Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And Charlotte's Runner of the Year is ...

There are several very good runners in and around Charlotte who have done lots of great things to make the running community in this city better, faster, stronger.

So when you sit down to figure out who’s most deserving of recognition, the first thing your head does … is explode. It’s just very hard – even after weighing all the evidence and giving dozens of different people long, careful thought – to narrow down the list, to pick a certain individual over another.

Last year, I picked one person as my Runner of the Year and then named two honorable mentions. This year, in a celebration of wishy-washiness, I’ve selected five honorable mentions (encompassing eight people; read on to see how I pulled off that trick), and decided to go with two people in the top spot.

It’s not a huge stretch, though, to lump Larry and Kathy Seavers together. As one nominator put it, “they really are a package deal.”

Even those who don’t personally know the husband-and-wife team have probably noticed them out at local races because – well, frankly, it’s because Larry and Kathy are obviously older, and you just don’t see that many older runners out there (Larry is 66; Kathy turned 65 last Saturday). At least, not older runners who are as fast, as consistent, as prolific, as friendly, as social, as supportive, and as upbeat as they are.

Photo by Bill Weimer

Larry – instantly recognizable in his dark sunglasses and a Boston Red Sox ballcap that covers a shock of white hair – ran 33 races in 2010, winning his age group 13 times and posting times that are quick for any age. (He ran a 23:56 at the Cupid’s Cup 5k last February, for example, and – most recently – a 1:58:48 at the Kiawah Island Half Marathon). Kathy, meanwhile, completed 18 races and got age-group wins in 14 of them, including at the Santa Scramble 5k in Concord last month (24:30).

In almost any other year, Kathy and Larry would have run a roughly equal number of races. But Kathy began the year recovering from a femoral fracture she suffered in October 2009. She slowly eased back into running, but while doing hill work last winter, she sustained another injury: An MRI revealed that she had four bones broken internally in her hip area, a result of osteopenia and osteoporosis.

While others her age might have decided to retire from the sport, Kathy just waited patiently for the healing process to take place. In early May, she decided that she wanted to try to compete in the Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series. Three of the 10 series races had already been run, and she would have to miss one of the remaining seven. She needed to run six to qualify for awards … and she did just that. She walked the Great Harvest Bread Co. 5k in 54:04 and did the remaining five GPx races, improving with each one. Despite playing catch-up all season, she finished third in the rankings for her age group.

One nominator wrote: “Most people with broken bones would be sitting on the couch watching TV. Not Kathy Seavers. As soon as she could walk again, she was back on the 5k scene this past spring. She couldn't even run yet, but was crossing the finish line and clearly having fun. And those few races she actually had to miss? I wonder how sick Larry got of answering, ‘Where’s Kathy?’”

Both Larry and Kathy are active members of the Charlotte Running Club and the Charlotte Track & Triathlon Club. They volunteer at road races and triathlons, which is something all of us should do but most of us don’t. They helped Lois’ Lodge – which provides support for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies – become a beneficiary of Run For Your Life’s Run For Your Cause race last summer. And they are amazing cheerleaders.

“When you’re at one of Larry and Kathy’s races, you can count on seeing them making the rounds before the race, and then doing it again long after everyone’s finished,” a nominator wrote. “They don’t hop in their car and go. They wait to congratulate everyone, and ask they how they are doing. You can tell that people are always excited to see them. But this sort of support isn’t limited to the starting line and the post-race party. Spend some time trolling the running community on Facebook. Whether it’s a ‘congratulations/good luck on your out-of-town marathon’ or a ‘hope that knee gets better,’ Larry and Kathy are keeping up and genuinely caring about the goals, accomplishments and roadblocks of their running friends.”

(To put this all into a little bit of context, my 67-year-old father stopped running 25 years ago and doesn’t “get” Facebook.)

Says another Larry and Kathy fan: “They are the most supportive couple ever. If they are out of town for two weeks, they still find the time to look up results from the past two weekends and to congratulate their fellow running friends on their accomplishments. Also, they are pretty much what every runner should aspire to be; they love running just as much as they did when they ran their first steps who knows how many years ago.”

(Kathy began running in 1983 after she quit smoking; Larry took up the sport around 1985. They also, by the way, love cheering for each other. Says Kathy of her husband of nearly 42 years: “Larry is my best supporter. Always looking out for me, always encouraging me. He gets behind me in all the races at the start to make sure I don’t trip or that no one bumps into me.”)

