They've stumbled over obstacles, yet have each reached their own small victories.
It's been four weeks since we've visited our athletes.
Two are elite runners and two are running hobbyists. But they all have one thing in common: To run the 2012 Manitoba Marathon -- either the full or the half.
Kris Wood, Ramona Turner, Corey Gallagher and Mike Booth have agreed to share the highs and lows of training for the June 17 event that's set to draw 14,000 runners and even more spectators.
Here are their stories:
THERE have been moments lately when Kris Wood felt like giving up her dream of running her first full marathon.
Her stepfather's short battle with colon cancer (he was diagnosed in January) has taken a dark turn; his health is deteriorating.
As a result, Wood, 38, is behind in her marathon training while she spends 12-hour days in a Pinawa hospital visiting her ailing relative. In fact, there was a recent period where she didn't run for two weeks.
Getting back to running saved her.
The Charleswood wife and mother -- who has completed seven half marathons -- says she was in "one of those dark moods" when the doctor overseeing her stepdad asked her if they could chat. "I told him, 'I'm going to go postal any minute. I need to blow off steam,'" recalls Wood.
So she left the hospital at 8:30 a.m. to run down the nearest highway.
"Fifteen minutes in, 15 minutes back. That's when I knew, 'OK. I'm going to continue on with my training. I am going to do this.' Everything just feels better after a run," says Wood, who works as a packaging company sales representative.
That hospital run was eerily similar to her very first pounding of the pavement three years ago -- a grueling and emotional journey along a gravel road at the lake where her mother lived.
The mother and wife -- who weighed 30 pounds more back then -- was running to escape what she calls a "nervous breakdown," the result of her late mother's Alzheimer's disease diagnosis.
She explains the reason for her more recent momentary setback: guilt over enjoying an activity she loves while a family member is dying.
"It's a very heavy feeling," she says. "And that's sort of why I was punishing myself not running. I love the feeling I get after a run. And I guess I didn't think that I should feel good."
But Wood says that guilt has subsided and she will continue with her training, which will include twice weekly Running Room marathon clinics.
Wood is still planning to run the Winnipeg Police Service half marathon in May, the full Manitoba Marathon and the full Chicago Marathon in October.
Meanwhile, her goals have changed slightly. Instead of focusing on time (she originally told the Free Press she wanted to run the Manitoba Marathon in four hours) she will now focus on completing the race.
"I'm trying to get rid of the expectation. To finish would be a huge feat for me right now."
A couple of weeks ago, Ramona Turner was up to her knees in snow, barely able to catch her breath.
The Headingly mother and wife -- who happened to be fighting a cold -- was certain she wouldn't make it through her laborious Thursday night tempo run. (A training technique that teaches the body to run for longer distances while delaying muscle-fatiguing lactic acid buildup).
Heading north from Grant Avenue to Corydon Avenue, the wind chilled her to the core. "And the drifts were just crazy and they were crusty on top. So it was really hard to punch through it," says Turner, 43.
Falling behind, she started to wheeze, a symptom of her upper respiratory infection.
Eventually, she broke away from the group and used Shaftesbury Boulevard -- not the safest route, but at least it was snowdrift-free. She made it most of the way but eventually cut her run short (to four miles instead of six) and went home.
Now that she's over her cold, Turner, an administrative assistant at a wealth management company, doesn't wheeze during training runs. But she does find them challenging. "We're moving along in the workouts and upping the mileage," says Turner, who was previously used to long, slow training runs.
Turner planned to run 32 kilometres with her group on Saturday, a prospect that gave her "butterflies."
She hopes her hard work will be enough to prepare her for a four-hour, 30-minute Manitoba Marathon.
Turner took up running in 1997 but decided to take it more seriously a couple of years ago.
Since then, she's completed two half marathons.
Her inspiration? Watching her husband cross the finish line at various destination races. Now she's ready to cross the finish line herself and she's sure her marathon clinic training at City Park Runners, a specialty running shop located in St. James, is preparing her for her goal.
