Woman's driven to regain 'inner athlete,' run marathon

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Advice from the Trenches

Who better to offer advice for first-time marathoners and half-marathoners than the people who have run them before?

The Columbian asked experienced marathon and half-marathon runners to submit their pointers for those new to the sport.

Here's what they had to say:

• Don't do it. You might get hooked! But if you do, don't go out too fast and get caught up in the excitement of the start. Go slower than you want to finish at for about 5 miles, and you will be very thankful in the later miles. Also, don't overeat the day before the event and start to hydrate a few days before.

— Jim Scheer of Vancouver, more than 330 marathons

• Pick a training plan and vet it with someone who has completed that distance already. Find someone to hold you accountable to executing the plan. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready (at least three to four months for a half and four to six months for a full). And listen to your body; get nagging injuries checked out.

—Dr. Bret Freitag, three marathons and eight half-marathons

• Don't try anything new on race day. Don't eat, drink or wear anything that you have not tried out on a long training run. You do not know how your body will react to new things.

— Sarah Abernathy of Vancouver, nine marathons and 29 half-marathons

• Get properly fitted for shoes and a great pair of moisture-wicking socks. If you're female, you need a great sports bra. Find soft surfaces; they're easier on the joints. Add a mild resistance training program to your schedule. Run hills. Get out the door; some days, you're not going to feel like running at all. Finally, have fun with it.

— Dave Sobolik, founder of Fit Right NW

• Start slow in speed and dis

tance and build up. Stretching is your friend. Drop any extra weight you can. And run shorter races; it will give you a feel for running with others and how it affects your pace.

— Paul Stone of Vancouver, one marathon and two half-marathons

• When running a marathon, go out slower than you think you should. Also, only consume during the race what you practiced with.

— Keely Barten of Bellingham, one marathon and one half-marathon

• First and foremost, almost anyone can run a half or full marathon. Preparation is the key to success. Alternate between short, tempo and long runs. Always warm up prior to running. Always practice what you plan to do in a race. And find the right pair of shoes.

— Vanessa Valentine of Vancouver, one half-marathon

At 380 pounds, Angie Landon was one of the least likely people to be standing at the starting line of the Max Muscle Vancouver Half Marathon.

Still, when the race started that morning in February 2010, so did Landon. She walked the entire 13.1 miles, finishing in last place with a time of 4 hours, 2 minutes and 54 seconds.

One year later, she toed the line for the same race, this time 60 pounds lighter. She ran every mile.

"It was one of the coolest things I've ever done," Landon said. "Just the self-pride."

Landon was never a runner. She was an athlete -- played softball, volleyball and basketball -- but never considered running.

But at 400 pounds, Landon was ready for a change.

"I really wanted to get that inner athlete back," she said.

She joined Weight Watchers and lost 90 pounds. Then, she gained every pound back. But during one of the meetings, a woman heavier than Landon shared that she had hiked Dog Mountain. Inspired, Landon and her husband hiked Dog Mountain two weekends later.

As they huffed and puffed up the mountain, a man in his 70s or 80s ran past them. Then he ran by them on his way back down the mountain.

If a man twice Landon's age could run up the steep trails of Dog Mountain, Landon thought, she could run a half-marathon.

Completing that first half-marathon inspired her to keep running.

"The feeling that I had when I crossed the finish line for the

first time was indescribable," Landon said.

So Landon joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. After a year and a half with her trainer, Calvin Cosgrove, Landon is down to 260 pounds. Landon works out six days a week, at least two of which are outside. She walks and sprints on the treadmill -- all at an incline -- and climbs the StairMaster.

Landon also works out with Cosgrove weekly, focusing on weight training and improving her core strength.

"He's really brought that runner out in me that I never knew was there," Landon said of her trainer. "I always thought I was too fat to run."

This weekend, Landon, 43, will compete in her eighth half-marathon, the Vancouver USA Half Marathon at Esther Short Park.

Next year, though, Landon wants to toe the line for the full marathon -- an ambition sparked by her finish at the 2011 Vancouver USA Half Marathon.

The finish for the event has two chutes. Runners finishing the half-marathon went left. Runners finishing the full marathon went right.

"When I round the corner and see the two chutes, and I have to go left, all I could think about is, 'I should be going right,'" Landon said. "I felt left out."

"And a year later, I want to go right," she added. "But next year, I will be going right."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.