Going the distance – but not for speed

No matter the weather they’re out there. Deep breaths, feet colliding with the ground, sweat dripping and the mindset to keep going regardless of pain and exhaustion.

They’re runners and they’re ready for long distance.

Junior Serena Gallagher and senior John Klein V, known as “Jacey,” are two Castleton State College cross-country runners who are taking their athleticism beyond the borders of the college and are training to run their first marathon. In January they entered to run the 18th Annual KeyBank Vermont City Marathon, a scenic route along Lake Champlain, on Sunday, May 28.

“We are just trying to finish without dying,” Gallagher said in front of a wall with several racing numbers tacked to it including one from running a 1:45 half marathon. A journal to record running times sits along with the newest Runner’s Magazine on the nightstand not far from the rowing machine that takes up almost the full width of the room.

With about 7,000 marathoners attending this year, according to the Burlington Marathon Web site, the running duo hopes to see through the massive mob and have familiar faces cheering them on.

“My daughter and I are like the pit crew, probably throwing bottles of Gatorade out, that sort of thing,” said Castleton cross-country coach John Klein, father to Jacey, who will be a face in the crowd supporting them that day.

When talking about signs to help motivate Gallagher and Jacey during the race, the elder Klein said laughing that there probably shouldn’t be any signs like, “Oh you must feel like shit by now.”

What, how far?

“A long way – many, many miles,” sophomore Ana Wood said in response to the question of how far a marathon is. There were also responses of “no clue” and guesses between 15 to 30 miles.

So how far is a marathon? From the Castleton State College Campus Center to Rutland’s Diamond Run Mall and back, plus a mile – 26.2 miles.

“I’d like to challenge them to a race so I can kick their asses,” Jacey said when told some Castleton students do not consider running a sport. “See if you can do it if you don’t think running is a real sport.”

According to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) running is a sport and Gallagher, who put her hand in the air cheering “Represent,” is proud to be wearing Castleton cross-country gear during the race. She also talked about how assistant coach Blair Marelli will be happy the word is being spread about the team.

Gallagher began running seriously three years ago to lose weight with the Race for the Cure being her first race, in memory of her grandmother. Little did she know only a few years down the line she would be running a marathon.

“A strong-willed person can do anything,” Gallagher said.

Sophomore Katie Sprowl, co-captain of the cross country team, thinks Gallagher is just that.

“She is very driven, she is driven to finish,” Sprowel said explaining how she and Gallagher on bad days running cross-country keep each other going.

“Not everyone can do it,” Sprowel continued, impressed that Gallagher is working, attending school and still finding time to do long distance training.

“She has a lot on her plate,” Coach Klein said adding that “four hours is definitely not out of the question for either of them, but for your first marathon you learn about pushing your body to the extreme.”

Jacey has been running for as long as he can remember and claims he never thought that he’d be running a marathon this early in his running career.

“I am confident I’ll reach my running goal – to finish.”

Why torture yourself?

For some, the idea of running as marathon seems like torture. So why do it?

“Knowing you finished something that’s hard,” Gallagher said explaining the wonderful feeling of sore muscles, runners cough, and the runner’s high when she’s completed a good run.

Jacey said running is relaxing and therapeutic and racing can be exciting and invigorating. Forcing themselves to run 30 to 40 miles a week since they began training around four months ago Jacey said, “as a runner you need to be stubborn and willing to endure pain.”

Gallagher and Jacey chose to endure the pain together and will be running side by side the whole 26.2 miles.

“She’ll kill him if he tries to take off on her,” Klein said.

Asked if he planned to stay with her or go for his own personal time and leave Gallagher behind, Jacey joked, “I’ll do it (take off) when she is not looking.”

As they set out for a long run, heads bobbing off into the distance, the two friends and running partners, with each step are closer to a goal many wouldn’t even think of making.

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