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CCU Atheneum: Sarah Briggs finishes a marathon in San Francisco.
Sarah Briggs finishes a marathon in San Francisco.

Going the distance: CCU runners train for the Myrtle Beach Marathon

by Mona Prufer
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Marathon fever is running high at Coastal Carolina University.

Just ask AraLeigh Beam, Wanda Lewis, Sarah Briggs, Bruce Gregory, Joe Mazurkiewicz, Debbie Conner, Gwen Fowler, Mary Kate Powell, Kris McIntyre, Rein Mungo, Christine Rockey, Nils Rauhut or Brittney Harris. These are some of the CCU faculty and staff in training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 a.m.

Also, as a service to the runners’ community, the Coastal Carolina men’s track and soccer teams are working the 20-mile water stop.

Some CCU faculty and staff are running the half marathon, some are running the full race; some are running for the first time, while others are veterans. Nearly all are excitedly counting down the minutes until the big race, pacing their training and planning their carbs for the dinner before the race (pizza and pasta are favorites). Pancakes and beer (not necessarily together) seem to be post-race favorites.

Joe Mazurkiewicz, associate athletic director, has run in every single Myrtle Beach Marathon – 13 of them counting this one – since the event started in 1997. He has run a total of 21 marathons and tries to average four a year, including the Boston Marathon on April 19.

Mazurkiewicz, who has worked at CCU since 1986, runs for the exercise and because he enjoys it. “You run in everything, the pouring rain, the heat, whatever,” he says. “Once you get out there and get going, it’s alright.”

Following the marathon, he usually goes out with friends. “Beer may be involved,” he says, “I’m a cheap date that night.” His goal this time is three hours and “anything in the 30s” minutes.

Bruce Gregory, who is Joe’s training buddy, is running his 19th marathon, six of them in Myrtle Beach. His training program begins in August with a 14-week program of running six days a week. “I will get four runs of 20-plus miles, with the longest being 24 miles,” says Gregory, who is senior associate athletic director for internal operations. “I will max out at a high mileage week of 75 miles. This leads up to my fall marathon. I will then do a modified training schedule that fits the time between my next marathons.” Gregory also runs four marathons a year, culminating with the Boston Marathon.

Christine Rockey is the veteran of marathon runners – she has run a total of 31 marathons, five of them the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which she won in 2004 (the women’s division), her first time participating in that race. (She only ran the half marathon in 2008 because her daughter was born on Jan. 8 of that year!)

A teaching associate in the School of Health, Kinesiology and Sport Studies, Rockey tries to stay in “marathon shape” year round; during peak training, she runs about 80 miles during a week. This year, she is shooting for 3:15 due to a pre-Christmas injury. Last year she ran 2:58 and came in second. “I have to be patient that this is a tempo run, prepping me for my next marathon – probably on March 21 in Wrightsville Beach,” she says.

The mother of three small children, Rockey runs for the health benefits, the endorphin rush and “to be the best parent I can be.”

Rein Mungo is running the half marathon after tearing cartilage in his knee last year and having surgery in March. “I started back walking in May and then started walk/running in June,” says Mungo. “I started training for the 10K at the Marine Corp Marathon in October, and I was doing better so I started the Marathon Training Program, two short runs during the week and then a long run on the weekends.”

Mungo, director of University Projects and Planning, mostly runs for the Red Cross Rescue Racers. Each member has to raise a minimum of $500 for the American Red Cross, with funds going to families who have lost their homes to fire. “Our goal this year is to raise $75,000. If we reach that, then all the effort and pain is well worth it,” he says.

This marathon is a first for AraLeigh Beam, assistant director of athletics compliance, who is starting with the half marathon. She has running buddies, and they run during lunch time around campus and through nearby neighborhoods several days a week. Beam runs four of the six days that she trains each week; the remaining days she does strength training and cross training. Her goal for the year is to run two marathons, and to that end, she’s already signed up for the upcoming Wrightsville Beach Marathon. “I think I’m hooked on running,” she says.