I’m not saying there aren’t others out there who are ultra-supportive, or fast for their age, or adept at using Facebook. What I am saying is this: If you get to your mid-60s and you’re still as vocal and as passionate and as positive about the sport as Larry and Kathy Seavers are, if you’re still running dozens of races a year and finishing with a smile on your face every time, if you make an effort to befriend the plodders as well as the elites … please, drop me a note and I’ll make sure you get an award, too.

Simply put, their love of the sport is pure and without agenda.

Says Larry: “Kathy loves running because it is great exercise and fun. She loves racing because she gets to see great friends and meets new ones every week. … For me, a race each week is like some who enjoy meeting their foursome to play golf each Saturday. It’s an opportunity to meet friends who you enjoy, and to compete against them and others. In racing, you see a different course each week. Each event benefits a great cause. There is wonderful food, prizes and great friendship. What could be better?”

Honorable Mentions

Ashley Armistead and Lori Klingman
In less than three years, the duo behind Let Me Run – sometimes referred to as “Girls on the Run for boys” – have turned a dream of empowering boys through running into a reality. The program started as one fledgling after-school club in the spring of 2008; today, Armistead (founder and president) and Klingman (vice president) are projecting that 400 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade boys will participate next spring. Wrote one nominator: “Ashley and Lori have devoted countless hours to teaching boys about having confidence in themselves, experiencing the joy of setting goals and accomplishing them, and embracing healthy lifestyles.” Clearly, it’s an idea whose time has come: The nonprofit organization is fielding calls or e-mails almost daily from people inquiring about how to get a program in their school. In the coming year, Klingman says they’ll be developing an expansion plan that will help Let Me Run go nationwide. Both women are strong runners, too: Klingman, 37, ran a 3:59:40 at the Marine Corps Marathon in October (“It was most definitely not my best marathon, but I enjoyed the journey more than I ever had in the past”), while Armistead, 41, nailed a Boston-qualifying time of 3:50:09 this month. She did it at Thunder Road in Charlotte, where a band of boisterous Let Me Run boys manned an unforgettable water stop at Mile 14.

Armistead and Klingman
Bevin Jett
With lots of tender loving care, Jett has in just three short years helped the Charlotte Runners Meetup Group grow from a handful of people into the biggest running group in Charlotte – so big that today she enlists the help of 10 assistant organizers. Together they organize a wide variety of regular group runs, and Jett personally hosts the city’s largest weekly group run, a Thursday-night event that routinely draws several dozen runners (the growth of the event prompted a recent move from tiny Common Market in Plaza Midwood to The Philosopher’s Stone in Elizabeth). Wrote one nominator: “She injects more fun into a simple weekly four-mile run than I ever thought possible.” Another noted that “along with the regular weekly runs, Bevin will sprinkle in themed runs during the year for a change of pace – for example, we had over 100 runners in costume for the Halloween run, with prizes going to different categories … and none of them were for fast people.” The 48-year-old mother of two teenagers led contingents of Meetup members at events like Miles of Mooresville, the 24 Hours of Booty cycling event, and the Marine Corps Marathon; she also qualified for Boston 2012 with a 3:52:13 at Thunder Road. Yet none of this has gone to her head. Says Jett: “Even today I still find other runners a bit intimidating. They always look so much cooler, faster, and skinnier than me. … I can only wonder what it must be like for someone just starting out and trying to run, especially someone who maybe has always been told all his or her life for one reason or another that they can’t run. I don’t want to be the runner who scares people off when I tell them I have run a marathon; I want to have them believing they can run a marathon, too.”

Photo by Kai Linn
Chad Randolph
With his Davidson Area Running Team, the 45-year-old has inspired and unified both serious and casual runners in Davidson (and the surrounding areas) in a way in which no other suburban city has been able to. A strong Facebook presence and cool-looking team T-shirts have helped, but the group’s success primarily is the result of Randolph’s ambassadorship. Says one nominator: “He organizes people to go to races, and then drives them there and back. He blogs running. He takes runners – no matter how fast or slow – and encourages them and sticks with them on DART runs to just talk running.” You might also see him filling in from time to time at Run For Your Life, or at small marathons and ultras around the region (this year he ran the Iron Horse 100k in Florahome, Fla., the Gator Trail 50k in Wilmington, the Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50-Miler, and the Ridge to Bridge Marathon, among others). A stress fracture has him laid up at the moment, but he still showed up at the Elf 5K in Mt. Mourne Saturday on crutches, and cheered in runners in the freezing cold until the last one finished. Oh, and did we mention he's completed numerous loong races – including a marathon and that 50k – in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers?

