Monday, May 31, 2010

And we're off to the races...

Looking for a race to run this weekend? You've got plenty of choices, and here they are:

King Tiger 5K

What: 5K run/walk, with a baby jogger division. There's also a 1-mile walk and a fun run.
When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Baby joggers get a head start, at 7:28. The 1-mile walk is at 8:15 and the fun run goes off at 8:30.
Where: Run For Your Life-University, 1816 E. Arbors Drive, Suite 420.
Cost: Click here for the pricing tiers, but the 5K is $20 (or $30 on race day).
Of note: This is the fifth race in the 2010 Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series. ... It's one of the spring's biggest races -- last year, there were 774 official finishers, including overall winner Christopher Lamperski (16:16) and women's winner Rebecca Thomason (19:18). ... The event is now in its third year with taekwondo school King Tiger as the title sponsor. ... RFYL-University will host its spring sale event Friday and Saturday, with 15 percent off current model shoes and apparel and up to 50 percent off apparel and shoes from last season.
To register: Click here.

Running For Ronald

What: 5K fun run and walk-a-thon.
When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Where: McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte.
Why: All proceeds will support the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte's operations budget, which allows the House to provide housing, food, shelter and support to families of seriously ill or injured children at little or no cost to the families.
Cost: $20 for adults, $10 for kids.
Of note: This is an inaugural event, started by a group of local high schoolers as a project to raise money for the RMH. ... After the race, there'll be a family festival with games, music, activities, food and more. Non-runners/walkers are welcome (a donation of $5 is suggested but not required).
Details: Click here.

Charity Chase Half Marathon

When: 7 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Union Square in downtown Hickory.
Why: All proceeds will benefit local charitable groups that provide volunteers on race day.
Cost: $50 in advance (there is no race day registration).
Of note:
The course is USATF certified. ... All runners get free tickets to the Hickory Crawdads baseball team's 7 p.m. home game, plus a pregame dinner from 5 to 7. Extra tickets can be purchased for $17 per adult and $12 per child (kids under 3 are free).
Details: Click here.

Race For The Land

What: 8K and half marathon trail races.
When: The half starts at 7:30 a.m. and the 8K starts at 8.
Where: On the 1,400-acre Redlair Nature Preserve, located just outside of Stanley.
Why: Proceeds will benefit the Catawba Lands Conservancy, the local land trust that helps permanently protect properties like Redlair with unique conservation values.
Cost: $30 for the 8K, $40 for the half, through Thursday ($35 and $45 on race day).
Of note: This preserve is located thirty minutes from Charlotte and is normally not accessible to the public. ... Slightly more than half of the trails are wider than single-track. This is not a technical course, so you won't have to contend with lots of rocks, wading across streams, etc.
Details: Click here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Let Me Run puts boys through their paces

If you ran the Right Moves for Youth Twilight 5K earlier this month (and many of you did -- it's one of Charlotte's largest spring races), you may have noticed lots of young boys proudly wearing "Let Me Run" T-shirts.

The race was a coming-out party of sorts for the nonprofit program, which aims to build character in boys through group activities and running. Although Twilight wasn't the first event with a Let Me Run presence, it was easily the largest: 150 boys from schools throughout the area used it to mark the end of the spring program.

It'd be easy to call Let Me Run "Girls On The Run, for boys." And in fact, founder Ashley Armistead was herself a Girls On The Run coach in the late 1990s. She was also, at the time, the mom of two baby boys (Grant, now 12, and Connor, now 10).

"I could not wait for my boys to have a similar opportunity," the 40-year-old Charlotte woman writes in the "Learn Our History" section of the Let Me Run website, "to have an after school running program that offered a safe space where the boys could be themselves, express all of their fears and dreams, and feel the power of being connected to others through positive, healthy communication.

But "as my boys approached third grade, I realized that such a program did not exist."

An idea was born, and along with a host of other volunteers Armistead (as volunteer president) has since grown Let Me Run steadily into a program that this fall will reach 31 schools, a range of public, private and parochial institutions.

Let Me Run president Ashley Armistead, with husband Grant and sons Connor (age 10) and Grant (12).
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The six-week programs combine training for a 5K with lessons "focused on increasing self-acceptance and building healthy relationships." The current fourth-grade lesson plan, for instance, includes topics ranging from "How to be competitive without putting the competition down" to "Real men show their feelings"; in fifth grade, their are lessons on energy, electrolytes and vitamins as well as sessions on drug awareness. There's also a similar middle-school curriculum.

It's also just about getting kids active, says Let Me Run secretary Lori Klingman. "Childhood obesity seems to be getting a lot of press these days. ... A little over 17 percent of NC kids are overweight." This figure underscores the importance of the program, she says.

We recently asked Armistead to give us some background on the program, and about herself. Here's what she had to say:

Q. You were a Girls On The Run coach before you started Let Me Run. How does the approach to dealing with boys differ from the approach to dealing with girls?
Action. The boys want to move right off the bat where as the girls are willing to sit and talk for a while. Although after some activity the boys are willing to sit and open up just like the girls. [Adds Let Me Run secretary Lori Klingman: "Boys also face different issues than girls. Not all issues are universal. Some are gender-specific, and our curriculum [reflects this] based on research by our Harvard advisor, William Pollack."]

Q. How did you come up with the name Let Me Run?
We wanted to be separate from Girls On The Run, so Boys On The Run was not an option. [Armistead says GOTR attempted Boys on the Run three times but did not receive enough community support.] I was describing to a friend how the boys sprint full force from the school building to the track and the friend said that my description of the boys seemed to be screaming "Let Me Run!"

Q. So how is the program structured?
We have programs for fourth grade, fifth grade, and middle school. Our programs are separate for fourth and fifth graders, making the curricula very specific to the age. We meet twice a week for six weeks and finish with a 5k. Our maximum per group is 14 kids with two coaches. We are scheduled to be in 30 schools this fall. While we have a middle school program, the high school program has not been created yet. Our Harvard advisor, Dr. Pollack, says that a man/woman coaching team is optimal. We do encourage men and women to be coaches [but] it is actually easier to find women coaches than men.

Q. What are the "job requirements," so to speak?
It is best for at least one of the two coaches per site to have a running background. Coaches must possess a desire to give kids a place to be free to be themselves and a desire to see them grow, as individuals and team members. Coaches need to attend a half-day coaches training, obtain CPR if they do not have it, and plan for at least three hours a week for six weeks and then the 5k race.

Q. What makes the race such a critical part of the experience?
The 5k is where the boys get to put their training to the test in an environment full of boys and families that are wishing the best for each other and willing to lift each other up along the route and celebrate for each other at the finish line. The finish line is where effort is cemented into a tangible memory that the boys can draw on in the future to find strength.

Q. I know you're a runner yourself, too. What's your own personal relationship with the sport like?
I remember the joy of running as a little girl whether playing tag or running to a friend's house. I enjoyed the running part of playing sports. I really started to need running as a young adult to sort out feelings and lift my mood. I would say that I truly fell in love with running in college. It helps my sense of well-being and increases of feeling of connectedness. I currently love running for goal-setting, health, stress relief. It is also a good time to replay exciting everyday moments and dream big. I feel peaceful and part of something larger when I run.

