Running brings group an amazing bond of friendship

Celebrating fitness and friendship are (l-r) Pam Johnson, Beverly Johnston, Gail Gantt, Andrea Misner and Susan Gum. SOURCE SUBMITTED
March 21, 2014

After writing more than 1,000 columns in a row for the Cape Gazette, I am always looking for new material, interesting stories, runners who reach milestones, and runners who visit the area with interesting achievements and stories.

Last month, the Valentines 5K Run was held at Cape state park with just under 100 runners and walkers taking part. It had snowed that week and the trail was barely clear; west of us in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas, residents were still digging out from the storm.

This week I spoke with 56-year-old Beverly Johnson, who runs a personal assistant business in the Columbia, Md. area. Beverly and her friend Susan Gum, a 56-year-old literacy coach, knew each other through their daughters. Four years ago the daughters did their first half-marathon in Baltimore and then got the running bug. They decided to enter the Disney Half-Marathon and encouraged their moms to give running a try and do the Disney 5K.

“At that time neither one of us could even run a mile without feeling like we where going to die,” said Johnson.

Shortly after their first race they discovered that the Howard County Striders had a program called FIT, an acronym for Females in Training, which is a beginners' running program. FIT was the perfect environment to build their miles in the midst of lots of encouragement from the coaches. A year later, Johnson and Gum met retired nurse Gail Gantt, risk management professional Andrea Misner, and preschool teacher Pam Johnson through the same running program. Since then, the five of them have faithfully run three times a week at varied locations, doing 3-6 miles each time.

Most Saturdays after their long run, the friends gather at a local coffee shop enjoying and replaying the morning run and just catching up on each others' week.

“We enjoy doing a couple destination runs each year,” said Susan. “The past two years we did the Run for the Plunge in Rehoboth as a way to support a good cause and get a much-needed girls' weekend to serve as a respite from our daily responsibilities of being wives and moms.”

This year, the date for the Plunge 5K did not work for the group, so that is when they decided to do the Valentines Chase with the Seashore Striders. A snowstorm in Columbia stopped their plans. This event was the first race they were not able to participate in.

Susan called me to explain this story to me and asked if she could pick up the Valentines T-shirts as the group was making its trip to Rehoboth, just a few weeks late. Susan arrived at my front porch, picked up the shirts, and headed to meet the girlfriends.

Before breakfast and shopping, they proudly put on the pink tech T-shirts and did a 4.3-mile run on a sunny March Saturday.

“Although, we love the fitness benefit it brings, the greater benefits have been a clearer mind, an energy boost, and best of all is the amazing bond of friendship,” said Susan.

With the coming of spring, the gals will be doing 10K/10-mile training with the Howard County Striders. They are also training for the St. Michaels Running Festival, where many of them will be doing the half and the rest a 10K.

“Our love for running has been contagious as we have a dozen women who will be joining us to do the St. Michaels race,” said Susan. “We aren't as much about our pace as enjoying the journey and celebrating each others' finishes. My daughter, who encouraged me in running, continues to love running and will soon be doing her second marathon. It has been wonderful as mother and daughter will be able share our love for running, especially during this long winter.”

Susan explained that her daughter is her constant source of encouragement and motivation in running. “Running has given us an incredible connection as a mother-daughter relationship,” she said.

Hundley heads to Boston

Rick Hundley of Bethany Beach trains hard, bikes fast, knows about running and racing, can motivate the Striders' young runners - and can make a mean Mexican wrap at his business, Baja Grill.

Now the local runner is adding another chapter to his book of stories as he is heading to his first Boston Marathon with last weekend’s 3:28:21 qualifying time at the Shamrock Running Festival in Virginia Beach. Rick averaged a 7:41 pace to place 178th out of 2,789 runners in the marathon, landing him 12th in the 45-49 age group.

His time was a new personal best in just his second 26.2-mile distance. Congratulations, Rick!

Finish Chute: Rick’s son Blake ran a 30:03 in the 8K race, which placed him 39th out of 8,313 runners for an incredible performance. Blake, for the fourth time, was first in the 11-14 age group. Sister Devin ran 44:15 in her first 8K averaging an 8:54 pace and was eighth in the 10 & under girls' age group, while Emma Barthelmess was just a few seconds ahead.

Upcoming Races

Inaugural Running for a Change 5K Run & Walk, 10 a.m., Sunday, March 23, Trap Pond State Park, Laurel.

Inaugural I.R.X.C. 5K Run/Walk, 9 a.m., Saturday, March 29, Indian River High School, Dagsboro.

19th April Fools Prediction Challenge, 10 a.m., Sunday, March 30, Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes.

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