Getting on Track

BY Rebecca Germain and Ryan Austin

Over mountainous terrain too jagged for a horse a man named Philippides spent the better part of two days running 150 miles. Then he ran 26.2 more.

It was 490 years before the time of Jesus and the Persians were attacking the Greeks in a town called Marathon. Philippides was the messenger from Marathon sent running to Sparta requesting help. He ran there and back and upon seeing victory over the Persian armies legend has it that he ran the final 26.2 miles to Athens throwing his hands in the air and shouting “Nenikkamen!” (We have won!). He died on the spot but wow what a run. We honor that victory today by calling a run of 26.2 miles a “marathon.”

Now not everyone can or wants to run that many miles but serious long-distance marathoners training for competition stay-in-shape runners looking for their next 5K and casual joggers just out for a little fresh air and exercise are following Philippides footsteps all across the Azalea Coast.

Whats in it for you? The health benefits of running

Like cross-country skiing swimming and long-distance biking running burns a substantial amount of calories per minute. In fact running is such a successful fat burner that more than 60 percent of runners start to stabilize manage and decrease their weight. The resulting weight loss creates a snowball effect of health benefits: increased energy lowered cholesterol levels and improved sleep to name a few.

According to specialists running is also a wonderful prescription for patients at high risk or in early stages of osteoporosis diabetes or hypertension. For people with osteoporosis research shows that the impact of running hardens bones a huge health benefit. Diabetic patients can run to lower the amount of insulin the body produces in a day while improving the bodys ability to utilize it. And for hypertension running can reduce the risk of heart attack since it strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure.

The list of reasons to run just keeps growing: it reduces the risk of stroke and breast cancer raises HDL (“good” cholesterol) boosts the immune system and fights the aging process. But if those reasons arent enough maybe youll consider a jog to help beat the blues. Running releases endorphins that help keep us happy. If like most people you experience brief periods of tension stress or sadness running just might lift your spirits and send your stress packing.

Friends in Fitness: Leanne Johnson and Andrea Ren

Jeanne Johnson a registered nurse and safety specialist at PPD and Andrea Ren a retail banking officer at Cape Fear Bank run together three days a week rain or shine: two short runs at either the UNCW track or downtown and one long 10- to 20-mile run. They run to stay fit and healthy but its more than that. “Its our hobby and its our passion ” Johnson says. “Running isnt something we do. Its who we are.”

Ren smiles “But its a social thing too.” Whether its Wrightsville Beach or Greenfield Lake you wont find these girls running with iPods. Theyre talking. When friends join them for workouts they joke that the girls chat the entire time almost. “There is this silent mile ” Ren laughs. “Its that last mile when were both so tired we cant talk anymore.”

Johnson and Ren met by chance when they volunteered at the Beach2Battleship Triathlon last November. “We started talking and realized were really similar ” Johnson says. She and Ren are both from the north Ontario and Vermont respectively theyve both been running since high school enjoy participating in 5K and 10K races and have similar running times they even wear the same size running shoes. “[In November] when we found out we were both training for Aprils Boston Marathon we decided to start running together ” Ren says.

And thats what theyve been doing ever since running as friends as a motivational team as two people who just love to run.

The Serious Runner: Tyler Vail

When Tyler Vail a senior at UNCW isnt studying to finish his bachelors degree in Exercise Science or working at Wilmington Athletic Club hes running really far. On May 16-17 Vail plans to complete his first ultramarathon Keys 100 a 100-mile race starting in Key Largo and ending in Key West. “They say if you can run 20 miles of a marathon the last six are mental ” Vail says all smiles. “Ive run a marathon. Now I want to see if I can do this.”

Vail is training for the Keys 100 by running three days a week two “short” 10-mile runs and one long 20-mile run. Armed with his Garmin GPS running watch which tracks distance pace and location Vail can run anywhere he wants without getting lost and he does: from his Gordon Road home to Wrightsville Beach up and down College Road or around Historic Downtown Wilmington. Vail also conditions on the days he doesnt run by swimming and cycling. Before he takes off for Florida hell test himself with a 40-mile run.

So how does one stay motivated in the throes of a 100-mile race? For Vail running is about staying healthy but its also about breaking psychological barriers. “When I get out there and its just me and the road I pray a lot. Its just me and God ” Vail says. “Other times I think about what Dean Karnazes said: Run when you can walk when you have to crawl if you must just never give up.”

Wilmington Road Runners

Every week runners gather to run along the beaches of Wilmingtons coast or crisscross our Port City bridges. The largest and perhaps most popular of these groups is the Wilmington Road Runners. Founded in 1978 and still going strong this group provides a unique community for runners to train race and socialize together.

From their Web site a hotspot for local running information runners can access a weekly running schedule that includes a group track workout at UNCW a hill run in Historic Downtown Wilmington and a long run to Wrightsville Beach. Anyone can participate in these runs and they are a great way to experience the benefits of running in a supportive motivational group. The Web site also provides a race calendar with updates on local running events as well as a special events calendar that highlights volunteer opportunities parties and social events for members of the club. “[We] all kind of hang out together ” says Tracy Christian president of Wilmingtons Road Runners. “Theres a good healthy network of people here in Wilmington.”

The club encourages all levels of runners to join. “You dont have to be a marathon runner ” says Christian. “Just running the Loop three times a week will make you feel better and youll lose weight.” Even kids can get involved. “Its amazing how much [running] helps their self-confidence ” Christian continues. “They get out there and find out they CAN run a mile.”