Q. You do what you do entirely on a volunteer basis. Talk about a recent moment that has really stopped you and made you think, This is what it's all about. This makes it worthwhile.
A quote from a parent, "We've seen a noticeable difference in [our son] since participating in LMR. Others have commented on how he's become more engaged and has matured. Thanks for all you do!" There is nothing more satisfying. [Adds Klingman: "I had one boy who was unable to compete in the Twilight 5K due to health reasons. His mom e-mailed me that he went to bed that night with his race number pinned to his pajamas. Now, that is heart!"]

Q. Anything else that you want to add?
There is a lot of work involved in starting a non-profit. I am not sure that a lot of people would be willing to put in years of work for no pay. We have some very generous board members such as Lori Klingman, Beth Collins, Paul Martino, and Dan Janick who are willing to give tons of time to build boys from sole to soul. We also have Kirsten Wrinkle, Joanne Tate, Kristen Danusis, Toni Branner, Janie Cook, Drew Quartapella, John Sullivan, and Sue Gorman willing to step in and help out at a moment's notice.

As Let Me Run has grown, so has the need for funding. Both Armistead and Klingman are currently making a big push for donations that can be used to provide scholarships, program supplies, coach certification and background checks, and race entry fees, and -- eventually (they hope) -- money for a paid staffer. (Details on how to donate are here.)

For more information about
Let Me Run, click here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ironman is easy compared to cancer fight

Scott Bodien knows a little something about pain and suffering.

The Charlotte man has done three Ironman triathlons since 2007 -- one per year. That's 2.4 miles of swimming, followed by 112 miles of biking, followed by 26.2 miles of running -- covered by Bodien in less than 13 hours and 30 minutes, all three times out.

But while these were grueling challenges for the 35-year-old environmental scientist, three Ironmans are nothing compared to what he had to go through to get to them.

Back in 1996, at the age of 21, Bodien was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, a cancer that runs in the bloodstream. During his intense chemotherapy, with his immune system's defenses down, he contracted a flesh eating bacteria on his upper left leg. The only way to stop it was to remove the affected area, which was roughly the size of an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. Surgeons grafted skin from another part of his thigh onto the wound.

"The absolute worst pain I experienced was before my skin graft," Bodien recalls. "The dressing changes were unbelievably excruciating, and most of the powerful painkillers eventually did little to alleviate the pain."

Once that ordeal was over -- and once he endured further chemo and radiation treatments -- Bodien underwent a bone marrow transplant on May 28, 1997. He celebrates 13 years being cancer-free today.

Since 2000, in addition to the three Ironman events, Bodien has run more than 6,200 miles, including eight marathons (his PR is a 3:30 at Chicago in 2006). He came to Charlotte in 2003 to work for the Catawba Lands Conservancy, a nonprofit that aims "to protect land in the Charlotte area with high conservation values through purchase or conservation easement."

This year, he is in charge of a new event called Race For The Land (, a trail half marathon and 8K "that will be held on some of our most stellar protected property." Registration is still open for the Saturday, June 5, event, which will raise money to benefit the work of the Conservancy.

We talked to Bodien recently about the effects of his brush with cancer, how endurance races have enhanced his life since then, and what he's got cooking.

Photo of Scott Bodien by Kerry Ryan, 2010
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Q. That whole flesh eating bacteria thing sounds terrifying.
[It was.] Prior to the surgery I was told it was likely the entire leg would be removed, or it would be discovered that it would be too late for anything. Obviously the decision was made mid-surgery that my leg -- and me! -- could be saved.

Q. I understand that you had to learn to walk again after your skin graft. What was that was like?
I was basically immobile until the end of December [1996], when the skin graft operation occurred. Then I had to be very still for several weeks to let the graft take. Coupled with being extremely weak from chemotherapy and radiation, rehab then began from atrophy and all the nerves that had been cut above, along with all the nerve damage in my feet from a peripheral neuropathy -- which was another damaging side effect of my chemotherapy. It was a frustrating experience, from getting out of bed to being utterly exhausted, but I constantly pushed myself to walk to the end of the hall, then begin the process of walking a few more feet down our long driveway. By the time I could walk a thousand feet, I was knocked back again with my transplant, but then it was a continual process of pushing myself further.

Q. Did you have any running background prior to your cancer?
I had absolutely no background in running prior to being diagnosed with cancer. My activities were more geared towards hiking, canoeing, and leisurely cycling trips with my family. ... The care necessary following the skin graft operation would have made it seem highly improbable that I could even take up running, but I did and amazingly enough it does not affect my gait. I am very self conscious and protective about my graft area. I do only wear trunk-style running shorts or swimsuits, but it has all filled in so well most people would not even notice it.

Q. What did having cancer teach you about life?
I was 21 when I was diagnosed and I was feeling, like most 21 year olds about to graduate, rather indestructible. Well, after that world was quickly shattered, I realized how impossible it would have been for me to complete my struggle alone. I constantly think about all the family, friends, doctors, and nurses who assisted in my journey. My life is a continuation of that experience, and I know I’m not going to get where I’m going totally by myself.

Q. What has competing in marathons and Ironmans taught you about life?
The need for balance and perseverance. Getting to the stage of completing an Ironman requires a considerable amount of planning and sacrifice.

Q. People sometimes say you should live every day like it's your last. Do you share this outlook, or do you have a different saying that you live by?
I live by a variation of this mantra to live every day like it’s my best. As a runner -- and native of the Pacific Northwest -- I’m a big Steve Prefontaine fan. I am very [inspired] by his quote, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Q. What's the toughest race you've ever completed?
My first Ironman, the 2007 Vineman competition in California wine county, was my toughest race. The anxiety level after all the training and not even having a clue if it would all come together really shook me. I almost missed the swim start and had to focus hard to survive the second loop on the bike, all through a hot day of tough hills in wine country. The run of three loops was one my hardest test of the last 10 years, but it was amazing to have my family there to cheer me on.

Q. Has there ever been a time you've thought about giving up during a race?
When you get deep into a race, and you are pushing yourself at a level higher than you are accustomed to training at, it would seem so easy to just give up. But for me, the thought never crosses my mind. I was once given the opportunity of quitting and choosing to die or fighting for the opportunity to live another day. That experience is my perspective. Even an Ironman competition lasts less than a day. How could I remotely compare an Ironman as more difficult than what I accomplished?

Q. What are your long term goals as a runner and triathlete, now that you're a veteran of several marathons and Ironmans?
After three years of three Ironman races, I am at exactly that point where I’ve been wrestling with this question. This year I am focusing on a late season Half Ironman to make specific -- and aggressive! -- goals on each leg. I do know I would like to expand my running into longer trail runs, such as a 50K this or next year. As I runner, I do have a long term goal of qualifying for Boston, but that will come only as the qualifying times enter into the same universe my body lives in. I do believe there is more for me to achieve beyond just better times, and that is has to do with my message. If I’ve started from scratch, why can’t others? Nothing would make me happier than to convince someone afraid to become more active that they can get there if they apply themselves and focus.

Q. Tell me about your involvement with Catawba Lands Conservancy.
We are a member-driven organization with a broad spectrum of supporters who see smart, healthy development coupled with thoughtful targeted conservation as a win-win for our community. Over the years I have come to organize some running teams to help raise money for the Conservancy. ... I am currently drowning in all the logistics involved with [the Race For The Land], but am so excited to get my fellow runners out on land most people would not believe is only 30 minutes from Trade and Tryon.

Photo of Scott Bodien by Kerry Ryan, 2010

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Find out how fast you really are

You know all your PRs like the back of your hand. 5K is this. 10K is that. Half-marathon. 10-miler. And on and on.

But do you know how fast you can run flat-out for a single mile? Or what your 100-meter dash time is?

Find out this Tuesday -- or on any Tuesday evening in June -- at the Trenton Guy Sr. Summer Track Series on the outdoor oval at Myers Park High School.

Here's how it works in a nutshell: Runners of all ages and abilities can register beginning at 5 p.m. to run distances of 50 meters, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1 mile and 2 miles; there's even a 4x100m relay. Entry fee is $2 for the first two events, $1 for each additional event. Events will begin with the 50m run at 6 p.m.

This summer series, sponsored by the Charlotte Track & Triathlon Club, has been an annual tradition for going on 27 years at Myers Park HS (2400 Colony Road). Although the size of the turnout varies from week to week, there's usually more than 100 people on hand. And CTTC president Lana Torkildsen said one of her favorite things about the event is watching the many children who come out to participate: "Just to see the smile on their faces when they cross the finish line is priceless!"

The series is named in memory of Trenton Guy Sr. (pictured), an assistant track coach at Johnson C. Smith University who died in July of 2008.

On the last evening of the series, June 29, there will be no 2-mile event to accommodate a 5K race that will start at 8 p.m. Interested runners are being asked to pre-register for this event (cost: $5), since it's expected to be popular and participation will have to be limited.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And we're off to the races...

Memorial Day weekend is typically a pretty quiet time for racing, and this year is no exception. But if you're jonesing to compete, here are two smaller races that will give you a fix:

The ninth annual Bare Bones 5K, set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, starts at Knox Middle School in Salisbury and covers a flat and fast course (I'm told there's only one small hill at the midway point). Part of it is on the Greenway, part of it is on city streets, and runners finish on the school's track. Organizers are expecting about 150 participants, all of whom will get a dri-fit short-sleeve T-shirt, food and drinks. Cost is $20 today or $25 on race day. There'll also be a ½-mile fun run at 9:15 a.m. ($10). Details: Click here or call 704-239-5508. Also, if you have old running shoes, you can donate them on site to Rowan Helping Ministries.

The sixth annual Belmont Classic 5K road race and 1 mile fun walk will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Belmont Police Department Headquarters on Chronicle Street. You can register online by clicking here; cost is $20 for adults and $15 for ages 12 and younger. Currently, 76 runners are signed up, so I suspect this one will end up with close to 150, too, come race day...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Elite college runners, right in your backyard

Unless you are a current or former student or employee at Queens University of Charlotte, or you live or work near the campus, you probably don't know much about the school.

If you're relatively new to the area, you probably don't even know some of the most basic things about it -- that it's in Myers Park, that it's a private, Presbyterian university, that it's mascot is the Royals and that the colors are navy, white and gold.

But two facts might be of interest to you, as a runner (or as a fan of running): 1) The Queens track team is loaded with top-tier talent. And 2) The Royals will get home-field advantage this week when Charlotte's Johnson C. Smith University hosts the NCAA Division II National Track & Field Championships.

In fact, Queens has qualified its largest number of athletes ever for the national meet, which takes place Thursday through Saturday at the Irwin Belk Track. Among those on the roster are two defending national champions -- 10k phenom Tanya Zeferjahn and 5k speedster Michael Crouch (5k).

Zeferjahn qualified for the meet in the 1,500 (4:28.76), the 5k (16:03.51) and the 10k (33:09.47). Senior Meagan Nedlo qualified in both the 5k (16:44.30) and the 10k (34:37.06). Freshman Maraya Slatter will run the 800 and the 1,500 this week (she qualified with marks of 2:12.31 and 4:37.44). Meanwhile, the men will be sending junior Simon Steutzel (1,500, qualified with a 3:48.49); senior Nelson Mwangi (800, qualified with a 1:52.15); and Crouch, also a senior, who will run the 5k (qualifying time: 13:53.37) and the 10k (QT: 30:31.30).

The team is coached by Scott Simmons, who is wrapping up his third year as head coach of Queens' men's and women's cross-country and track teams. He has coached several Royals runners to individual national championships, and prior to coming to Charlotte racked up six Coach of the Year awards while in jobs at National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools.

This, of course, is a long-winded way of saying what I said near the top: The Queens track team is loaded with amazingly talented runners (the women are currently ranked 15th in the nation, and the men are in striking distance of the top 20). And this week's national meet will be a great opportunity to support show your support for the Royals. Read on for quick introductions to four of the squad's fastest runners.

Meagan Nedlo
27, graduate student, Mount Pleasant, Texas
2010 NCAA All-American (16:52 5k)

Q. How and when did you get into running?
I started running in junior high, then ran track and cross-country all through high school. I was pretty good for small town East Texas but let's just say the college coaches weren't beating down my door. So in undergrad I decided not to run but always kept reasonably fit. I didn't start running more seriously again until after college, when I worked for Mizuno and then Brooks for a total of three years. Working in the running industry and being surrounded by colleagues and friends who ran competitively was great motivation to start getting serious about the sport. I asked one of my boyfriend's friends from college to coach me in a marathon I was training for, since I knew he was a college coach and an accomplished runner himself. Six months later he asked me if I wanted to quit my job, get my masters degree and come run at Queens -- and the rest is history!

Q. Which races are you running at the DII championships, and what are your goals?
I will be doubling in the 10k and the 5k, which could potentially make for the most painful weekend of my life. The 10k is my focus and I hope to at least earn All-American honors (which is top 8), hopefully top 3. I'll be running on tired legs for the 5k but would still like to make All-American if things go well.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through competing at the collegiate level?
It's pretty simple. I've learned that I can run a hell of a lot faster than I ever thought I could. Before I came to Queens I was a 38-minute 10k, 18:45 5k runner -- good enough to win a few local road races but that's about it. Now I've lowered my 10k PR by 4 minutes and my 5k PR by 2. If you'd told me I was capable of that two years ago I would've literally laughed out loud.

Q. What are your post-college running goals?
I want to qualify for the US Championships on the track and the Olympic Trials in the marathon. To be honest, I'd prefer not to focus on the marathon, but I don't have the raw speed to be nationally competitive in anything else!

Q. How do you get fired up before a race?
I drink some coffee a few hours before, review my race plan and I'm good to go!

