Skip to main content
This Week
Arts and Entertainment Friday, Mar. 2, 2012 10 years ago

Are Your Running Shoes Ready for Some Action?

by: Uriel Quiles

Ten days to March 11 First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay

Walkers and Runners Bring Diverse Backgrounds and Inspiring Stories

Embracing a diverse range of participants from all walks of life, backgrounds and age groups, this year’s 7th Annual First Wach Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay Race is proving once again that with a sound training program and a will to try, just about anyone can take on the challenge of a half marathon or two-person relay.

2011 overall male winner Elias Gonzalez (1:11:35) and female winner Heather Butcher (1:26:37) return to claim their titles, while other participants have used running and walking programs to lose incredible amounts of weight. From barefoot running enthusiast and cancer survivor Alan Thwaits to 77-year old Susan Brinkman, who initially took up a walking fitness program to train for a 5K and has now advanced to participation in a relay with her daughter, there is no shortage of inspiring stories. These and the expected 4,000 participants demonstrate how half marathon races have evolved from hardcore, runner-specific races to community-based events appealing to people of all fitness levels.

Key highlights of this year’s registered participants to-date include:

- Ages from 10 years (relay) and 17 years (half) to 81 (half)

- 64 percent women

- 45+ percent from out of state or driving range

- 47 states and 7 countries represented

Runner and Walker Stories

Following are highlights of some participant-specific stories that demonstrate the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay is an event for all ages and ability levels. For more information or to contact any of these participants directly, contact Holly Johnson at 941.350.9615 or [email protected].

First-Timer Teri Stabler, 65 pounds lighter

Age:  48

Residence:  Sarasota, FL

Half marathon newcomer Teri Stabler's journey began in October 2012 when she made the decision to “get real” about her health. Her diabetes was out of control and she was the heaviest she'd ever been in her life. She reached out to a personal trainer, cried after the initial consultation then set up a training schedule and progressive walk/run cardio plan. Now 65 pounds lighter, she’s completed two New Balance Ringling Bridge Runs (2011 and 2012), several 5Ks and the 12-mile Tough Mudder.

Third-timer Stephanie Stephan, 200 pounds lighter

Age: 38

Residence:  Sarasota, FL

A teacher’s aide in special education, Stephanie Stephan has shifted from a predominantly sedentary life of sitting or lying down to one that now includes a regular fitness regime of walking, running, fitness classes and balanced nutrition---and a 2013 goal of finishing a marathon for her 40th birthday. Her walking/running program started after she had lost 150 pounds and contributed to another 50-pound loss by her 2010 debut in the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. She is now working towards completing her first marathon, ING Miami Marathon, in January 2013 with the support of New Balance inMotion walk/run coach Holly Johnson, New Balance Sarasota owners Molly and David Jackson and US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, organizers of the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and ING Miami Marathon.

Barefoot Enthusiast and Cancer Survivor Alan Thwaits

Age: 63

Residence:  Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Alan Thwaits took up running at the age of 56 as part of his rehab after surgery on his broken hip. Finding “freedom, joy and sanity” in running, Thwaits holds a personal record of 1:57:12 in the half marathon and is shooting for a 1:50:00 time in his first First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon.

77 Years Strong, First-Time First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay Participant Susan Brinkman

Age:  77

Residence: Osprey, FL

Invited to join 20 family members and relatives for the 2012 Disneyworld Marathon Weekend Event where everyone was doing one of the race distances, Susan Brinkman’s daughter Tami signed her up for the 5K. Never having done anything like this before, she decided she should at least start walking so she wouldn’t make a complete fool of herself.  Around that same time, she was reading the Sarasota Herald Tribune’s Community section and noticed a listing for a walk/run program through New Balance.  She joined and became hooked.  To date she has completed several 5Ks, including third, second and first place age group finishes in three events and second place age group finish at the Four-Mile New Balance Ringling Bridge Run this January. Inspired by the sense of well-being she has found with a walking/jogging routine, she signed up for the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay, where she will do the 5.5 leg; joined by her other daughter Kristi Wanders, a marathon runner, they will also do the 7.6 mile leg.

Former Asthmatic, Now Nine-Time Marathoner Maureen Lue

Age:  48

Residence:  Bartlett, IL

Maureen Lue started running when her asthma was so bad she needed three inhalers. She decided she'd had enough so started to walk/run, 50 feet at a time. Pretty soon she could go around the block. Then another. Then she completed a 5K.  Now she’s run nine marathons and done numerous half-marathons with no inhaler! She met her now-husband while running and went through the ordeal of a heart transplant for him. Now when Lue gets tired on runs or during races, she thinks of him out there running after going through so much and thinks, “After all he has been through I can surely run another mile!” Now they run to raise awareness on how being fit can save lives and how organ donation can save someone else's.

Crohns Disease Survivor and New Runner Mentor Pam Weiner

Age:  41

Residence: Boynton Beach, FL

Pam Weinder started running with Team Challenge, a 13.1 training program that raises funds and awareness for the Crohn's Colitis Foundation of America. After suffering with Crohn's disease for more than 20 years, she finally got on a medication that gave her life back. She went from lying in bed, unable to do much more than work, to training and running half marathons. She has run eight so far, including two for Team Challenge as a fundraiser raising over $4000, and two more as a mentor for new runners.


First Watch Sarasota Half-Marathon Race & Relay

Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012

7:00 am Start (B-Tag timing)

Start/Finish at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

777 North Tamiami Trail; Sarasota, FL 34236


The First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay Race features a fast and scenic course filled with Personal Record (PR) opportunities for both runners and walkers. There is also a male/female push rim wheelchair division for the Half Marathon. The Relay Race follows the same course with the transition area near Van Wezel on North Tamiami & 10th Street.


Truly walker friendly with the course open for 4 hours (approximate 18 minutes/mile pace), allowing all ages and experience levels to take part in the fun-filled activities throughout the event.


All participants receive a gender specific tech t-shirt, giant finisher’s medal, goodie bag, aid stations with Lemon-Lime Gatorade, medical support, a post-race refueling party sponsored by First Watch Restaurants (including Siesta Key Cocktails for all participants) and awards ceremony.


The event and participating runners will raise thousands for national and local charitable organizations such as Community Haven, Sarasota Area Sports Authority, St. Anthony’s Hospital and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society amongst others. Please visit for more information.


Visit for event information and registration.

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories