Marathon motivation

Local runner finds inspiration to keep her going

— Maggie McElhinney found her marathon training diversion.

"Books on tape," she said. "You get so into the book you forget how long you're running."

The marathon is Sunday, but participants should be preparing their bodies now for the 26.2-mile race. Half marathoners also may want to take the advice of avid runner and doctor and physical therapist Jen Kerr.

On Thursday, she provided a long list of suggestions for people running their first race or for anyone who wants to improve previous race performance.

1. Harness the energy -- Don't go on long runs or hikes, and stay off hills. If you are feeling grumpy or anxious, which is "pretty normal," Kerr said, do short runs or do strides, which are 100-yard runs like five or six times for form. Rest. Stay off your feet.

2. Eat well -- Balanced meals are important. The obsession with carbo-loading can be dangerous because new runners tend to overdo it and feel sluggish, Kerr said. "Eat some carbs and protein, and drink water throughout the day, which is really important in the couple of days leading up to it." Don't introduce new foods to your body because it may not respond well.

3. Layer -- Dress appropriately. Buses will bring clothes back in marked bags provided by runners, so wear warm clothes while you wait for the start. Take them off before the race. The marathon starts at 7:30 a.m., but morning weather at Hahn's Peak Village is not the same as weather in Steamboat at noon.

4. Lubricate -- People who have never run long distances may not know about this tip. Armpits rub against arms. Thighs rub against each other, and nipples rub against T-shirts, which can cause bleeding and uncomfortable running conditions. Something like Vaseline works great. "It's amazing," Kerr said. "All you need is the humidity to be a little bit different. That's a big one."

5. Race day eats -- Have a good breakfast. "Again, nothing new," Kerr said. "Don't eat or drink anything you aren't familiar with." She suggests pretzels, oranges or bananas as good snacks during the race. Some people even enjoy a sandwich, though not everyone likes solid food. Know what works for you.

6. Slow down -- First timers may want to scale back the pace. Think, negative splits. "Run the first half slower than the second half," Kerr suggested. "I think almost everyone I know has gone out way too fast. Whatever your pace is, go slower, at least for the first three or four miles."

7. Post-race -- Spinning on a bike or sitting in a hot tub hours after the race may help with muscle soreness.

And, while training for her first marathon, McElhinney has logged some mileage on her 23-year-old legs.

"I really have enjoyed the training," she said. "I said I wanted to do a marathon for years. I did want to run this one because I'm from here -- born and raised."

McElhinney has competed in the 10K, but the marathon intrigued her. With her family cheering her on during training and on Sunday, she is confident she will finish. She is hoping to run her first marathon in less than three hours.

But, like many people who will take part in Sunday's Steamboat's Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, she will be running with a purpose.

McElhinney starts medical school in July at Loyola University in Chicago. She wants to be an obstetrician/gynecologist, so she found a hospital in Ethiopia to raise money for.

"I've always had a passion for Africa," McElhinney said.

The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, a women's hospital, has an established foundation so McEl--hinney knows the money she raised will go toward a cause close to her heart -- women's health.

"It is an inspiration when you are at mile 22 and don't want to step any more steps," McElhinney said. "I wanted to do the marathon for more than just myself. This is a challenge, but I chose to do it. There are so many people who experience difficulties but in a country where there are no obstetricians."

McElhinney is still taking donations for the hospital. People can make checks payable to the Fistula Foundation and mail them to McElhinney at P.O. Box 770236, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.

"I thank those who have supported me so far," she said. "People have been so generous. I've raised nearly $3,000."

The marathon, half marathon and 10K are paved, and each begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. The marathon starts at Hahn's Peak Village and follows Routt County Road 129 and the Elk River for 26.2 miles to the finish line in front of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat.

The half marathon begins at Moon Hill and finishes at the courthouse.

Aid stations are available at miles 3, 6.5, 10, 13, 15.5, 18, 20.5, 22.5 and 24.5.

Water, lemon-lime Gatorade and oranges will be available at each stop. HoneyStinger energy gels will be available at miles 18, 20.5 and 22.5.

The 10K starts and finishes in front of the courthouse, and an aid station with water and Gatorade will be set up at the halfway point.

All courses are sanctioned by USA Track and Field.

The half marathon has sold out with 900 participants. Registration is still open for the marathon, which is capped at 500 runners, and the 10K, which has no cap.

Registration is from noon to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Christy Sports in Central Park Plaza.

Packet pick-up is during the same times both days, and racers must pick up their packets during these times. They will not be mailed or delivered, and there is no pick-up on race day.

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