Our Take: The End Of One Personal Journey … And The Beginning Of Another?

News Editor Gene Marrano before the Suntrust Richmond Marathon last weekend.

by Gene Marrano

(Star-Sentinel News Editor Gene Marrano reflects on last weekend’s marathon in Richmond and the past year.) I’ve jogged and run road races for more than three decades but never thought I’d ever run a marathon. 26.2 miles? Who does that? Why?  I would enter 3-4 5K’s or 10k’s every year, mainly to give me a goal to shoot for when jogging. About a year ago, however, I decided I wanted a different body, and started to change my eating habits. Mainly I cut back on the carbohydrates – white bread, pasta, bagels and the like. Sigh… It wasn’t easy. But I really don’t miss it now, and when I do indulge, it’s a rare treat.

I started entering more road races around town, and some trail runs also, almost every weekend. Know what? It’s a lot easier to run when you drop 50-60 lbs. like I did. My times got faster, although I’m not a threat to win a race, but it wasn’t really a chore to finish.

Now I often finish in the top three for my age group, which means coming home with a ribbon or trophy. It’s a bit of a motivator. Check out starcitystriders.com or mountainjunkies.net for a list of races upcoming (the Thanksgiving morning Drum Stick Dash race downtown and the Jingle Bell Run before Christmas are among the few left in 2011– as is this weekend’s Star City Half Marathon.)

Now for the marathon – about five months ago I said, “the heck with it, I’m gonna do it,” and I signed up for the Suntrust Richmond Marathon. To train I ran the entire length, back and forth, on the longest connected portion of the Roanoke River Greenway to date (from 13th St. to Vic Thomas Park and back, about 11 miles) once a week. In recent weeks I ran it twice non-stop for a total of 22 miles.

I was ready, about as ready as I was going to be. So, it was on to Richmond last Saturday for a really great event. There was also an 8K and a half marathon, as well. The Suntrust Marathon starts on Broad Street downtown and winds through some really neat parts of Richmond, goes over the James River once or twice, and through some parks too.

There was music all along the way and thousands of people cheering for the runners. When I hit the 20-mile mark I knew it was just a 10K race away from the finish. That made the soreness in my legs and feet a bit easier to take. But it really wasn’t all that bad – made much easier by that weight loss. I finished the 26.2-mile course, mostly flat, in 3:54:01 and was happy with that.

Am I a marathoner now? Not on a regular basis, but I will run the Star City half marathon this weekend and will try a few marathons next year – maybe even Roanoke’s own Blue Ridge Marathon, if I’m ready to tackle a few mountains.

It’s amazing what changing my diet a bit did for me. A yearlong journey that led to downtown Richmond, with people cheering me and others on as we attempted to run 26 miles. What’s even more amazing is that almost anyone can do it, if they want to and are healthy enough to do so. Sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me.

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