Tim Rhodes
Simply put, “Tim is the reason we have a racing series and a local marathon,” says one nominator. The 49-year-old owner of Run For Your Life also ran some excellent races, including a 3:07:51 at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa last month and a 4:50:16 at the Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman earlier in the fall. (He’ll do his first full Ironman, in Wisconsin, next year.) But it’s the behind-the-scenes work that landed him on this list. Under his direction, Run For Your Life made charitable contributions of more than $100,000 once again, providing aid to everything from a homeless men’s ministry to a local community school for impoverished girls. He and his wife Robin are closely involved with Samaritan’s Feet, donating approximately 100 pairs of shoes per week to needy children in Western Africa. And this fall, Rhodes was given the Ubuntu Award for “outstanding leadership, commitment, and service to their local community” by Balega, a sock company with a rich South African Heritage. (Ubuntu is an African concept, “a humanistic philosophy focusing on people’s allegiance and relationship to others,” according to Balega.) When asked for 2010 personal highlights, Rhodes mentions his son Grant, who made all-conference as a cross-country star at Mallard Creek High School this year; and his two new adopted children, Rebecca (now 8) and Eli (3), both from Ethiopia. His message for the running community in Charlotte? “Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to do something I absolutely love.”

Aaron Linz, Caitlin Chrisman and Jay Holder
They’re the three people most responsible for the success of the Charlotte Running Club, which now claims more than 400 members – and at 37, 25 and 27, they’re also the youngest people on this list. A case could certainly be made for each of them as individuals. In October, Chrisman qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon with a 2:41:52 at the Twin Cities Marathon – her first-ever 26.2 – cementing her status as the area’s top female runner after also posting wins at shorter distances throughout the year. Linz “does a lot of work behind the scenes to continue the growth of the club, while juggling work, family and training,” as one nominator points out; he’s also well-known for riding his bike up and down the street during major local races while screaming himself hoarse in support of, well, everyone. Holder spends hours putting together what has to be the most informative and best-looking running club newsletter in the Carolinas, if not the entire Southeast. (Linz and Holder both set PRs at the marathon distance in Boston, then did it again at the Richmond Marathon in November, with marks of 2:41:32 and 2:40:28, respectively). But the three of them together have made the club tick, putting good people in the right positions on the board of directors; using their own money to front the costs for things like the official club tees worn by many members at local races; staging successful fundraisers (a “Run for Haiti” early in the year raised more than $1,500 for the Red Cross) and wild social events; and – when their competitive fires are ignited – fielding incredibly fast and talented teams at races like the Blue Ridge Relay (mixed division winners) and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (mixed competition winners here, too). The long-term goal? Says Linz: “We want the club to take on a life of its own so that 10 years from now, when Jay is a big-time TV producer in New York, and Caitlin is living on a vegan farm in California, and I'm attempting to break all Larry Seavers' age-group times, we will be proud of what we helped start.” They appear to be on the right track.

Holder, Chrisman and Linz

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The story of my 2010 Thunder Road Marathon

Splits often tell a story, and can shed plenty of light on how someone's marathon went. So, here are my splits from last Saturday's Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, according to my Garmin GPS watch:

Mile 1: 8:00
Mile 2: 8:03
Mile 3: 7:50
Mile 4: 7:53
Mile 5: 7:55
Mile 6 7:40
Mile 7: 7:54
Mile 8: 7:58
Mile 9: 7:51
Mile 10: 7:52
Mile 11: 7:51
Mile 12: 7:58
Mile 13: 8:00
Mile 14: 7:57
Mile 15: 7:53
Mile 16: 7:52
Mile 17: 7:53
Mile 18: 7:51
Mile 19: 7:59
Mile 20: 7:50
Mile 21: 7:53
Mile 22: 7:54
Mile 23: 7:50
Mile 24: 7:52
Mile 25: 7:56
Mile 26: 7:39
Last 0.2 miles: 1:30

But that, obviously, is not the whole story.