Q. What's your favorite post-race treat?
Definitely a good brunch or breakfast of some kind. Doesn't matter what time of day it is.

Q. Where's the most amazing place in the world that you've ever run?
Most of my overseas travel to date took place before I became a competitive runner -- so I hope to change that in the near future! However, I've had the opportunity to travel all over the country for running, which is something I'll forever appreciate. Central Park in the middle of a snowstorm was pretty cool, as was running on the cross-country skiing trails in Whistler, BC. We had a Brooks sales meeting there two years before they hosted the Winter Olympics. Running on the National Mall at sunrise has got to be one of my favorites, too. I can't pick one!

Maraya Slatter
18, freshman, Clayton, N.C.
Conference Freshman of the Year

Q. How and when did you get into running?
My running career began with my dad putting me in the Hershey running program. I was a soccer player for most of my middle school career and my team was undefeated every year, but my dad wanted me to lose for the fear of me turning into a "sore loser." So he wanted me to run because it was an individual sport for the most part; and I had motivation to do it because if I was fast enough, I could get a free trip to Hershey Park, and what kid doesn't want to go there. I actually didn't make it by only a second. I had excelled at running and soon became part of a club team not far from my hometown. Then I started running for high school and I was really lucky to have such a great coach in high school. If it wasn't for him, I honestly don't think I would be as good as I am or even here at Queens.

Q. Which race are you running at the DII championships, and what are your goals?
800 meters. I hope to run faster than 2:10, but what i'm really aiming for is to make it to the final round and place well.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through competing at the collegiate level?
To be patient, because good things come in time. It has been a hard transition, but everything pays off and every race here is FAST!

Q. What are your post-college running goals?
Well, if things work out and I improve like I hope to, then I would like to go professional. If that doesn't work out, I would really like to coach at a collegiate level.

Q. How do you get fired up before a race?
Well, I'll either listen to some pumped-up music or funny music. I like to laugh and get my mind off the race just enough to ease the nerves.

Q. What's your favorite post-race treat?
Anything SWEET!

Q. Where's the most amazing place in the world that you've ever run?
Well, my favorite place to run is this place not to far from my hometown called Umstead. Miles and miles (of) trails where you almost never have to repeat yourself, and different varieties of paths -- but all dirt. It's perfect!

Michael Crouch
22, senior, Morongo Valley, Calif.
Two-time NCAA Champion: 5k and 1500m (13:40 5k, 3:45 1,500)

Q. How and when did you get into running?
My junior year of high school, I stopped wrestling to run.

Q. Which race are you running at the DII championships, and what are your goals?
I am running the 5k, and hoping to come back a national champion again.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through competing at the collegiate level?
I have learned how to rise above the average runner and push myself in a way that I pride myself in.

Q. What are your post-college running goals?
Running at the Olympic Trials and running under 13:20 for 5k.

Q. How do you get fired up before a race?
I always give myself a prepartation talk, listen to some Nirvana and Brand New.

Q. What's your favorite post-race treat?
Anything spicy, or the closest thing that I can get my hands on.

Q. Where's the most amazing place in the world that you've ever run?
There are so many amazing places in my eyes that may not be amazing to others because of the context behind the run. For example: running along side the 15 Freeway outside of Las Vegas in the middle of traffic for 15 miles. But just being on the East Coast is amazing for running because every run is different and special considering I am from the West Coast. I [especially] like running in Virginia.

Nelson Mwangi
27, senior, Kapsabet, Kenya
2010 NCAA runner-up: 800m (1:51 800)

Q. How and when did you get into running?
I started running in the fall of 2006. However, [I was previously involved in rugby and soccer, two sports that involve a lot of running]. It was through soccer that my junior college coach recruited me to run.

Q. Which race are you running at the DII championships?

Q. What have you learned about yourself through competing at the collegiate level?
I am calm and perform well under pressure.

Q. What are your post-college running goals?
To run a marathon ... under 2:30.

Q. How do you get fired up before a race?
I like to watch my favorite track videos.

Q. What's your favorite post-race treat?
Cold Gatorade and a jacuzzi.

Q. Where's the most amazing place in the world that you've ever run?
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

For a full schedule of events at the
NCAA Division II National Track & Field Championships, click here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

And we're off to the races...

Looking for a race to run this weekend? You've got plenty of choices, and here they are:

Great Harvest Bread Company 5K

When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday (1-mile run starts at 8:15).
Where: Great Harvest Bread Company, The Shops at Piper Glen, 6418 Rea Road in Charlotte.
Why: Proceeds will support the Pet Food Bank, a partnership between Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Animal Care & Control. For details, click here then click on "Animal Care & Control."
Cost: $20 through Friday, $30 on race day (1-mile run is $5).
Of note: Registration is at 65 percent and will be capped at 1,000 runners. ... The Shops at Piper Glen, home of Great Harvest Bread Company and the event site, has limited parking. Click here for instructions for off-site parking. All runners that arrive with two-plus runners in their car will receive $5 off a Summer Breeze race entry and get entered to win a $40 Run For Your Life gift certificate. ... The Great Harvest Bread Co. race, now in its fourth year, is the fourth event in the 2010 Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series (it's the race's first year as part of the GPx series). ... Organizers are accepting donations of wet and/or dry food for dogs and cats.
Details: Click here.

Thin Mint Sprint 5K

When: 7:15 a.m. Saturday; 1-mile Fun Run/Walk at 8 a.m.
Where: Carowinds theme park, located adjacent to Interstate 77 on the state line between North and South Carolina, in Charlotte and Fort Mill.
Why: Proceeds benefit the Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council.
Cost: $20 ($15 for the Fun Run/Walk).
Of note: The event, now in its third year, features a course that weaves through the park's coasters and thrill rides. ... All race participants receive a Thin Mint Sprint T-shirt, and age-group winners will take home a box of Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints, of course). ... Participants will be able to purchase discounted tickets to the park.
Details: Click

5K Run For Clean Air

When: 8 a.m. Saturday; walk and "tot trot" (for kids 1-8) are at 8:30.
Where: McAlpine Creek Park, 8711 Monroe Road, in Charlotte.
Why: This event will raise funds for Clean Air Carolina's education and advocacy programs.
Cost: $25 through Friday, $30 on race day. "Tot trot" registration is $10.
Of note: In addition to virtual goody bags, Clean Air Carolina is planning to green up the event by using compostable water cups at aid stations and separate refuse bins for recyclables, compostables and trash. ... Using the CATS hybrid bus on Route 27 is encouraged, or you can get access to VIP parking if you travel to the event on your bicycle or by carpool. ... Grateful Growers will be doling out samples of their locally grown food.
Details: Click here.

On A Mission 5K Run/Walk

When: 8 a.m. Saturday (Fun Run is at 8:45).
Where: Crossroads Church, 220 George W. Liles Parkway, in Concord.
Why: All proceeds from this race go to the Mexico Mission Team and Navajo Mission Team for their upcoming 2010 mission trips.
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 on race day. Fun run (for kids 14 and younger) is $5.
Of note: The 5K course loops through the Laurel Park neighborhood in Concord.
Details: Click here.

