Gearing up to run 26.2 miles is usually not a spur-of-the-moment decision. But for Medina's Connie Gardner, it's a no-brainer.
When running more than the classic marathon distance is the norm rather than the exception, you could look at Sunday's CVS Marathon as just another stroll in the park. Which it is -- to Gardner.
As one of the nation's elite ultra runners, she is used to pounding out races of 100 kilometers or 100 miles, whichever is available first.
"The only reason I do it is because I'm good at it," said Gardner, who helps coach track and cross country at Walsh Jesuit High School. "If I was good at 5K, I'd run 5K." Gardner, 42, finished sixth last year at the CVS. She should have an easier time of it this time around. A year ago, she ran with a stress fracture in her right femur.
She finished second overall at the Toronto 100K on May 6 as she went the 62-mile distance in 8 hours and 17 minutes.
That time qualified her for the USA's six-runner contingent to the World Cup 100K this fall in Seoul, South Korea. She was named the nation's ultra runner of the year in 2003.
Not bad for someone who was more dedicated to rowing while at the University of Massachusetts.
"I would run to the boat house is about it," said Gardner, a single mother with two daughters (Abby, 14; Gwen, 11). "I just did it to stay in shape in the off-season."
She does that by working at the Medina Community Center, where she teaches swimming. While Gardner remembers her first marathon in Columbus in 1981, she can't put a number on her total.
The ultra-distance bug got her five years ago.
"I don't think I'm that much of a freak," said Gardner, who is 5-6 and 135 pounds. "I'm competitive because of my personality. As long as I eat and drink, take in the calories, my body uses them throughout the race. I stay steady."
Mark Godale, 35, of Aurora was the 1999 ultra runner of the year and has run with Gardner over the years.
He said going long is about brawn and brains.
"She doesn't look like a Kenyan," said Godale, who works a desk job in Cleveland. "We're muscular, not skinny. She is mentally and physically strong. Most people say they don't drive as far as we run.
"What's crazier? Running for eight to 10 hours or sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day? Which is what I do?"
So, what is the real reason Gardner and Godale are running in the CVS?
They are planning to run 50-plus miles "rim-to-rim" in the Grand Canyon next weekend."Actually they are running rim-to-rim-to-rim. Crazy stuff. A bunch of our club goes and runs the Grand Canyon every spring starting at the South Rim I think, running across to the north rim and then back to the south. All in a days work I guess :)
Don't think I will be doing that anytime soon...Maybe when I turn 30? (I should clarify, I do plan on running 50 miles this year in November but I am a firm believer that the Grand Canyon run is a whole different ball game with the heat and elevation changes)
Cleveland Marathon is this weekend hence the article. It should be fun. I will be out on the sidelines again cheering like a maniac in my pink Wild Bill Tee and backpack and taking pictures. Should be a blast!