A simple race recap certainly tells a story, and can shed plenty of light on how someone's marathon went. So, here is a simple race recap that describes how I did and felt Saturday:

I made it to the start line in plenty of time -- unlike last year, when I had trouble squeezing into the corral at the last minute -- and felt comfortable practically from the moment I broke into full stride, thanks to well-rested legs and good, cold running weather (just the way I like it). I was able to lock into a pace that hovered a few seconds under 8:00, hitting the 10k split at 49:37 and the half at 1:44:23, according to the official timing company. At about Mile 18, I still felt reasonably good and decided that if I could hold pace for a few more miles, I'd have broken through any wall and would easily come in under my goal of 3:30. (In my experience, if you haven't hit it by Mile 22, you're home-free.) At Mile 20, I started counting people as I passed them.

At Mile 22, I felt tired but not depleted and my legs felt heavier but not trashed, so I increased my effort level to compensate and everything evened out so I could stay in the 7:50s pace-wise. At Mile 25, I decided to pick up the pace as much as I could, and when the finish line came into sight with a little less than 400 meters to go, I tried to start kicking. I immediately had to back off when I felt a tiny bit of rippling in my right hamstring, and then -- two seconds later -- in my right calf. I didn't want to have to pull up with a full cramp in front of the largest crowd on the course, so I gave up on any hope of a sprint and settled for a hard gallop. Right before crossing, I counted my 40th passing victim; meanwhile, only two runners had overtaken me in the final 6.2 miles. Official time: 3:28:16.

But that's not the whole story either. The whole story that I have to tell is, unfortunately, a mess. It's a jumble of thoughts and images and moments and people, but I'm hoping if I spit them all out here, there'll be at least one or two good takeaways and you won't feel like you've wasted your time reading this.

The first thing I need to say is that Thunder Road is not a great event. Race director Tim Rhodes is a very smart guy with a huge passion for the sport, the course is challenging but fair, and given that there's a pretty sizable half marathon and a huge 5k going on on the same morning, it's a pretty well-organized race. But the city doesn't embrace the event as it should, media coverage is almost non-existent, and -- minor quibble -- the "Thunder Road" theme seems to be more of an afterthought every year. (Remember in 2008 when there were race cars at certain mile markers? I also was surprised that we didn't see a band along the route until after the half marathoners had split off around Mile 12, despite the fact that live music is often touted in TR advertising.)

At the same time, I believe in this race. I will run it every year I am able. It's not great, no, but it's certainly good -- and I am confident it will get better. Furthermore, I don't think I've ever had more fun during a race than I did last Saturday, and I think locals who refuse to run Thunder Road because they feel it's too lame or too hilly are missing out in a big way. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Charlotte has one of the closest-knit running communities of any major U.S. city. I have no factual basis, no leg to stand on in making this claim, but unless other cities have someone doing what we're doing on Facebook, I think it's a pretty safe bet. I can't take full credit. I just post stuff, then sit back and watch you guys turn it into something. But the social network we've created is unifying individuals and groups and factions in a way that is truly mind-blowing. I hear from runners all the time who've struck up friendships with people after being connected via comments on my page.

This is why Thunder Road is so much fun, and this is why I would encourage anyone who feels connected to the Charlotte running community to run it (or come out and cheer for it) every single year. The New York City Marathon -- which I've run, and it is a great event -- has a huge amount of diversity and jaw-droppingly large crowds. But while they're energizing, they can also be overwhelming. And in my book, quality beats quantity.

On Saturday, I could hear Charlotte Running Club chairman Aaron Linz screaming himself hoarse as he madly pedaled his bike past us on Fourth Street -- "YEAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! GO, GO, GO, GO!! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME! WOOOOOOOO!!!!" (not a direct quote, but you get the idea). Having sufficiently warmed up, I could toss my Under Armour cap to Jade Laughlin at the turn onto Colville after Mile 2, where she was cheering with Kati Robertson, Emily Barrett and Dalida Amalean -- and I could look down and see where the women had written my name and the names of many others in big chalky letters on the asphalt.

I could spot my amazing family -- my beautiful wife Amanda and my adorable daughter Joie -- from hundreds of yards away (this still gives me a lump in my throat every time, after six marathons); they were sitting on the corner of 35th and The Plaza, between Miles 21 and 22, waiting to give me high-fives and to wish me well. I could raise my arms triumphantly at the sight of Bob Heck standing in the back of his truck at about 24.5, shooting photos and blasting hip-hop out of his totally '80s boom box, which I swear is bigger than him.

