June 4, 2009

Locals run half marathon for hope and health

By Brenda L. Shelkey

On a cool day, with a slight wind, amidst a cheering crowd of strangers, friends, and family, five Underwood runners completed the 13.1 mile Fargo Half Marathon held Saturday, May 9. The cheers and enthusiasm of the crowds was encouraging, even invigorating, spurring the runners to dig deep and continue on, crossing the finish line in their own record time. The statistics show that Clayton Ruff finished 2:19:18, Val Strasser 2:19:22, Kelli Ruff 2:44:36, Sue Hartley 2:44:36 and Susan Johnson 3:17:22. The hours and minutes they ran weren’t about winning. The goal which each runner set for the half marathon had more to do with hope and health at a personal level. Acting as trainer and top-encourager, Val Strasser got the group started. She is a retired nurse and now an active marathon and half marathon enthusiast. She began training for marathons three years ago when she turned 50, inspired by her two daughters, Shayla Sinclair and Angela Jackson, who both ran full marathons, and her husband Bill who is very supportive. Strasser said, "In high school I was a sprinter. Now that I’m older, I realize that I can’t run as fast, but I can run longer." This was her sixth half marathon. Her goal is to do a full marathon by the time she reaches age 55. Strasser has done her research on training and running a marathon and she worked on strength training as well as distance running. She said, "We train according to the Jeff Galloway Method which starts newcomers out by running a block , then walking a block. We build up to running three minutes and walking one minute during a marathon." For the early May marathon, the five started training in January, giving themselves four months to prepare. They ran for one hour four days a week and cross-trained on two days. The cross-training included riding stationary bike, lifting weights, or jumping rope.

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