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Garden City Marathon Mom

Two friends get back on track through running

The other day I woke up to this text from my Garden City friend, Claire LoRusso: “I need help. I am running a half marathon in October. I have not run in years. Where do I start? Miss you.” I got giddy, in a dorky way, because I always get excited when someone wants to run.

In this case, however, it was more of a “Welcome back, Claire.”

My former roomie at the University of North Carolina was the best middle distance recruit coming out of the state of New York, and she went on to have a great college career. In my head, I was hearing my coach, “Talent doesn’t go away. You just have to find it again.”

She certainly had the talent and fire as a collegiate athlete, and when I finally got her on the phone, I heard it again. She was pumped up about trying to beat her friend—who was standing right next to her as we talked. In fairness, I am not sure she can beat her friend right now, but I know she will die trying.

A few years ago, she and her sister got into the New York Marathon and trained for it. Actually, I think her sister, Kerin Quaderer, trained and Claire, well, didn’t give her full effort, because she is that good. I went to cheer her on and, in perfect Claire fashion, she showed up ready to run in a neon pink outfit, complete with knee socks and her name plastered all over her.

“I want to make sure people can find me,” she said.

Well, luckily she was easy to spot at the finish, and when I saw Claire and her sister cruising in around the 4:10 mark, they looked pretty good and were holding hands.

Knowing Claire well, I later teased her for the sappy hand-holding. I got the Claire glare: “We were not holding hands. I dragged her the last mile because she went blind. I was not about to let P. Diddy pass us.”

The things you do for the love of a sister, and yourself as a hyper-competitive athlete. I am sure it was a great memory that they still talk about today.

Well, life has changed, and Claire is a full-time mother of three and, like me, closer to 40 than 30. We don’t talk too much because it’s hard to find the time both having non-stop kid schedules and time-zone issues. I admit, I am excited to help her through the process because, selfishly, we will talk more, even if it is via text or email.

I gave her the first week of training and told her to let me know. The instructions were 20-30 minutes of running for a week with a few easy strength exercises. My text after Day 1, “Holy ... first 10-15 were OK, the last bit, not so much. 20 down. Let’s do this!”

Well, in truth, even us elites hurt when we take lots of time off. I was a downright pedestrian coming back from pregnancy, but I remembered what it feels like to feel fit and fast, and I wanted that feeling again. If you can make it past the first month or so of pain, you will come out on the other side.

I am not sure what sparked the running bug in Claire again, but I am thrilled she is back. I have a sneaking suspicion that while this may be her first race in a while, it certainly won’t be her last. Once a runner, always a runner. It always sucks you back in, just like it did me after baby number two.

The beauty is you can make it whatever you want it to be. Competition, camaraderie, family time, alone time ... take your pick. Anyone out there thinking about running, the hardest step is the first one. Take it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

To follow Claire LoRusso’s weekly workouts, visit blakerussellruns.com