Familiar faces were EVERYWHERE. There's Denise Derkowski and Holly Townsend. There's Cheryl Ryan. There's Clinton Fisher. Kara Pettie with her fiance, Adam Vincent; Kara jumps in and runs a little with me. Hey, it's Karen Graboski with her little girl! Dan Barker. Audra Hausser. Dalida, Emily, Kati and Jade again. Denise and Holly again, with Denise's sister Diane (high fives!). Mark Ulrich with his kid. Tracy Rabon. My boss, Mike Weinstein ... then again a mile later, with his wife Kathy. Audra again. Troy Lee. Stephanie Sawyer. Kara jumps in again (she's there helping several runners get over imposing Hawthorne Hill in Mile 24). Allison Vail. Dan Barker again. Tim Friederichs in his fatigues! Peter Asciutto, owner of Vac & Dash in Albemarle, shouting way louder than I realized he was capable. And I think that's Jason Blackwood over there -- we've never met in person, but that's gotta be him...

This list would be twice as long if I had a better memory. But this is the difference between a race like New York and your hometown race.

(By the way: Some of you may not believe this, but plenty of runners out there know as many people as I do. If you don't? Make a concerted effort to become a part of this great running community, and by the time Thunder Road is back, on Nov. 12, 2011, you too can have an experience like this. It's easier than it sounds -- I swear. A good running group and some Facebook maintenance and upkeep go a looong way.)

Now a few shout-outs to some people who ran with me.

Katie Hines. We'd never met before, but had become Facebook friends after adopting the same marathon training plans in the fall (me for Ridge to Bridge, her for Outer Banks). For Saturday, she indicated she wanted to run the half at about the same pace I hoped to run the full at. Katie stayed with me till the cutoff at Mile 12, and then -- since she was trying to get in 20 for the morning -- rejoined me around Mile 23. She kept me on an incredibly even keel for the first 12 (go back and look at those splits), and provided some great motivation in the late going by saying I looked great even though it was probably a lie. She ran the half in 1:43:58.

Mark Ippolito. Mark and I met at the Davidson half this past fall after being running pen pals for awhile. We've since crossed paths at several races, including Ridge to Bridge, where he BQ'd with a 3:20:33 (six minutes faster than my time there). On Saturday, he came up from behind Katie and I at about Mile 10. He'd said beforehand that he also was shooting for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:30, but based on his command performance at R2B, I figured he might creep ahead of me and eventually ride off into the sunset. But for the next 16 miles, he never left my side. It's amazing what having someone to run with can do for your psyche, even if there's not much talking going on. There was limited chatter, mostly just checking in on each other, or remarking about the weather or a spectator. But to have someone there who knows your pain and with whom there's an equal give and take ... it's just different and in some ways a little better, I suspect, than having a pacer. (Mark and I crossed together, although his chip time was a few seconds slower at 3:28:23.)

That said, there were some great pacers out there. I particularly want to thank Stan Austin and Bjorn Norman, a pair of three-hour marathoners who helped pace the 3:30 group Saturday and -- although they came in a little ahead of schedule -- were incredibly locked in at a 7:57 pace that didn't seem to waver by even a second either way. First saw Stan on Providence Road, and spotted Bjorn in Southend; I never once let them get more than about 100 meters ahead of me after that. Both guys were exceedingly positive and gave me a big final boost by encouraging me to take off when we were about to make the final turn off of McDowell onto MLK Jr. Boulevard. (No, I didn't count them among the 40 people I passed between Mile 20 and the finish. Though if you say it's OK, I will...)

Finally, I mentioned Kara Pettie jumped in at a couple of points, once on Queens and again on Hawthorne. Many of you know her as the store manager at Run For Your Life-University ... I heard she helped out several others in a similar manner, offering GUs or asking if there was anything else we needed. This goes above and beyond.

Me with Katie, Mark, and Kara on Hawthorne.

It was just a great day, full of great people.

