The first steps are unique.
Kelli Hill, Kris Krohn and Cindy Meyer came to running in different ways. But the three Vancouver women who will be among the throng participating in Vancouver USA Marathon races on Sunday arrive at the starting line because the camaraderie with training partners, along with the encouragement of friends and coaches who support their goals, pushed them.
Here are their stories:
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Kelli Hill was recovering from a car accident when physical therapist Ike Anunciado introduced her to a walking program.
“Somehow,” she said with a chuckle. “I ended up in a marathon.”
For a lifelong asthma sufferer, the idea of propelling herself 26.2 miles was scary. But six months after her introduction to the Portland Fit marathon training program, Hill walked the 2008 Portland Marathon. A year later she took an hour off of her Portland Marathon time.
“It’s kind of neat to say you’ve done a marathon,” said the 43-year-old special education teacher and mother of three.
“I could not have trained for a marathon without the program to tell me how to do it,” Hill said, praising the nutrition and injury-prevention tips she’s gained through the USA Fit program.
On Sunday, after four months training with a new Vancouver chapter of the USA Fit, Hill will be racing the half marathon distance for the first time.
“I’m not in it to qualify for anything,” Hill said. “But I’m excited about the half.”
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Kris Krohn, 56, has been running for three decades. The Director of Adult Programs for the Arc of Southwest Washington, Krohn has completed the Portland Marathon four times. She describes running as therapy. On Sunday, she will try a 26.2-mile therapy session.
Her running fix started as a college student at Western Washington University. She took a jogging class, hoping to lose the “freshman 15” pounds she’d gained.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said.
Krohn is a member of the Clark County Running Club and has completed a lot of half marathons. She has finished the Portland Marathon four times, most recently in 2008.
She figured that would be her last full marathon. But the opportunity to run the first Vancouver USA Marathon motivated her to try one more.
To prepare, she and friend Sheri Walker began training with the Get Fit, Live Fit program offered by Fit Right NW running stores. The twice-weekly training get-togethers started with snow on the ground. An injury sidelined Walker in April, but Krohn stuck with it and is feeling good about her fitness for Sunday’s 26.2-mile adventure.
“I feel more prepared this time,” Krohn said. “We’ll see on Sunday morning at 11:30.”
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Like Hill, Cindy Meyer is running Sunday’s half marathon after months of training with USA Fit Vancouver. Like Hill, Meyer didn’t expect to become a distance runner.
It started in April of 2010 with an invitation from her daughter, Leah Stevens, to run in a Young Life 5K. Meyer didn’t know how far 5K was, and admits that 3.1 miles sounded like a major challenge.
“If you don’t run, and somebody says you’re going to run 5 miles, that sounds like a long way,” Meyer said. “After you get into it, and running becomes part of your life, a 5-mile run is nothing.”
Meyer did that Young Life 5K, and in February of this year completed the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Fla. With bronchitis slowing her down, that 13.1-mile exercise took nearly three hours and “was not a real good experience.”
At the suggestion of her personal trainer, Meyer joined the USA Fit Vancouver program.
“I thought, ‘Here’s a chance to do it right,’ ” Meyer said.
A 27-week program to prepare members for the Portland Marathon, the USA Fit programs put runners and walkers in the appropriate pace groups for training runs, and assign each pace group its own coach.
Independently, Meyer’s daughter joined the same program. Mother and daughter train with different pace groups, but plan to run side by side on Sunday, Meyer said.
She can’t wait.
“I’m not apprehensive at all,” Meyer said. “My goal is to actually run all 13 miles without walking any of it.”
ABOUT THE VANCOUVER USA MARATHON
• All races start and finish at Esther Short Park, West Columbia and Eighth in downtown Vancouver.
• Freedom 5K, 10 a.m. today.
• Kids runs (ages 7-12, ages 3-6), 11 a.m. today.
• Vancouver USA Marathon, 7 a.m. Sunday.
• Vancouver USA Half-Marathon, 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
• Fit Right NW Sports and Fitness Expo (including race registration and check-in) 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at downtown Hilton.
• No day-of-race registration for the marathon or the half marathon.
• More online: www.vancouverusamarathon.com