Miracle Miles 5K and Family Fun Run

When: 8 a.m. Saturday.
The run will start in the parking lot in front of the Target store at the intersection of Weddington Road (Route 84) and Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road in Wesley Chapel. The course will go through the community of Wesley Oaks.
All proceeds will be used to pay "huge" medical bills facing the family of 3-1/2-year-old Matthew Alcorn, who suffers from a rare brain tumor and has had to undergo four brain surgeries.
Cost: $25, $15 for students in grades K-12, $55 for a family of four.
Of note: While there will be a time clock present, this is a noncompetitive event and there will be no official time kept for runners.
Event details: Click here. For more on Matthew, click here.


It's a little sexist. But it's also apparently a lotta fun.

Here's Raleigh's Skirt Chaser 5K in a nutshell: All the women who pay the $53 to $73 registration fee get a running skirt. Women take off first, wearing their new garment; the guys are let loose three minutes later. Voila -- boys chasing girls wearing skirts, with the first-place finisher taking home $500.

The battle of the sexes -- scheduled for this Saturday -- is followed by more flirting at a block party in Raleigh's Glenwood South area that includes free food, beer, live music and dating games.

By the way, the founder of this national racing series is a woman: Nicole DeBoom, who runs this company and is the creator of the fitness running skirt.

Want to run the Skirt Chaser 5K? Click here for more info.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get ready to conquer the Divide

A heads-up on a race that's two hours away and two and a half months off, but could be worth putting on your calendar if you're a trail specialist looking for a serious challenge. This from an e-mail I got that originated with race director Christopher Crowder:

The second installment of the Continental Divide Trail Race -- set for Aug. 28 in Laurel Springs -- will once again be the USA 10 km Trail Championships in 2010. I believe our race is one of the toughest trail races in the southeast.

The terrain is a mixture of everything from grass to fire roads to wide trails to tight single track. The footing ranges from relatively smooth to highly technical. Then add that there is really nothing flat -- you are either running up or down.

Most descents are 9%-15%, with one 150-meter section of 28.5%. ... Most climbs are in the 10% range, with two bigger climbs. The first big climb comes just before halfway, with a ¼ mile climb at 18.5%. The second big one comes with just under a ½ mile to go. This climb is again ¼ mile, but at over 22%, it's a grind. It includes a section that has been nicknamed "The Rock Climb." It is not actually a rock climb, but you may end up using your hands as you work up this part (it covers 20 yards).

Now before you say this race is too tough, we had 84 runners participate last year. They said the course was quite challenging, but they loved it and plan on returning this year. So aren't you ready for a real challenge?

The race site, 75 miles northwest of Winston-Salem, is on the brim of the Blue Ridge Mountains and provides a beautiful setting. The Blue Ridge presents wonderful views into the foothills below on one side and views into the heart of the mountains on the other.

In the race, runners actually run on both sides of the Eastern Continental Divide. Our race has that low-key, trail runner atmosphere, which suits the attitude of the area. The race is a great opportunity to experience mountain trails and challenge yourself from the elite to recreational runner.

Our race is open to all runners. As a USA Trail Championship, there is Overall and Masters prize money as well as USATF age group and USATF team categories. We will also have a Juniors race with MUT Juniors Championship recognition. Please check out the race website for more information.
Might also want to give this a watch:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Queens track stars headline national meet

More to come on this soon, but if you want to see some incredible racing competition up close and personal this month without having to stray far from home...

CHARLOTTE, N.C.- With this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held in Charlotte May 27-29, Queens University of Charlotte is hoping for the same kind of success its has realized elsewhere for the past two years. The Royals, who boast four NCAA individual national champions over the last two years, return defending 10,000-meter champion Tanya Zeferjahn (Hesperia, Calif., Hesperia High School) and defending 1,500-meter champion Michael Crouch (Yucca Valley, Calif., Yucca Valley).

Zeferjahn leads the nation by nearly 30-seconds and barely missed breaking the 23-year old NCAA DII 10k record last weekend with a 33:09.47 which ranks her as the fourth fastest collegian in all divisions. Zeferjahn is also ranked No. 2 in the nation in the 5,000-meters as well as 5th in the 1500-meters.

Teammate Meagan Nedlo (Mt. Pleasant, TX, Pittsburg, HS) is currently ranked third in the 10k and ninth in the 5k with three teammates provisionally qualified for the championships. Maraya Slatter (Benson, N.C., West Johnston), provisionally qualified in both the 800- and 1500-meters, and Holly Annas (Granite Falls, N.C., South Caldwell) and Jessica Neville (Cold Spring, N.Y., Haldane) in the 10k look to make Queens’ largest and most competitive showing ever at the national championships. Queens women’s track team is currently ranked 14th in the NCAA Division II team rankings

Two-time NCAA national champion Crouch is back to full health and is currently ranked No. 2 in the 5,000-meters. Joining him at the championships looks to be NCAA indoor 800-meter runner-up Nelson Mwangi (Kenya, Nairobi School) and 1500-meter runner Simon Stuetzel (Meinborn, Germany).

The three-day championships will be hosted at Irwin-Belk track on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University.

The Royals are offering an NCAA ticket package as part of their fundraising campaign, Alter-G. The package also includes a ticket to the NCAA Championships Banquet, an autographed copy of coach Scott Simmons’ book “Take The Lead” and a UCS (official supplier of NCAA Championships) NCAA National Track & Field Championships backpack. Details can be found by clicking here.

Charlotte's first annual 1K Beer Run for charity

Cool new novelty race alert: The 1K Beer Run at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (Charlotte's only microbrewery, at 215 Southside Drive). Start time is NOON on Saturday, June 12, and the race is -- as the name says -- just a single kilometer.

For $25, you get a race number, a T-shirt, two pints of Olde Mecklenburg beer, and BBQ (Mac's Speed Shop is going to cater). A portion of all proceeds go to Pints for Prostates to help fight prostate cancer. You need to commit soon, though -- the deadline to enter is May 21.

Get more information by clicking here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

And we're off to the races...

Looking for a race to run this weekend? You've got plenty of choices, and here they are:

Run! Ballantyne

What: 5K/10K race and 1-mile Fun Run.
When: 8 a.m. Saturday (Fun Run begins at 9:30).
Where: Ballantyne Corporate Park, 13024 Ballantyne Corporate Place.
Cost: Click here for the pricing tiers, but if you register online before race day, it's $20 for the 5K and $25 for the 10K. Fun Run is $10 no matter how or when you sign up.
Of note: This is the sixth year for the event, and it offers the only major 10K in Charlotte between now and the fall. ... Organizers have designed a new course for 2010. ... Last year, more than 700 runners participated.
To register: Click here.

Pet Palooza

What: Kennelly 5K run and fundraising walk.
When: 9:15 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Independence Park, 300 Hawthorne Lane.
Why: To raise money and awareness for the Humane Society of Charlotte.
Cost: $25 for runners, $15 for walkers until 5 p.m. Thursday. $30 for runners on race day.
Of note: The Kennelly 5K is open to humans and their canine running partners (the walk is, too). ... Pet Palooza is the largest annual pet festival and fundraiser for the Humane Society of Charlotte.
Details: Click here.