I believe the runner's high is real. I don't get there very often, but I got there Saturday during the race. I did things that morning I look back at and go, "What was I thinking?" A goofy running dance for the ladies on Morehead. An exaggerated, leaping high five for my wife and daughter. A geeky "I'm-shooting-at-you-with-two-pistols" things (with some high knee lifts thrown in, the whole thing looking like a college basketball player would do if they'd just dunked on someone) when I saw my boss and his wife among the throng at the makeshift frat house right before Mile 24. More leaping high fives for Bob Heck and Ridge to Bridge buddy Troy Lee on Hawthorne. At other moments, upon seeing friends, I'd raise, outstretch and bob my arms, making me appear as though I was a baby hoping to be picked up.

All stuff I've never done in a marathon before with such enthusiasm, or with so big a smile. (Why waste the energy, right?) But all stuff I would love, love, LOVE to do again.

Anyway, that right there is the whole story ... or as close as I can get.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

They'll never forget their first time

For most people, it starts out so innocently.

They run one mile. Then two. Then three. Then five.

But at some point, the scales tip. In fact, they don’t so much tip as they get smashed to bits with a sledgehammer.

And a declaration is made: “I want to run 26.2 miles” … also known as a marathon.

On Saturday morning, Charlotte’s sixth annual Thunder Road Marathon will mint hundreds of first-timers, people who a year ago probably never could have dreamed they’d travel so far so fast.

Why are they taking on this challenge? Four local women and four area men make a run at an explanation.

Stacey Richards
35, Charlotte, nonprofit professional
“I began running about 14 months ago for a cheap way – so I thought – to lose weight. My motivation was to shed 20 pounds from my 5-foot-3 frame. Turns out running came to me at the most difficult time in my life emotionally and spiritually. It was a wonderful outlet that helped me push through sorrow, pain and struggles over this past year. It brought a strong sense of accomplishment and a feeling that anything is possible.”

Kevin Ballantine
31, Concord, risk manager at Ally Financial
“I started running in 2009 and quickly worked up to a half marathon, then decided to run the marathon this year thanks to endless peer pressure from my running friends. When I first broached the subject with my wife, she wasn’t a fan because of the perceived time commitment and risk of injury. But I enlisted the help of a local running coach, who created a plan that enabled me to train hard, but still balance work and family time with my wife and two little kids.”

Lauren Barker
28, Denver, biology department assistant at Davidson College
“I’ve been a runner for the past eight years, and I set one goal for 2010: to complete a marathon. God has given me the gift of good health, the ability to run, and a supportive family who will be on the roads cheering me on. I look forward to finally checking this distance off my list.”

Tom Crespo
44, Charlotte, IT supervisor for Time Warner Cable
“I got back into running after years away primarily to lose weight. As time went by, I was able to run further and faster, and I started running races. The more I competed, the more I loved the thrill of competition. Late last year, something in my head told me I should run a marathon. I’ve spent most of 2010 thinking, talking and working towards this goal – just ask my family, friends and coworkers.”

Sheena Beck
26, Concord, treatment coordinator for an orthodontic office
“I remember coming to Charlotte four years ago and seeing the billboard for the Thunder Road Marathon. I thought, ‘Wow, who seriously wants to run 26 miles?’ Then I picked up running April 2009 and a year later I was making plans to do just that. Why? I wanted to have a goal to work towards. To do something that not everyone can or would want to do to get into shape. And to place that ‘26.2’ sticker on my car.”

Robert Harriss
38, Gastonia, purchasing and procurement support desk supervisor for Foodbuy
“After a few years of not doing much of anything exercise-wise, I decided to start running in large part to lead a healthier life. I started slow and did a 5k, then a 10k, and over the past three years I’ve run six half marathons. Now six years later, I’m 100 pounds lighter.”

Lorraine Garden
37, Matthews, business manager for JACK!E Studios
“A couple years ago, I was running five miles max. In January 2009, my fitness instructor at the YMCA asked our class what we wanted to accomplish in the New Year. I said – out loud – that I wanted to run longer distance. Say something out loud and it really holds you accountable. I’ve since run three half marathons and this year added a full marathon to my bucket list. … I’m very proud to be setting a healthy example for my kids and teaching them about accomplishing goals.”

