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RACE A second “running boom” takes Oklahoma by storm


By Gail Banzet


ner will admit that the best part of a race is the fi nish line. All of those long, tough hours of training seem to fade away on the fi nal stretch and the thrill of such an accomplishment motivates many participants to keep running. Just ask Oklahoma City resident Sara Eggleston who participated in her fi rst half-marathon during the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April. Egg- leston was among 27,000 other walk- ers and runners to take the course, and she said her overall race experience was much more than she ever expected. “In the beginning, I thought I would


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train for the race, mark it off my bucket list and then never do it again,” she said. “But afterward, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”


Like many people, Eggleston was a little intimidated by the thought of a 13.1-mile run but a friend talked her into registering for the race, and she soon found herself in training for a half-marathon.


“My group of girls did the Remember


the 10 race in Stillwater just for fun last year and I thought after that I would never pay to run again, but now this year I ran a half-marathon,” she said. “I guess it does get a little addictive.” Despite the rain that began to fall around mile 10 of the recent Oklahoma


18 OKLAHOMA LIVING


hether a seasoned mara- thoner or a first-time 5K participant, any run-


City event, Eggleston kept a steady pace and distracted herself with the sights and sounds of race day. She credits the supportive Oklahoma City crowds for motivating her to fi nish strong. “For the whole 13 miles there were people on the sidewalk, on their porch- es or in their lawn chairs cheering us on,” she said. “Just the atmosphere of the race helps a lot.”


Now that the race is complete, the


20-something radiographer hopes to continue running and may even sign up to run the same race again next year. As more people like Eggleston take up run- ning and register for different events, race officials are noticing a definite trend in the running world.


“A lot of people refer to this time as the second ‘running boom’ with the first one dating back to the 1970s,” said Chris Lieberman, executive direc- tor of the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa. He and a devoted team of vol- unteers from the Tulsa running com- munity organized the first Route 66 marathon in 2006. That fi rst year, 3,000 runners registered but by 2011, more than 8,000 were signing up to compete. “I think as friends see friends run- ning races it becomes more of a realis- tic goal—a goal that takes a lot of hard work but a life-changing goal they can accomplish,” Lieberman said. “Without a doubt, the number of people running is increasing, and I think the number of running stores, at least in Tulsa, is also


a major contributor to that.” Lieberman said running stores, such


as Tulsa’s Fleet Feet, not only sell run- ning shoes, clothing and other acces- sories but also offer organized training programs for both experienced and novice runners.


“The Couch to 5K program has played a great role in getting people started in the sport and it’s made a big difference in the level of race participa- tion,” he said.


According to 2011 statistics posted on the website runningusa.org, the marathon and half-marathon events at- tracted a record number of participants last year, especially the half-marathon. Running USA’s 2011 National Runners Survey indicates the half-marathon is the fastest growing road race distance in the United States and since 2000, the number of half-marathon fi nishers has more than tripled from 482,000 to 1,610,000. Why? Lieberman, a mara- thon runner in his own right, said many people are fi nding the ambition to set such an admirable goal and run their fi rst full or half-marathon.


“Runners feel like they’ve done some- thing,” he said. “The process of train- ing for and competing in your fi rst race makes you stronger, healthier and more confi dent. Who wouldn’t want that?” Also known for its social benefits, Lieberman said running is a great way to meet new people and bring friends closer together. As a result, running


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