Upgrade Lifestyle 5K

What: 5K and Kids Fun Run (1 mile).
When: 8 a.m. Saturday (Fun Run to follow).
Where: Birkdale Resident's Club, 8915 Devonshire Drive, in Huntersville.
Why: Proceeds will benefit the Leukemia Foundation.
Cost: $20 for the 5K ($25 on race day). Kids run is $5.
Of note: The out-and-back course is described as rolling. ... The kids run will be on grassy fields, and age divisions will have distances from .25 to 1 mile.
Details: Click here and scroll down to "Upcoming Events."

Hearts for Missions 5K Run/Walk

When: 8 a.m. Saturday.
Where: The course will start in the Shoppes at Davis Lake (8517 Davis Lake Parkway) and finish at Independence Hill Baptist Church, 10220 Eastfield Road.
The event will benefit Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen; Charlotte Rescue Mission; Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry; The Hope House Foundation; and Fountain of Life Church in Santa Matilde, Nicaragua.
Cost: Registration is $15 (or $20 on race day) with a fund-raising minimum of $50 per participant.
Of note:
This event is held in conjunction with the Hearts for Missions Fun Days.
Details: Click here.

TWAM Mission Run

What: 5K and Fun Run.
When: 9 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Salisbury Community Park, 935 Hurley School Road, in Salisbury.
Why: This is a major fundraiser for TWAM (Teens With a Mission), which this summer will send a group of 30-plus youths and adults to build a house for a needy family in Jamaica.
Cost: $15 by Thursday, $20 on race day. Fun Run is $10 in advance or $15 day-of.
Of note: The event is in its fifth year. ... Two miles of the course go around a lake.
Details: Click here.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

My run of excuses is over (I hope)

Too hot, too hilly, too crowded -- you'll hear that a lot when people talk about the popular Right Moves for Youth Twilight 5K, the annual Friday-evening uptown race held right smack in the middle of springtime in Charlotte.

And because of the heat, the hills and the crowds, runners love to hedge bets before this race and make excuses afterward.

Myself included. Heat: I don't run well in it, and when the gun went off Friday on Tryon Street, temps were still north of 80 degrees. Hills: Putting three -- like the one on Cedar and the one on Fourth and the one on Stonewall -- in the second half of a hot 5K is cruel; that contributed to my running the third mile 21 seconds slower than the first. Crowds: I got boxed in by a glut of runners at the turn off Morehead onto Cedar, and I rolled my ankle as I hopped up on the curb momentarily. Oh, and I'm a morning runner not an evening runner.

Anyway ... I could pretty easily gather all of these excuses together in a big pile, take them and believe what a few people told me after I PR'd by one second in 20:37: "Great job, man. On a flat course when it's not so hot you would have gone sub-20 for sure." I mean, it's a nice thought, that I put forth an effort that under ideal conditions would have yielded a better result.

What I've learned, though, in just a year and a half of racing, is that ideal conditions don't come along very often. There's always going to be something: Too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too hilly, too many turns, too much camber in the road, too crowded at the water stops, too early in the day, too late in the day, too many slow runners lined up up front, too infinity and beyond.

Now look, I'm realistic. I understand that on some level making excuses and pointing out factors that might slow us down/did slow us down -- it's simply something we runners do to shoot the breeze pre- and post-race. (It's not much different from when you get on the elevator with someone and work and make a lame joke about the weather.) I also understand that the way to improve your race times is to analyze what went right and what went wrong during a race.

But the fact is my 5K times are not improving. In my last three, I've gone 20:38, 20:41, and now 20:37. (You could label it consistency; I'm calling it a rut.) And after each race, I've had an excuse. I was struck by this realization -- that I've been making too many lately -- as I jogged back to my car Friday night after Twilight.

Excuses won't get me under 20 minutes in a 5K, or down to 3:33 in a marathon, or to any other goal I'm eyeing. More focus, more efficient (and faster) workouts, and better execution of better-thought-out race strategies will.

Of course, if it's 100 degrees or hailing at my next race, I'll be coming back and deleting this blog entry.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Paschal
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Top Twilight finishers: Alice Rogers was the No. 1 woman in 18:20, followed by Danielle Walther (18:32) and Stacy Mercer (19:18). On the men's side, Jordan Kinley was the fastest finisher in 15:30, with Ryan Bender (15:41) and Chris Bailey (15:48) coming in right on his heels. There were 1,844 official finishers Friday night.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jeff Galloway in town this weekend

A little late getting the word out on this, but better late than never, right? Copying and pasting this straight from the e-mail it came in:

Charlotte Galloway Spring Kickoff Events

Announcement: On May 8, when the Charlotte Spring Half Marathon and Marathon Programs have their initial kick-off runs, there will also be 2 - 3 hour Running Schools by Jeff Galloway, a short presentation on "Which Water Will Give You More Energy For Running", and a running analysis by Dr Scott Greenapple to increase your running performance! Bring your friends and try a run at no charge!

Location: All Events are at the Uptown Childress-Klein YMCA in the Wachovia #1 Building on the Mezzanine Level (Elevator "A' Level). This Wachovia Building is on College Street at MLK Blvd and 3rd Street. All street parking is free on Saturdays.

May 8 - 8am 5 Mile Kickoff Run of Marathon Training Program
  • Free 5 Mile Training Run
  • Free Water Seminar - Which Brands Of Water Give You Energy, Which Brands Cost You Energy - Which Brands Have No Energy
  • Free Gait Analysis With Sports Doctor Scott Greenapple ------Analysis will include weak areas of your stride, with appropiate muscles you need to strengthen to correct the weak area.
For Additional Info, Fees, Directions, and Questions regarding the Marathon Training Program, email John Lineberger at

May 8 - 9am 4 Mile Kickoff Run Of Half Marathon Training Program
  • Free 4 Mile Training Run
  • Free Water Seminar - Which Brands Of Water Give You Energy, Which Brands Cost You Energy - Which Brands Have No Energy
  • Free Gait Analysis With Sports Doctor Scott Greenapple---Analysis will include weak areas of your stride, with appropiate muscles you need to strengthen to correct the weak area.
For Additional Info, Fees, Directions, and Questions regarding the Half Marathon Training Program, email John Lineberger at

May 8 - 10am to 1pm
Jeff Galloway Will Present A 3 hour Running School For Advanced/Veteran Marathoners
America's #1 Running Author, Runner's World Columnist, with Running Training Programs in over 80 cities, will give you detailed info to improve your running time and running goals. Q & A session.
  • $99 Public
  • $69 YMCA Members - Bring Membership Card Or Key Chain Card
  • $49 Galloway Members and Alumni
For additional details and info email John Lineberger at

May 8 - 2pm to 5pm
Jeff Galloway Will Present A 3 Hour Running School For 5k,10k, and Future Half Marathon Runners
America's #1 Running Author, Runner's World Columnist, with Running Training Programs in over 80 cities, will give you detailed info to improve your endurance and energy levels to run longer distances. Q & A session.
  • $79 Public
  • $59 YMCA Members - Bring Membership Card Or Key Chain Card
  • $39 Galloway Members and Alumni
For additional details and info email John Lineberger at

Monday, May 3, 2010

And we're off to the races...

