Couch Potato to Half Marathoner

by Eva Freer

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would become a runner, I would have thought that they had lost their mind, but as I write this, I just completed the Coastal Delaware Half Marathon—my 36th. Here is a how it all happened.

My husband, Rick & I, met Cheryl & Shahin in October 2007 when we stopped in to Fleet Feet to get "good" shoes before going for a 2-week stay at the fat farm, aka Hilton Head Health Institute (HHHI). This was the beginning of our major change from couch potatoes to an active lifestyle. A few months after returning from HHHI we began bringing our 2 black labs, Beau & Belle, to walk during the Thursday evening Open Group Runs from Fleet Feet. Afterwards, we would often eat dinner nearby with Cheryl, Shahin, Anna, and others. In the fall of 2008 we met Craig and Callie Brackett at the group run. They were planning to run the Disney Half Marathon in January 2009. Although Cheryl grew up in Orlando, she had never run Disney. This sounded like fun, so she said that she would train with me for us to do it in January 2010. At that time, Disney only had a couple of races each year so you had to sign up in February for the race the following January as they typically sold out months in advance. We signed up for the 2010 in early 2009. Yet, keep in mind that when I signed up I didn't run and had never run in my life. In high school I worked in the library to avoid taking Phys. Ed…Eva and her dog

Rick and I walked a few 5K's during 2008 and 2009. One of these was the Buddy's Race Against Cancer in November 2008. Fleet Feet had a group of people running that Shahin and Cheryl needed to support, so their daughter Anna walked it with Rick and me. Shahin came out to meet us about half a mile from the finish. Near us was a little girl about 4 and her mother doing the race in memory of a family member who had had cancer. The little girl had been whining and complaining for most of the race. Shahin interacted with her and Anna, getting them to run a little, then walk a little. The little girl finished the race happy with a smile on her face. I thought, "Wow, what an incredible teacher and coach he is."

Somehow I totally skipped the No Boundaries 5K training and went straight into Long Distance 101 in September 2009. No one was anywhere close to as slow as I was, so Cheryl would run with me. It was hot for the evening runs and I was dying in the heat. (Shahin taught me to pour water on my neck and back to cool off.) One day, I ran into Kathy Divalentin at the gym. She told me about the Jeff Galloway Run/Walk method and recommended his book, "Jeff Galloway's Book on Running". I read it cover to cover. New OrleansIn LD101, Shahin embraced my using Galloway's training schedule and run/walk method for someone trying to finish their first HM. (I used 90 second run and 30 second walk intervals.) He & Cheryl encouraged and coached me throughout the training leading up to the race. I was having shin splints and Cheryl's theory is that your legs just have to get used to the pounding. Sure enough, 3 weeks before the race, the shin splints just went away. My husband Rick was also doing the Disney Half with me. He hates to run, so trained on the elliptical for endurance. He told everyone in advance that he was going to "let" me finish ahead of him since I had trained for it and he hadn't, but afterwards he admitted that I beat him fair and square. I finished exactly 3 minutes ahead of him! I was still running at the end and he walked the last 3 miles. I had also been worried that it might be hot for the race. I was fortunate enough to do it the year that it was 38 degrees at the start.

I had planned to do Disney then retire from running, but with the shin splints gone, I was hooked. Wendie Love was my next running partner. We did the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville in April 2010, walking the last 2 miles in the pouring rain. That summer I met Dana Moser, Doreen Akune, Connie Quimby, and Jeannie Hibbert. We trained to do the Women's Half in Nashville in September 2010. The following spring, I met Anne Mathiak, my BFFT (Best Friend For Travel). 

Eva and Anne

We did the Flying Pig in Cincinnati in May 2011. My circle of peeps has grown over the years. We put together two teams for the Ragnar Relay Tennessee in November 2011. With two teams we each had a running partner for the race. The Ragnar people told us no one had done that before. Our teams were the Sisterhood of the Running Shoes, Team Left and Team Right. We ran as nuns and catholic schoolgirls. It was a fun, tiring experience that I'm glad I had but don't want to repeat anytime soon.

Around the time of our Ragnar race is when we came up with the idea to do a half marathon in each of the 50 states. I have now completed 27 of the states plus DC. I've had several more running partners over the years, including Kay Panzica, Kristen Lewis, Pam Moore. One of my favorite things as a runner is to help someone cross the finish line for their first half marathon. Along the way, I've also learned to bike and swim with the Triathlon Training Programs and have completed one sprint triathlon.

I also continue to participate in the Running Training Programs through the Train All Year Pass. The support and encouragement from the runners and coaches are phenomenal. I have the best friends that I've ever had and I met them through the Training Programs at Fleet Feet Sports. Not to mention, we love our road trips!Jingle Bell Run

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