Jamaar Valentine
27, Charlotte, hospitality worker
“A couple years ago, I returned to running after realizing I was more than 20 pounds overweight. Moving to Charlotte, I started tuning down my exhausting social life and started letting this hobby become a passion. Now I’m dating a serious runner who encourages and supports my obsession. I know Thunder Road is only the beginning for me.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tips for Thunder Road marathoners

Whether you're running your first marathon on Saturday or your 50th, here are some good reminders for race day, from Keith Anderson, a board-certified primary care sports medicine physician who sees patients at Cotswold Medical Clinic and is on the Presbyterian Sports Medicine team:

  • Do NOT eat/drink/wear/do things on race day that you did not try during training. For instance, you should wear the same pair of shoes that you have been training in on race day. Never wear a brand-new pair of shoes on race day.
  • Get plenty of sleep -- not just the night before the event, but also during the nights leading up to the race.
  • Dress appropriately. If it is cold, wear layers -- especially a hat and gloves.
  • Pain that eases after warming up is generally benign. However, you should not continue running if your pain worsens. Similarly, you should not continue running if you are limping or changing your gait. You may worsen your existing injury or create another more-severe injury.
And here are some good nutrition/hydration tips, from Mark Hoesten, a registered dietitian at Presbyterian Novant Heart & Wellness who also leads Presbyterian Sports Medicine's nutrition services:
  • Drink 2 cups of fluid before the race.
  • Drink 5 to 10 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during the race.
  • Grab cups of water offered to you at water stops. Drink at least five swallows.
  • Don’t rely on thirst to tell you to hydrate. If you are thirsty, you already dehydrated.
  • Take your weight before and after the race. Drink 3 cups of fluid for ever pound lost.
  • After the race is over, continue to drink fluids (water, sports drinks, and/or juice products are all great choices).
  • As soon as possible (ideally within 15 minutes), grab something nutritious to eat to replace your depleted glycogen stores. Research indicates that to avoid muscle fatigue the next day, carbohydrates should be eaten as soon as possible following a marathon. Include a lean protein with that carbohydrate, at about a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio (to enhance absorption).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Queens runner wins 3rd NCAA title

Michael Crouch, a senior at Queens, won the NCAA Division II individual cross country championship when he out-kicked Columbus State's Meshack Koyioki on a snow covered course in Louisville, Ky.

Crouch finished the 10,000-meter course in 30 minutes, 43.2 seconds to beat Koyioki by 3.6 seconds. The Royals finished 12th as a team.

Crouch now owns three NCAA national titles having also won the NCAA indoor 5,000-meters and the outdoor 1,500-meters. Crouch advanced to next weekend's U.S. Cross Country Club Championships at Charlotte's McAlpine Creek Park.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ardrey Kell students run for those who can't

There are all kinds of worthy causes to support during the holiday season (and year-round). This is just one:

Run For Your Life owner Tim Rhodes told me recently about Ardrey Kell High School senior Nick Kapur, who has organized a fundraiser for an 11-year-old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Kapur will run the Amica Insurance Half Marathon (part of the Thunder Road Marathon) on Dec. 11 along with other members of the school's cross country teams, in an effort to raise awareness of the genetic disorder. Some members of the Ardrey Kell boys and girls cross country teams will run the Presbyterian Hospital Jingle Jog 5K. The fundraising component of the project was created by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those living with DMD.

Kapur, one of the team's captains, proposed this idea to his coaches and his teammates after volunteering this summer at the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp.

“Being a camp counselor allowed me to feel what it is like for children living with DMD," Kapur says, "and I wanted to continue my friendship and help my ‘buddy,’ Dakota, even after camp ended.” (Last year, Ardrey Kell coach Brian Zelk had suggested the team be involved with helping children who are less fortunate than them.)

Dakota, who is 11, plans to attend the race with his family. His sister, Destiny, 10, joined Girls on the Run this year at Carr Elementary School in Gaston County and will run the 5K with the team.

“In meeting with Dakota and his family several times since camp ended, I have learned that they are in desperate need of a wheelchair lift for their van," Kapur says. "Dakota can no longer assist with transfers, and Dakota uses a power wheelchair for mobility, so they need to adapt the van. I am hoping that through the publicity from the race, we can find a charitable organization to cover or help with the cost of converting their van.”

There are 44 Ardrey Kell runners registered for the half marathon and 5K; Rhodes of Run For Your Life helped out by giving the team a discount to register. They will run under the team name "Run for Our Sons," with a goal of raising $5,000 through donation pages and by soliciting local businesses.

By raising money for research, they are hopeful that their team will help make a difference and that one day these boys will be able to enjoy running with their friends again, like they do.

To support the cause and make a donation, click here.