Monday, December 7, 2009

Thunder Road: Her first half-marathon

There are some very fast runners in the Charlotte area. There are also people from these parts who have overcome tremendous obstacles and/or beaten incredible odds to become the runners they are today.

But most of those participating in the Thunder Road Marathon on Saturday are everyday folks of average ability -- and many have never before attempted the 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile distances.

Today through Thursday, we salute these first-timers.

Jen Kushner, 26, Matthews
Occupation: Account Executive-Group Sales, for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Competing in: Saturday's half-marathon.
Been running since: February 2009.
Longest race to date: 10K.
Longest training run: 10 miles.
Goal for Saturday's race: 1) Finish with a smile; 2) time of 2:32 for half-marathon.

Q. Why are you doing this?
My friend Keara mentioned that she had a goal of running a half-marathon in 2009. She had never been a runner, and neither had I, so I told her that I would try with her. We figured we would start with a 5K and see if we liked it. Started off on the "Couch to 5K" plan, which is VERY beginner. For awhile, I didn't think I'd actually even get to one mile! Two 5Ks, an 8K and a 10K later, we are still going, and loving it! [Jen, at left in the photo below, is planning to run Saturday's half-marathon with Keara Anderson, also pictured.]

Q. Who's been your biggest source of motivation?
The most motivating figure for me is someone I do not even know. I read a story online of a woman who is 86 years old and running marathons. She did not start running until she was 64! ... After reading her story, what excuse did I have? I am in good health and in my mid-20s, and was being shown up by someone in her 80s. She definitely is a big motivator for me.

Q. What was your most significant training breakthrough?
With the "Couch to 5K" plan, the first several weeks consist of intervals of walking and jogging/running, but only a few minutes of running at a time. One day, I was following the plan as usual, and then I wound up getting my first "runner's high," and it felt awesome. I don't really know how far or long I ran, because I just went with it. I think that was the first time I really understood why people love running so much.

Q. Do you have a favorite inspirational quote you've turned to during your training?
Keara found a great quote that we may put on shirts for the big day. It is, "The hardest part about today was getting here." I look forward to lining up for the race to start, and knowing that months of work had all led to that moment.

Q. Are you more nervous, or are you more excited, about race day?
At this point, I am more excited. So much about the race is an unknown to me. I am looking forward to being part of such a big race, seeing the crowds, seeing what bands they have along the way ... just the whole overall experience. And of course, being able to say I've run a half-marathon.

Q. Can you say yet whether there'll be any marathons in your future?
I hadn't thought that far ahead, but then during a long run last week I started day-dreaming about a marathon. Now is probably the best time in my life to try it, since I am already halfway there. We'll see how the half goes first!

Nearly 2,000 marathoners and more than 4,000 half-marathoners are expected to run Thunder Road on Saturday. For details on the race, click here.


Anonymous said...

Good luck on your first half marathon. It is a tremendous accomplishment getting this far in such a short time. Don't forget to enjoy the "total" running experience. Take in the scenery, say hello to fellow funners, thank volenteers and say hello to people cheering along the race. Remember to look up as you cross the finish line so your picture will catch you looking up and not down at your watch. Make sure you have a picture taken with your running partner after the finish in front of the Thunder Road wallpaper with your finishing medals and smiles on!