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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 4 years ago

First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon runners share their stories

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Susan Brinkman
Newcomer | Age: 78 | ‘Never too old’

Susan Brinkman keeps her racing mementos in a box in her bedroom. Her collection of ribbons and medals suggest a lifelong passion for running, but she only began racing last year — at the age of 77. Her oldest daughter, Kristi, wanted to get the entire family together for the 2012 Disney Half Marathon, and she signed Brinkman up for the 5K event.

“I’d never done anything like that in my entire life,” says Brinkman. “I didn’t want to make a complete fool out of myself, so I started training. The first time I went over the Ringling Bridge, it felt like Mount Everest.”

She decided to get some practice by running in two local 5k races before the Disney event.

“I kind of got hooked,” she says. “I continued to run in 5Ks and 7Ks, and I would finish in first or second in my age group a lot. It gave me a lot of encouragement.”

Now, the 78-year-old grandmother has walked in more than 15 races. This year, her three daughters will join her in the relay portion of the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. It will mark the first time the four women have participated in the same event.

“I can’t wait to do this with them,” says Brinkman. “My only regret is I didn’t start doing this a long time ago.”

Marcus Conyers
Barefoot runner | Age: 57 | ‘We were born to run.’

Marcus Conyers never considered himself a runner. He’d jog occasionally to keep in shape, but he never particularly enjoyed it, and he says he didn’t get much out of it.

A little more than two years ago, he stumbled upon a book about barefoot and minimalist running, and he was immediately intrigued. He re-examined his own running technique and discovered his poor form had led to his unenjoyable experience.

“I realized how bad I had been at running,” he says. “It was putting a lot of shock through my body. What I was doing wasn’t working.”

Over the course of six months, he slowly taught himself the barefoot running technique. He began by walking barefoot around his house, and he slowly increased his distance until he built up the muscle strength in his lower legs.

“When you run barefoot, you get immediate feedback from your body,” he says.

Relatively new to the sport, Conyers decided to start big. His first race was last year’s Sarasota Half Marathon, and he’s excited to participate again this year.

“I get a complete sense of freedom when I’m running,” he says. “And, running barefoot gives you a sense of connection to your ancestors. It’s a feeling I’ve never gotten from any other sport.”

Jennifer Loomis
Cancer survivor | Age: 32 | ‘No regrets’

In May, in her ninth month of pregnancy, Jennifer Loomis learned she had breast cancer. The high-school teacher and mother of two was shocked to be facing the disease at such a young age.

“It was devastating,” she says. “That’s not something you ever expect to hear.”

Doctors induced her a week early, and Loomis endured 16 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and a double mastectomy before being declared cancer-free in November.

Early in her pregnancy, Loomis signed up for the Sarasota Half Marathon to get in shape after the baby was born.

“After everything that happened, I thought there was no way I’d still be able to do it,” she says. “But, I wanted to be able to prove to myself that I’m OK, and that I’m strong enough.”

She began training to regain the strength she lost during treatment, and after a few weeks of running, she says she’s seen a lot of improvement. As the race approaches, Loomis says she’s excited to join her best friend, Amanda Davis Morehead, and she’s looking forward to the sense of accomplishment she’ll have afterward.

“This absolutely has changed my outlook on life,” she says. “I’m trying to say yes to a lot more things than I used to. I don’t want to have any regrets.”

By the numbers
225 — Number of volunteers
1,000 — Pounds of bananas
3,500 — Number of expected runners
500 — Number of oranges

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