For more information visit

Loop Chi: Dr. Peter Kramer

Dr. Peter Kramer is a family physician at Wrightsville Beach Medicine. In addition to being a doctor hes a husband and a family man. Like many of us its challenging for him to carve out time from his busy schedule to exercise but that doesnt stop him. Every Wednesday afternoon while some of his children attend church choir practice youll find Dr. Kramer working in some cardio around the John Nesbitt Loop. He runs pushing a stroller a three-wheeled two-seater that cradles his youngest child Andrew age 4. “He likes it ” says Dr. Kramer. “He eats his little snack and takes a nap.” Meanwhile Dr. Kramer practices ChiRunning as he circles the loop.

A former triathlete Dr. Kramer has been running on and off since 1987 but after a painful lower back injury he needed to find a safer more comfortable way to run. Thats when he discovered ChiRunning an official running philosophy and program that teaches people a low impact bio-mechanically correct running form. ChiRunning helps athletes with previous injuries continue to run safely and without pain but its also used as a tool for beginners to learn to run correctly and efficiently. With the aid of ChiRunning Dr. Kramer still enjoys a quick run one to two times a week. “You dont need a membership. You dont have to pay anything ” explains Dr. Kramer. “I like running because you can just put on your shoes and go.” For more about ChiRunning visit

Girls On The Run

Margie Butts is a council director for Girls On The Run an after-school program that inspires self respect and healthy living in girls grades three through eight. “Some may feel they dont have the coordination or agility to do very many sports but running is something that doesnt require those kinds of skills. You can always put one foot in front of the other. Its especially good for girls who feel that they dont fit in with other sports ” says Butts.

During the 12-week program the girls undergo training that leads to a final 5K run. But racing isnt all the program is about. The curriculum deals with important issues like body image gossiping and bullying. “We try to help them feel good about themselves ” Butts says “and to be comfortable in their own bodies.”

To help make this point the girls are paired up during races to encourage each other to keep going. “And well play games during our runs. Well have a relay and while theyre running well teach them about gossiping by whispering something in their ear as they come around the track and then have them pass the story along throughout the relay so when they get to the end they see how much the information has changed and how a little comment can get worse.”

Lend a hand

Girls On The Run is a nonprofit organization with 160 councils across North America serving more than 40 000 girls. Locally they are always looking for volunteer coaches willing to give three hours per week as well as a variety of donations including water bottles for the girls and T-shirt printing. For more information visit

Where to Run: get outdoors

Fortunately Wilmington is home to some spectacular running spots. Of course no matter where you run remember to put safety first: Try to run during the daylight hours and when possible with a buddy.

  • Wrightsville Beachs public park the John Nesbitt Loop (“The Loop”) extends 2.5 miles and offers beautiful coastal views for joggers and casual walkers. The Loops gentle curves guide runners over three bridges and through the beachs downtown area providing a lovely tour of one of North Carolinas most treasured islands.

  • For a challenge try jogging the trail around Greenfield Lake (421 South Burnett Boulevard Wilmington) which stretches 4.3 miles. This longer path offers a scenic route for the more ambitious runner. Restrooms and water are available at the park office.

  • Theres no shame in starting small and theres no better place to do it than Halyburton Park (4099 S. 17th Street Wilmington). This route is only 1.3 miles the perfect length for an afternoon stroll or a quick sprint.

  • For the ultimate calorie blasting workout try running on the beach. A fantastic getaway from the track and trail running seaside strengthens your ankles arches and every muscle below the knee and burns almost twice the calories of running on asphalt.

If the shoe fits

finding the perfect running shoes

Now that you know why you should run and who you can run with all you need is a good pair of running shoes. Fortunately Wilmington has at least three great places to help you find the perfect pair.

Omega Sports
3501 Oleander Drive

If youre serious about running youll want to get fitted for the correct shoe. John Stevens the Omega Sports store manager recommends running shoes even if you plan on walking. “You can walk in a running shoe but you cant run in a walking shoe ” says Stevens. And he should know: The wall of shoes at Omega is decorated with more honors than an Eagle Scout shirt featuring racer numbers and signed posters. Many runners return here every three to five hundred miles to retire their old shoes for a fresh new pair.

Whether you choose to call ahead to schedule an appointment or just walk right in Stevens shows people the chart first. It identifies foot type by arch and pronation the rotational movement of your ankles. Then Stevens asks customers to jog on a treadmill while a video camera records their gait cycle for frame by frame analysis. “All our employees go through extensive training in this area ” Stevens says. “Its not just about the foot. Youve got to protect the lower back knees joints youre fitting the whole person.”

901 Town Center Drive

TrySports encourages everyone who walks through their door to “try” a lifestyle involving aerobic activity. To that end you can find everything youll need to run there from Yankz! Sure Lace Systems for pesky loose shoe strings to 2XU calf guards for shin splint sufferers and of course shoes.

Adam Rose senior customer relations executive begins the TrySports comprehensive shoe fitting by filling out a customer profile. Then customers step onto a Sole Defense Therma Imaging pad which uses body heat to outline the arches of your foot identifying candidates for arch support inserts. Afterwards Rose explains “There are three types of running shoes: neutral stability and motion control shoes.” To determine the right shoe for you Rose measures your foot and provides a pair of neutral shoes to wear on a treadmill test run. Frame by frame video technology is used to analyze your gait and possible pronation to establish each customers shoe type. Rose advises trying only three pairs of shoes in a sitting. “Any more than that gets overwhelming ” he says. “After we establish your shoe type its really about comfort from there.”

New Balance
29 Van Campen Boulevard

New Balance recognizes that no one shoe can fit every foot perfectly. Thats why theyve developed The Fit-Form System. This system is composed of 13 carefully crafted shoe forms each of which is engineered to provide a unique fit and size profile optimized for women men and kids according to their activity and unique foot characteristics. This set of anatomically correct forms provides a fit system thats perfect for any foot. Combine that with the technology behind the New Balance Suspension System and youll discover the comfort and performance that sets New Balance apart.