The first time Richard Aceves pinned a race bib to his shirt, it was because his mother asked him to help her prepare to run the Los Angeles Marathon.
“She asked if I’d be interested in practicing and training with her,” he recalled.
His mother, retired Senior Master Sgt. Silvia Aceves, was still serving and signed up to run the marathon as part of the 163rd Air Refueling Wing’s 2005 LA Marathon team. Richard Aceves was 23 at the time, and had been a member of the wing for four or five years, he said. He’s older now, wears the stripes of a Senior Master Sergeant, just as his mother did, and serves as the superintendent of operations and training for the 163rd Attack Wing’s Security Forces Squadron.
“I became interested [in running] and took it beyond just practicing and training with her,” he said.
He was able to join the wing’s 2005 team and joined his mother in the marathon field.
“This was my first time running in any kind of race,” he said. “Prior to that I did a lot of running on my own, but just a few miles here and there.”
Completing the 26.2-mile course as his first race ever was an eye opener for Richard.
“It was a big shock to me,” he said. “Because I did the marathon first, I didn’t immediately start jumping in to 5K’s or anything like that.”
Shortly after the birth of Richard’s first child, that all changed.
His wife was looking for a way to get back in shape after having their baby, and she asked if she could start running with him.
She did, and he set about signing the pair up to participate in the Los Angeles Angels’ Big A 5K in Anaheim.
Richard pushed the baby stroller as the couple ran around the Major League Baseball stadium grounds. His first running partner, mom Silvia, joined in, as did one of his brothers and his brother’s family.
“That’s when it started becoming a family affair,” Richard said, “and I started to enjoy the races a little bit more.”
Some of his most enjoyable races have been hosted by an unsuspecting place: Disneyland.
In 2015, he signed up to run Disney’s Avengers Half-Marathon and 10K and ran his way through the streets of Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland before wending his way into downtown Anaheim, through Angels Stadium, and back to a finish line at the Downtown Disney shopping district.
Running through the parks was fun, he said, and there was a lot of entertainment along the both race routes.
“They’re crowded, but outside of that, it’s so beautiful getting to run inside the park.”
When he returned to Disneyland for another run, Disney weekend this past September, he didn’t go alone.
“I was able to convince my wife to do it with me,” Richard said, “and I was also able to talk my mother into racing with us as well.”
When one of his uncles caught wind of the family running trip to the happiest place on Earth, he decided not to be left out.
Richard didn’t just talk them into running the Disneyland Half-Marathon. He talked each of his family members into taking it a step farther and completing the race’s “Dumbo Double Dare” challenge. The two-day challenge required participants to run a 10K event on Saturday and follow-up by running the 13.1 mile half marathon on Sunday. Those who completed both races at a certain pace were lauded with the Dumbo Double Dare challenge medal in addition to finisher medals from both races.
“For my wife and for my uncle, this was the first time they had ever done anything more than a 5K,” Richard said. “To slingshot into a 10K and a half marathon back to back was pretty cool for them.”
Now, the Aceves family is taking their running to yet another level.
In March, Richard, his mother, his uncle and his closest brother will join a field of over 25,000 athletes at Dodger Stadium and set off to complete the 26.2 mile Los Angeles Marathon. For Richard and Silvia, that would mean returning to where it all started for them. It will be his third and her fifth time running the event.
For Richard’s brother and uncle, the marathon is a first for each and is already the start of something new.
Richard’s brother, Robert, signed up to run as way to fight back against being borderline diabetic.
“That kind of kicked him into gear to watch his health a little more,” Richard said, “and he asked if he could join with us (in the marathon).”
In October, Richard’s brother joined the family runners and completed his first 5K – a mariachi-themed race in Montebello.
“It was just amazing to see that he accomplished that,” Richard said. “He was so stoked to be able to do it and do it in the company of his family.”
That event excited Robert enough to finish a marathon, Richard said.
“Last weekend they ran 12 miles and he (Robert) is on cue to run the marathon,” Richard said.
As the marathon date draws near, the Aceves family continues to train. They joined the Riverside Road Runners running club and are active in the local 5K, 10K, and half-marathon circuit.
“It’s become almost like a lifestyle for our family to just get out there,” Richard said.
He and his wife are already raising the family’s next generation of runners.
The couple has returned to Anaheim Stadium to run the Angels’ 5K every year since that first race together. In 2015, the couple stopped pushing the stroller around the course as son Michael – the couple’s oldest child -- was finally big enough to join them on the run.
“He was only four years old and he finished it,” Richard said.
“He’s started to become a little bit of a runner,” Richard said. “He joined the 100-mile club (at school), so we’re helping him with that.”
Mostly, he just wants to set a good example for all three of his children.
“We want to pass on to our children to live a healthy lifestyle,” Richard said. “We’re making an effort to provide a positive influence in their lives in regards to staying fit and healthy.”