Mary Kate Powell, internship coordinator for health promotion, is also running her first half marathon. Aside from the usual exercise and health benefits, Powell runs to be a good role model for her two children.

“My initial hope was to train for speed, but I have focused more on endurance lately,” says Powell. “Training can be difficult as a working mom and wife, but it has been a great experience so far!”

Brittney Harris is running her first full marathon, having run the half marathon three times previously. Though she’s been running since elementary school, she only started running for distance in 2005. “I run to challenge myself,” she says, “Running is a great stress reducer, and the runner’s high is like no other feeling. But I am running the marathon to challenge myself to do something I never thought that I could do.” Harris is program assistant in alumni relations.

Wanda Lewis is another veteran. This is her third full marathon. It all started nine years ago when she was walking the University track. “I wanted to see if I could run all the way around it, and I did,” says Lewis, who is assistant director of the Coastal Educational Foundation. “The next time, I ran around it two times, and so on. I just kept building up.”

Lewis started with 5K runs and worked her way up. In 2002 she was part of the Santee Cooper relay team in the Myrtle Beach Marathon and, since then, she has run the half or full race every year. She follows a 16-week interval-training program called the Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST) that alternates running three days a week with weight and strength training. She started training to become more fit and combat health issues that run in her family, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

But it gives her a lot more than fitness. “It’s a personal challenge, a sense of accomplishment,” says Lewis. “It is my personal time, my time to think and reflect, to pray. Sometimes I pray for a different person each mile, and before I know it, 20 miles have gone by!”

Lewis’ goal this year is simple: “to finish.” (She actually has a specific time goal but, like many runners, she doesn’t want to jinx herself by revealing it.) Her “bucket list” goal is to run the Boston Marathon, which she missed qualifying for last year by 59 seconds.

Gwen Fowler, who teaches copyediting and news writing at CCU, is running her sixth marathon and her fifth Myrtle Beach Marathon. Last fall she ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., a hilly run that, coupled with flu-like symptoms, did not go too well. But, she’s been training since July for the two marathons so should be in tiptop shape.

Fowler trains five or six days a week, alternating between running with friends and “boot camp,” an intense, early morning exercise program. One of the runs is very long, usually the Saturday one at Market Common or Ocean Boulevard or on the Murrells Inlet Bike Path.

Running, she finds, is the best stress reliever. “I don’t always love every minute of running, but I do love how it makes me feel when I finish. It is great time for thinking or meditating or praying. It’s good for overall health and weight control. And I love talking to friends while running since several of us usually run together.”

Fowler hopes to meet her goal of 4 hours, 20 minutes for the 2010 marathon.

Sarah Briggs, technology training coordinator in Kimbel Library, has been running for three years, and this will be her second full marathon. The first was the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco in October 2008, where she raised $8,200 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She trains daily – an early morning run, two days of longer runs, and gym workouts three times a week with weights and balance exercises. Her goal is 4:45.

Running, says Briggs, is “the most amazing, inexpressible feeling in the world! I love to throw on my iPod, map out a new course, and just run for hours on end. No cares, just me and the open road.”

Kris Rau McIntyre, a communication teaching associate, is running her second half marathon. She trains on a treadmill at home and once a week pops a DVD into the player and runs for as long as the movie lasts, which can be problematic.

“Someone should have warned me how long ‘Julie and Julia’ was!” she says. “I’ve also learned you should never run to stand-up comedy. I nearly fell off the treadmill watching Eddie Izzard once.”

McIntyre runs for health reasons, to combat diseases that took her parents – heart disease and diabetes. “I’m hoping to avoid that fate if I have a weekly workout regimen,” says McIntyre. “It also gets harder with age to keep the ‘fat fairy’ from visiting too often, and my husband Marc and I like to eat junk food during Sunday football games, so I have to counteract that with some fat-burning exercise.”

For all our CCU runners, best of luck in the marathon!

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