Marathon Profiles: Why They Run

They run to take charge of their health and well-being, or meet deeply felt personal goals.

They draw motivation from fellow runners in organizations throughout South Florida that guide and coach beginners on how to properly train for half-marathons (13.1 miles) and marathons (26.2 miles).

On Jan. 25, thousands of runners will take part in the 2015 Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on a course that runs through downtown Miami, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and Brickell.

Why do they run? Here are some of their stories:

Rachel Amezcua, 24: ‘It helps me clear my mind.’

Rachel-400Ms. Amezcua says she got the running bug a couple of years ago after graduating from college with an extra 15 to 20 pounds. But she admits she overdid it at first, pushing herself so hard that she strained her knees and back, and required physical therapy.

Nonetheless, she ran her first half-marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disney World, in 2013, which was followed by a last-minute enrollment with TeamFootWorks in South Miami, which runs Fitness 101 programs for runners who want train for half- or full-marathons. It was the right decision at the right time, she says.

“One of my teachers from high school is a group leader with TeamFootworks,” she recalls. “He urged me to join. I signed up on the last day to enroll. Now, I am very grateful that I did. I wouldn’t do a half-marathon again if it weren’t for the group.”

Ms. Amezcua is working on her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Florida International University, while working an internship at FIU’s nursing graduate program.

“The first time I started training, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, injuries and all,” she says. “I love running. Runner’s high is real. It does happen. Now I do it to stay healthy. It helps to clear my mind.

She is going for her second half-marathon on Jan. 25. Ms. Amezcua credits her follow runners at TeamFootworks with improving her training skills and providing crucial motivation, especially during those arduous and long-distance runs on weekends leading up to the event. As many as 50 fellow runners take part in each group under a specific pace category, such as those running 11-minute or 12-minute miles.

“In a group, you have people that push you,” she says. “Some days are hell, and I don’t want to do it. But I do it because the group believes in me and that helps me believe in myself.”

Mishele Hobson, 45: ‘I realized that my lifestyle choices had to change.’

Mishele-400Like many before her who join running organizations and train for marathons, Mrs. Hobson has a lot to juggle on her plate. While her husband works full time out of the country, she runs her own hair-styling business, Salon Mishele, in Miramar and has two daughters, ages 17 and 15.

But what she doesn’t have on her plate anymore is the “awful food” that forced her to make some crucial changes in her life less than a year ago.

“I changed eating habits, became a vegetarian and cut out all the awful food,” she says.

She then discovered that long-distance running was the best companion to healthy eating. Since March, she has run three half-marathons and has lost 50 pounds.

Her biggest motivation would come from her grandfather, who recently turned 101 years old. For years, her grandfather ate natural foods from a garden of his own.

“I was overweight. He just went into assisted living last year, but he’s super healthy,” she says. “I want to live to a ripe-old age, but I realized that my lifestyle choices had to change.”

With the help of her fellow runners and coaches at Friends in Training (FIT) in Broward, Mrs. Hobson will run her first full marathon this month.

“I could not have done all of this on my own,” she says. “With the long training runs, everybody is so supportive. We break up into groups according to skill levels. So I never feel like I’m running with a group that’s too fast or too slow. FIT was a godsend to me. I love it.”

Mike Ramnath, 62: ‘Being a part of a running group made all the difference.’

Mike-400Mr. Ramnath started running six years ago after he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  One full marathon and eight half-marathons later, he says he is “full of energy and still very healthy.”

Thanks to the camaraderie and motivation he gets from his fellow runners at Friends in Training (FIT) running club in Broward, Mr. Ramnath says he has no problem getting up at 4 or 5 on Saturday mornings for those grueling training sessions of 10 to 20 miles.

“The encouragement and support of the other coaches are amazing. FIT is a group that will work with you,” says Mr. Ramnath, who recently retired from his job as compliance manager at Motorola in Plantation. “I did finally lose those 10 pesky pounds that I was carrying for over 20 years.”

He will run his second full marathon on Jan. 25, but he’s come a long way from his first half-marathon.

“I started running 6 years ago to improve my health,” he recalls. “At first, I thought ‘how hard could this be’ — until I ran my first half marathon in Miami. I completed it but was totally exhausted.”

He said he didn’t follow a training plan and “did everything a runner was not supposed to do — not hydrating enough, poor refueling. I ran somebody else’s race.”

But those days of struggling are far behind him. Now, his family also gets involved. Mr. Ramnath’s two sons, ages 32 and 24, ran a half-marathon with their father not too long ago.

“I never pictured myself as a runner, but being a part of a running group made all the difference.”

Lori Schaub, 33: ‘I’ve lost about 40-45 pounds, but I’m still working on it.’

Lori-400Ms. Schaub, a 6th grade special education teacher in Miami-Dade, recalls how she started running two years ago, leading up to several 5Ks before tackling the Disney Princess Half Marathon mainly out of a “love of Disney.” She then fell in love with running.

“I was overweight and tried finding exercises that I liked,” she remembers. “I tried the gym and home videos, but nothing stuck.”

As is common with beginning long-distance runners, Ms. Schaub soon learned that going at it alone was not the best path.

“When I trained on my own, I did hurt my myself. I needed physical therapy,” she says.

As a result, she sought out a different experience — the network of support provided by fellow runners at South Miami’s TeamFootworks running club.

“I thought I’d try the group dynamic,” she says. “Their encouragement, support and motivation made a big difference. Now, I properly train, do my before-and-after stretching, and I know the proper hydration and nutrition.”

She says her fellow runners provide a “wealth of knowledge.”

“That’s a key part of the team dynamic,” she says. “There are always other people for you to share concerns and ideas with.

Ms. Schaub will run her third half-marathon on Jan. 25.

“It’s been a long two-year process. I’ve lost about 40-45 pounds, but I’m still working on it. I want to lose another 30 to 35 pounds.”

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