Rich Lomas tears up the trail in lemon-yellow sneakers. Leaping from one foot to the other, he hastens the pace while he pushes the stroller where his 15-year-old son, Sammy, is seated. Listening to an up-tempo mix from his father’s playlist, Sammy clasps his hands together, enjoying the ride in the sunshine.
Lomas started running again five years ago, at age 39. At the time, he was living a sedentary lifestyle, slamming down sugary sodas by the dozen and consuming a cheeseburger diet. He was 35 pounds overweight and a major couch potato.
When he weighed himself Dec. 31, 2005, Lomas knew he had to do something — and that something was running. Although he had taken a 20-year hiatus from the sport, he set out for a run the following day. After three miles, he was hurting, coughing and gasping for air. But as he continued his runs, he began to shed the excess pounds. He also quickly began winning races and gaining notoriety around town as he blazed through three-mile finish lines in 16:03.
But his inspiration didn’t come from the sole desire to get fit. In 1999, Lomas watched Dick Hoyt push his son, Rick, who was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, in a wheelchair during the Falmouth Road Race, in Cape Cod, Mass. In seeing this, Lomas became determined to start running again for Sammy, who was born with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, such a rare chromosome disorder that he was only the eighth person in the world to be diagnosed with it.
“In order to get recognition, you have to bike, climb or run somewhere,” Lomas said. “I was starting to win a lot of these local races, and people would say, ‘Hey, where did you come from?’”
He wanted to start a 5K in Sarasota to bring awareness to his son’s disorder. In 2008, the Manasota Track Club informed him of an open race slot for Memorial Day weekend. Lomas contacted Oak Park School, which Sammy attends, and scheduled the race at the school campus. He called it “Sammy’s Run,” and Lomas has been racing with his son ever since.
“I said to my wife (Sue), ‘This is what we’ve been running for,’” Lomas said. “I first envisioned 200 to 250 people and maybe a few thousand dollars, but I got blown away last year with almost 860 runners who participated. We raised over $20,000 — I was stunned.”
Sammy’s Run will be held May 30. But, in the meantime, Lomas is busy training for what he says is technically his first half marathon. He registered two years ago for the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. After undergoing knee surgery for a torn meniscus, Lomas pulled a back muscle one week before the event and couldn’t get out of bed.
A chiropractor and massage therapist had Lomas up and moving the day before the race. He was able to finish, but with a lot of pain.
“I had so much adrenaline, I ran it far better than I thought, but my friends knew I was hurting,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to this race. I’m hoping and shooting for a 1:15.”
Happy hours may have gotten shorter, but her runs have gotten longer.
When Lynette Crane runs the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon — her first — she’ll wear her favorite pair of black shorts. She likes the fact that they don’t creep up her legs and get in the way while she runs. Plus, they’ve got pockets — an absolute must-have for runners.
Crane was in her mid-20s when she stopped running, but picked it up again last year at age 40 when she decided to spice up her workout routine by signing up to run a 5K with Fleet Feet’s “No Boundaries” program.
“I ran Sammy’s Run and then a five-mile race,” Crane said. “I’m not very fast, so I don’t run to win. I run to keep doing better.”
She’s particularly nervous about her first steps of the race, but she plans to stick to her routine — run two minutes, walk two minutes — with her friend, Liz Moneymaker.
“One thing I think I’ll always remember is Jan. 9, when we ran 12 miles,” Crane said. “It was in the high 30s, raining, windy and just miserable. We were soaked to the bone by the time we got done going over the Ringling Bridge. But knowing we got through it together, it was such a feeling of accomplishment.”
IF YOU GO
What: First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and 5K
Where: Start/finish at John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road
When: Sunday, March 14 — 7 a.m. push-rim wheelchair division; 7:15 a.m. half marathon; 7:30 a.m. 5K; 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. post-race party and awards ceremony
Information and registration: www.sarasotahalfmarathon.com