She's determined to not let her exercise-induced anaphylaxis (a rare condition that triggers an allergic reaction when she eats the wrong thing and exercises) get her down. A second obstacle: She's injury-prone. Nevertheless, she has managed to avoid serious hurts with a daily routine of stretching with a foam roller.
She'll continue reminding herself what's important: "Just do what you've been taught. Don't let your confidence or insecurities erode you."
Please see FINISH LINE D5
Corey Gallagher usually trains hard seven days a week.
But the elite runner -- who came in second at last years Manitoba Marathon half -- knew he needed a break .
So recently, the St. Vital resident took a week off, sticking only to "easy runs" rather than all-out training sessions.
"Your body always needs that after training for a full year," says the 24-year-old mail carrier, who admits his so-called break was difficult to get used to (but great for helping his minor injuries heal).
The rest period culminated after an intense five kilometres race one Friday night at the Max Bell Centre earlier this month in which he finished first -- in just over 15 minutes.
"I wanted a faster time. But it was a good way to end the season," says Gallagher, who is now switching over to indoor running training.
He now plans to reduce his training to six rather than seven days a week. But he'll increase the mileage.
In this new round of training, he hopes to replicate a recent practise session --one of his all-time best. That's when he ran 600 metres 12 times on the Max Bell track -- motivated by the five kilometres run he was set to run a few days later.
"I ran faster than I was supposed to. At the beginning, it feels super easy and super slow. After, it catches up with you. But I felt really smooth and really good."
Gallagher admits that handling the physical demands of his full-time mail carrier job (in which he walks six to 10 miles daily) along with the physical demands of training for the 2012 Manitoba half marathon isn't easy.
"It's sometimes difficult to push myself," says Gallagher. "After work, I want to watch TV and go to bed."
He also juggles a second part-time job at Stride Ahead.
But he's determined to overcome his fatigue.
"Now I'm feeling good. That little bit of rest helped."
Four-time Manitoba Marathon champion Mike Booth has thrown out just about every running medal he has ever won.
While some people might wonder why he's so quick to toss away proof of his hard work and immense athletic skill, Booth, 31, says it's a matter of looking ahead rather than back.
"I think you're only as good as your last performance. I think people remember what you did last. I've always had that philosophy," says the running coach, massage therapist and owner of Massage Athletica. "It doesn't matter what you did last year. Nobody cares. It's really just is about being in the moment."
Booth -- who placed fourth overall in last year's Manitoba Marathon -- wants to look forward to the 2012 race.
He's determined to cross the finish line first in this year's full marathon.
"I want to be cautiously optimistic. If I had to run the marathon tomorrow I would definitely get my butt kicked," says the St. James resident and former fixture at Stride Ahead, the Grant Avenue running shop at which he worked for years. "But with 15 weeks or so left until the marathon, I still have a lot of time to contend for the win."
There have been a few setbacks.
One is the consistent struggle to balance his fledgling massage therapy business with his running training. (The self-professed "workaholic" often logs in 12-hour days at the office).
For the other setback he blames the Winnipeg Jets.
"I've pretty much watched every single game this year," says Booth, who admits he has sometimes nixed his workouts in favour of cheering for his favourite team. But he is quick to add he has amped up his training regimen since his last conversation with the Free Press.
He runs 45 minutes daily and engages in 80-minute runs every second Sunday.
He's also taking better care of himself -- one of the elements lacking before last year's Manitoba Marathon. That means getting twice-weekly massages to keep his muscles limber and his mind at ease. He also sees a chiropractor once a week. He has also improved his diet.
"I've never been a super healthy eater. But I'm making sure I get the right nutrients."
After winning numerous marathons and now launching a business that requires so much of his time, it would be easy for Booth to wrap up his running career.
Not a chance.
"I don't want to be a hypocrite," says Booth, noting that his business is centred around athletic massage and active living. "I think it's important to lead by example."
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