Looking for a race to run this weekend? You've got plenty of choices, and here they are:

Right Moves for Youth's Twilight 5K

What: 5K run/walk and kids fun run.
When: 7 p.m. FRIDAY.
Where: Wachovia Atrium & Plaza, 301 S. Tryon St., Center City, corner of Tryon Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Proceeds benefit Right Moves for Youth, which helps Charlotte-Mecklenburg students "succeed in school, improve their quality of life, and become responsible members of society."
Cost: $20 through Thursday, $30 on race day. Fun run is $5 (for ages 12 and younger).
Of note: Right Moves for Youth development director Shannon Hames is expecting 2,800-3,000 participants. ... There'll be a raffle prior to the race via bib numbers. ... Stroller-division runners get a 90-second head start on the rest of the field. ... Hydrate WELL during the day on Friday -- the forecasted high is 86 degrees, so expect it to be near 80 at the start. ... TJ's tip: Don't go out too fast. There's a reasonably tough climb on Cedar Street around Mile 2, and a decent riser in the last few blocks (coming up Stonewall past the Stadium) that in the past have dashed the PR hopes of many. ... The first 3,000 finishers will receive finishing medals. ... George Herman's, the bar in Latta Arcade that used to host the post-race party, closed last June. This year, Hames says, "several businesses [will be] offering post-race runner discounts. There will be special coupons in the race bags." One such deal: BlackFinn American Saloon in the EpiCentre will be offering $3 domestic drafts with race bibs.
Details: Click here.

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New Balance Girls on the Run 5K

What: Noncompetitive run/jog/walk.
When: 9 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Independence Park, adjacent to King's College, near Hawthorne Lane and East Seventh Street, between the Elizabeth and Piedmont Park neighborhoods.
Why: Proceeds from this event will benefit Girls on the Run of Charlotte "so that all girls that want to participate in our program can have the opportunity."
Cost: $20 through Friday, $25 on race day. Discounts for children younger than 13 and families.
Of note: An estimated 1,000 third- through eighth-grade girls and about as many family members are expected to turn out. They have trained for the event for months to build self-esteem and improve their health, organizers say. ... This is the 11th year for the Charlotte event.
Details: Click here.

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Water For People 5K

What: 5K race/fun run/walk.
When: 9 a.m. Saturday.
McAlpine Creek Greenway, 8711 Monroe Road in Charlotte.
Why: Proceeds benefit North Carolina Water For People, which "has adopted the country of Bolivia, and actively funds projects and par­ticipates in annual work trips benefiting those less fortunate in Bolivia."
Cost: $30.
Of note: The race takes place on dirt cross-country trails. Strollers are not recommended due to the terrain, but leashed pets are allowed.
Details: Click here.

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Ourboys 5K

What: 5K and 1-mile fun run.
When: 5K start is at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fun run to follow, at 9 a.m.
Where: Harris Road Middle School, 1251 Patriot Plantation Blvd., in Concord.
Why: Proceeds will be used in the fight against juvenile Batten disease, which causes blindness, seizures and learning difficulties in affected children. Eventually, sufferers lose the ability to walk, talk and even swallow.
Cost: $25; $60 for a family of four. Fun run is $10.
Of note: Race hosts are Chris and Wendy Hawkins, whose two children both are affected by the disease. For more on Batten Disease, click here. For more on the Hawkins family, click here. ... Road ID is sponsoring the race, and the Hawkinses will have some gift certificates to give away for the product. ... The course runs through Moss Creek subdivision. ... The race is in its fourth year; 150 runners participated last year.
Details: Click here.

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Lungs for Life 5K

What: 5K race.
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Where: The Mooresville Recreation department, 220 N. Maple St., in Mooresville.
Why: All funds raised will be donated to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation in New York.
Cost: $20 in advance, $30 on race day.
Of note: The inaugural race was designed by Josh Cox, a senior at Mooresville High School who organized the event for his senior project and hopes to raise money for lung cancer research. Cox has a 5K PR of 15:26 and will run at UNC Charlotte next year. ... Race T-shirts will only be available to the first 100 participants to register. ... After the race there will be live music, food and drinks.
Details: Click here.

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Powerade Tri The Rock

What: Sprint triathlon and duathlon. The swim is 500 yards in the pool, the bike is 16 miles, the run is a 5K.
When: Saturday.
Where: Rock Hill Aquatics Center, 325 Rawlinson Road, in Rock Hill.
Cost: $60 for USAT members (same price for duathlon or triathlon); $70 for nonmembers. Relay teams can enter for $100.
Of note: The swim is in a 10-lane competitive pool, with individual self-seeded starts. The bike is a single-lap course with a hill. The run -- closed to traffic -- is "a spectator-friendly" two-lap run, with a small portion on the grass.
Details: Click here.

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200 miles, six guys, one great-big victory

A race report from Mike Smith, a member of the Charlotte-based "Crazy Legs" group of runners that won the inaugural Palmetto 200 relay this past weekend:

The Palmetto 200 is a 201.7 mile running race from The Historical Columbia Motor Speedway to Folly Beach, SC which is Charleston, SC. It is generally run by teams of 12 and the 201 miles is broke down into 36 relay legs. Sometimes, teams like the challenge of taking on the miles with a smaller team. Case in point, Crazy Legs chose to run the race as an Ultra Team with 6 people. This means that our number of relay legs just doubled from three to six and the recovery time was just cut in half. I should have analyzed this a bit closer. For instance, Leg 2, my leg, just became nearly 31 miles over a period of 24 hours as opposed to 15 over that same period. The issue becomes breakdown, how much can you endure before your body breaks down. In races like this you have to put your ego aside and run just within your limits, or you will pay a heavy price later in the race, especially in that SC heat.

Thanks to the Race Directors, Brian and Kirk, for dialing up the heat especially for the race weekend. That made things interesting, heat exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, and the whole gamut.

The Crazy Legs Team was comprised of the following folks:

Van 1 “Soccer Mom Van”:
1. Rick Stewart, a physical therapist
2. Mike Smith, a Sheriff’s Office Captain
6. Paul Gonzalez, sales rep for a local company

Van 2 “Spicoli Van” (Matt has a Dodge retro conversion van, but Joel had to explain the reference since both were born after Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out):
3. Matt Jaskot, mechanical engineer on a yearlong sabbatical
4. Thomas Eggars, air traffic controller
5. Joel Thomas, marketing
Driver: Paul Martino, Logistical Genius, kept us on point the entire race, with the shock collars…

We went out with the intent of running a 7:10 average, heat and physical breakdown held us to a 7:37 pace overall. Not bad considering conditions. The race was on point for most of the evening going into the morning, then physical breakdown starting taking its toll and we dropped off of our estimated time by 27 minutes with a couple slow legs. The team closest to us and our pit stop companions for most of the race were the Team “Island Liquors”. They kept us company and really kept us honest late in the race when we were feeling the race affects the most. They were closing fast and were intent on keeping us in their sights hoping for a late race blunder on our part. Early in the race, they had a runner get lost and lose about 20 minutes. We would like to thanks that lady that sent him down the wrong road. Had it not been for that, we would have really had to race it down to the wire within mere minutes of each other.

