Going the distance

As a mom and new runner at my daughter’s dance studio put it, “I don’t even like to run, yet I feel like I should accomplish a 5K in my life.”

So what gives? Why put a timed run on your bucket list?

“Despite running with hundreds or even thousands of other people, marathons are a very personal experience that demand intense training and preparation. Running a marathon remains one of the ultimate personal challenges, because it is beyond normal human capacity … requiring both physical and mental training to overcome our natural limitations,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cordes, an Edmond psychiatrist.

Cordes said the significant commitment that pushes one’s body and brain to the limit gives great personal satisfaction and validation.

right, The final stretch of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

For folks like Lennon Patton, 33, the Oklahoma City director of catering for Jason’s Deli, his “aha!” moment to take up running came when his mother was in the intensive care unit for nine days this past summer. “It helped me realign some priorities, including my own health,” he said.

Patton took up running in August and has already completed his first five-km run and set a new personal pace time at the OKC Greek Festival race. At the present time, he doesn’t have goals beyond five-km runs, but better pace times and faster finishes are always challenging rewards.

For Katie McClelland, University of Central Oklahoma social media coordinator, running had been a start-and-stop cycle over several years, quitting early each time. While her initial goal was to lose weight, she said it wasn’t until she changed her mindset to challenge herself that she was able to succeed. She started training this spring and by September, ran the five-km at the Kelsey Briggs Run Against Child Abuse at Lake Hefner.

“There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. And despite my slow time, I am succeeding.

I’m stronger, and each run is a challenge,” said McClelland.

At the race, she met a runner who didn’t have a typical runner’s lean build. The runner told her she’d been running for 10 years and had even completed four half-marathons.

“She was so inspiring to me, and she helped me realize that anyone can be a runner,” McClelland said.

She believes in small milestones:

celebrating when she first ran 1 1/4 miles without walking; then 1 1/2, then two, then 2 1/2.

“Each distance and time success has been a reward to myself,” she said.

Dr. Daniel Clinkenbeard, who specializes in sports medicine at McBride Orthopedic Hospital, advised new runners to start slow and run only three to four days a week.

“Incorporate cross-training to improve fitness and help avoid running injuries. For a beginner runner, it takes about six to eight weeks to properly train to run a 5K race and 16-20 weeks for a half marathon,” he said.

“Runnersworld.com has several training programs for a variety of distances and running backgrounds that can help.”

How can new runners stay motivated? An experienced marathoner of 22 years, Dana Campbell said she thinks of those who can’t run, such as her father, who lost his leg to diabetes before he passed away; injured soldiers at home and overseas; and for the people who will benefit from the charity marathons.

Campbell, a special-needs teacher in the Deer Creek schools, runs nearly 40 races per year and typically wins or places in her age category. She emphasized the importance of a proper running shoe.

“Get fitted. Don’t be cheap. Get blister-free socks. Make sure your shoes are laced up right, put insoles in them and don’t get in a hurry and just throw them on before you head out,” Campbell said.

She recommended running on asphalt or track, and warned that races are not held on treadmills: If she has time, Campbell likes to practice on the race route to get a feel for it.

How should new runners deal with the elements? The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon of 2011 put marathoners through the full test: rain, hail, wind, cold. While Campbell likes to run in the elements, she advised others to stay strong, set a pace and find a mantra.

“Have friends with a sign. And remember, your next marathon will not be the same. What are the chances of lightning and hail again? Your next race will be better,” she said.

While being in a new town or celebrating the night before can be fun, she warned runners to eat as light as possible and stick to whatever food and drink they train with, at least until they are an experienced marathoner and know what they can handle. Also, know where your water stops are along the race, and be sure it’s water and not a sports drink you are pouring on your head.

Photo by Mark Hancock