, there are people who are willing to help you through your struggles. The fact that the race organizers, the sponsors, and me and my family have been accused of racism is beyond disappointing.