The fun part of the relay races is the camaraderie of all race teams involved. Regardless of your teams’ caliber, everyone supports each other. The running community never disappoints in peer support. Thanks to all of the other teams on the course and to all of the volunteers who made it possible.

The relay was excellent, extremely well organized and well marked.

Girls on the Run helping woman rekindle old flame

Running is a remarkably positive part of so many runners' lives. The fitness benefits are many. It can help people lose a bunch of weight, or be a great stress-reliever.

But for Jessica Otto -- who captained the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams at Division I Western Michigan University earlier this decade -- running became a remarkably negative part of her life.

"As a Division I athlete, the focus was on results; run faster, set records, win races and do what you need to do to have your team win," recalls Otto, now 29 and a resident of Denver. "People I trusted told me to lose weight to run faster, push harder to win a race and do more for just that one extra point. It was never enough."

So after graduating in 2002, she took a bold stance on running: She gave it up. And in the past eight years, Otto has not pounded much pavement with much passion.

Which is why, then, that it's so interesting she wound up in a job that celebrates running.

Read on to learn more about Jessica Otto, who has been program director for Girls on the Run of Charlotte since December. (The New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is set for 9 a.m. this Saturday at Independence Park. Details are at the end of the interview.)

Q. What made you fall in love with running as a girl?

I loved running because it was easy for me, I was good at it, it made me special, and ultimately, I found that I was capable of more that I thought possible. I didn’t see myself as special, but when I ran, it was almost like anything was possible. When I ran it was just me and the pavement. No one or nothing else mattered.

Q. What made you fall out of love with running as a young woman?

The pressure ... . I was never fast enough, I never placed high enough, I wasn’t thin enough. This pressure made me feel that I wasn’t ever going to be [good] enough. My scholarship was on the line all the time. If you were on the full ride, you had to finish first in the conference; if you were on the lowest scholarship level, then you could finish 10th. If you didn’t [achieve] the goal your coach set for you, then you could have your scholarship lowered -- which affected if you could afford college. Everything was very performance-based, and the bar was always raised just higher than you could reach. If you didn’t perform today ... there wasn’t a tomorrow to try again. The coaching staff at WMU changed my senior year to some remarkable people, but for me, the pressure created prior to their arrival was always there.

Q. So after college, did you stop running completely?

It was [typical] in college that after a season, you would take two weeks off. These weeks were hard, because you knew you should take them off to heal, but even two weeks -- in my head -- would affect my performance. When I graduated college and concluded my collegiate career, I took two weeks off, got a job, and then walked away from running. I still dream about running in races at least twice a week, but even in those dreams, I am the person that can’t claw their way to the front.

Q. Are you running for pleasure or fitness at all right now?

I do run occasionally now, but it isn’t the same. Now, I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I struggle with my abilities now compared to what I could do in college. When I was an athlete, we would do our “easy runs” at 7:30 pace, and if you didn’t keep up, you were left behind. Now, I am lucky to do a 10-minute mile, and when I do run, I can’t help but think, “You should be able to at least do a 7:30 pace.”

Q. I'm curious: If running pains you so much, emotionally, what drew you to the GOTR opportunity?

I still love running. The thrill of going out by yourself -- just you, your shoes, and the pavement. The time to find myself inside all of my thoughts. Running has always inspired me to be more than ordinary, and [to] do something with my life. I learned that from running, and I haven’t lost that. Girls on the Run has coined the term “the Girl Box.” The Girl Box is that place where a girl goes from being her vivacious self [to trying] to be what others want her to be. That was running for me when I was in college. I was trying to be the perfect runner: thin, fast, No. 1. And ultimately, I couldn’t ever be that person or fit that box. Honestly, no one can. Girls on the Run, for me, is a place where I can use my knowledge of running, talents leading a nonprofit, passion for making a difference in the lives of children, and my love for running to encourage change. GOTR has provided me an opportunity to encourage girls to discover the power of running, and the amazing power and beauty that lies within them. I didn’t have Girls on the Run. I want to do what I can to keep girls from going into the Girl Box, and going through what I have.

Q. You've characterized the GOTR races as "magical experiences." Can you articulate for me what makes them so unique and special?

The 5K is magical because many of the girls haven’t participated in a large-scale 5K event. Completing the 5k is a goal for them, and the first time they are able to show themselves and their parents what they can accomplish. Pride and tears gleam off the faces of the parents, girls, coaches, volunteers and staff. If you have had a race where you broke your personal record, ran further than you thought you could, or had a run where everything fell into place, then you know what the 5K feels like for the girls. Many of the girls struggle through the 5K, walking, running, talking, cheering -- but ultimately, they sprint across the finish line with [a] big smile and pride. For many of the girls, their 5K is the moment when they are completing a goal they never dreamed they could do. It is truly a magical and inspiring event.

Q. And there's one that really stands out for you, right?

[Yes] -- the Jingle Jog 5K in December of 2008 ... . I had a ball because I wasn’t running for me, but for the girls. I stood at the start line and jumped like a seasoned competitor when we started, but instead of taking off like a seasoned competitor, I looked next to me to see Peyton, one of the girls I coached. Starting a 5K to run with a girl is a completely different experience than to run competitively -- from my perspective, it is so much better. She took off with her dad to complete the event while I ran backwards taking photos of all of the other girls I knew. Many of those photos hang in the GOTR office. The interesting thing about that event was while I was on cloud nine afterward, I called home, and the first thing I was asked was how long it took me. That isn’t the philosophy with Girls on the Run. It isn’t how long it takes you, just that you completed it. Something I still need to learn.

Q. Do you think you'll ever learn to enjoy running again on a personal level, away from your job? Do you want to?

I hope so, I look forward to the day when I am able to go out and run with friends and enjoy it like I used to. ... I love running. I just don’t love who I am when I am running. I still struggle with negative self talk and feelings of inadequacy when it comes to running. [But] when I have the opportunity to encourage a girl to discover the power of running, I get just as much joy as they do. It is a great feeling to talk with young girls about running, and the joy that can come from it. The most powerful thing that I can do to teach girls when approaching running is to do your best, believe in yourself and remember that tomorrow is another day. If you didn’t accomplish your goal today, you can always try again tomorrow.

Saturday's New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is a noncompetitive event for "all runners, joggers, and walkers." See the website for registration fees; proceeds from this event will benefit Girls on the Run of Charlotte "so that all girls that want to participate in our program can have the opportunity." Start time is 9 a.m. in Independence Park, situated between the Elizabeth and Piedmont Park neighborhoods.