Big race in the Big Easy
Friends to run in New Orleans marathon with Team Diabetes
LeAnn Bond didn't start her Thanksgiving in a traditional way. While most people were putting turkeys and dressing in the oven, Bond was putting shoes and running clothes on.
Early Thanksgiving morning, Bond set out for a holiday run. She took part in the traditional feast later, but the jog included a few miles of nearly 200 she has logged since August
The Tonganoxie Junior High School teacher, along with fellow Tonganoxie native Carrie (Scheller) Barth, are preparing for the Nokia Sugar Bowl Mardi Gras Marathon on Feb. 17 in New Orleans.
The 26-mile event, though, is more than just a grueling athletic competition for the long-time friends. Bond and Barth are running as part of Team Diabetes for the American Diabetes Association.
Bond has diabetes, and her sister, Lori Copley, who in November 1999 died at the age of 31, also had diabetes. The disease didn't cause Lori's death, but LeAnn said she thought it contributed to it.
"I believe she would have lived longer," LeAnn said. "It didn't help her."
In years past, Bond had received fliers about the annual American Diabetes Association marathon, but was reluctant to take on the extensive training she knew would be necessary.
She decided if she had a partner, she'd be more apt to carry out her plan, so she asked her lifelong friend, Carrie Barth, who immediately agreed to join Bond in the the marathon.
But even for Barth, a former college volleyball player, the idea of running 26 miles was a challenge.
"It was kind of overwhelming," Barth said. "I only run 10K's and that type of thing. It was one of those things someday I wanted to do but didn't have that thing to push me."
Bond has given her the shove.
Helping the cause
In September, the girls mailed letters to family, friends and co-workers, telling about their planned participation in the New Orleans marathon and asking for donations to the American Diabetes Association.
So far, Bond has raised about $4,200, while Barth has netted roughly $3,000.
"What we've been amazed with is the overall generosity," Barth said. "Everyone has been hit hard with Sept. 11 and the holidays, yet everyone was so generous."
The money will help combat a disease that strikes one in 17 Americans.
Bond said she and her sister, Lori, were two of the few students in the Tonganoxie schools who suffered from childhood onset diabetes.
Yet today, there seems to be a growing awareness of diabetes, Barth said.
"Once you start talking about it, everyone knows someone who's affected by the disease."
Preparing for the marathon
Bond, who thought the training would be beneficial to her health, has dropped 15 pounds since August when the girls began gearing up for the marathon.
Now, the two run either four or five times a week Bond in Tonganoxie and Barth in Overland Park. On Saturdays, they run together with a group called The Runners' Edge, which has about 60 runners. Some of the participants are running for recreation and others are preparing for runs and marathons. The group starts its practice sessions at 7 a.m. each Saturday. To keep the scenery interesting, the runs are held each week in different parts of the Kansas City area. For instance, last Saturday, an eight-mile course took runners from Westport through the Plaza and Mission Hills, and then back to Westport for breakfast.
Barth said she's gotten used to the early exercise.
"I like to call it luxury running," Barth said. "They have aid stations, energy snacks and Gatorade."
Working long runs into a schedule four or five times a week can be difficult, Bond said, especially with a family.
"Sometimes I feel guilty leaving Matt and Mia," Bond said about her husband and daughter, who is almost two years old.
Bond said Matt and her parents, Larry and Lois Meadows, have been very supportive.
"I couldn't have done this without them," Bond said.
Frequent runner miles
Bond and Barth have logged between 170 and 200 miles each since early August. During the week, they run through their own residential areas, which is more difficult for Bond than Barth.
"I'm always waving," Bond said about running in Tonganoxie. "Everyone's honking at you."
Barth's routine hasn't involved as many distractions.
"I usually don't have dogs chasing me like LeAnn does," she said.
The training has come with its share of aches and pains.
Along with being sore and tired the day after a long run, Bond has endured back trouble and Barth had a freak ankle sprain.
"I was about 100 feet from finishing my run when I stepped on a walnut," Barth said.
Although the training has had its share of grueling runs, the two friends laugh when they talk about their experiences.
For instance, Bond ran 9.6 miles in November from Tonganoxie to Basehor with fellow Tonganoxie Junior High teacher Phil Jeannin. It was Bond's first run with Jeannin.
"He kept picking up bolts," Bond said.
After the exhausting run and the scavenger hunt, Jeannin told her he was contemplating running in a marathon.
"He said 'I kind of like this, I might do this in my lifetime,'" Bond
said. "I was thinking, 'Are you a freak?'"
Barth, meanwhile, competed in the December Chili Run, held near the Wyandotte County Lake.
"It was 6 1/2 miles of just hills," Barth said. "It was just so hard."
Barth ran with her husband, David, who has been running often as well.
"He thought it was easy," Carrie said. "I was furious that these hills were one after another."
Running in New Orleans
The landscape will be more enjoyable in Louisiana. With New Orleans below sea level, the course will be flat, and Bond and Barth said the most challenging aspect of that race may be the humidity.
The standard 26.2 mile-marathon will top by about 6 miles any runs they will have made during their training sessions, which is just supposed to take them up to 20 miles.
But as in their Kansas City practice sessions, the scenery should make the time go faster. The New Orleans course is near the Louisiana Superdome, the Garden District and the French Quarter. The marathon will take place almost a week after Mardi Gras.
"It's not during the actual Mardi Gras, thank goodness," Bond said. "You'd probably see some interesting things when you're running."
Other events that tie into the marathon will be a marathon relay, half-marathon, 5K, racewalk and wheelchair race.
Last year's marathon winner in the overall category was 41-year-old Michael Mullan, Irving, Texas, with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 22 seconds. On the women's side, Jodi Jackson, 23, New Orleans, won with a 3:22:27 time. In the 25-29 division, which Bond and Barth will run in this year, Beth Broussard, 27, Monroe, La., took first with a 3:22:27 time last year.
Change of pace
The type of sport is a major change for Bond and Barth. Bond competed in track, basketball and volleyball at Tonganoxie High School. She also threw javelin and was a sprinter at Fort Hays State, but was never used to distance running.
"I never ran over two miles ever," Bond said. "Maybe you need to, but I never did."
Barth said she didn't enjoy any form of running. A basketball and volleyball player at THS, she went on to play volleyball at Barton County Community College.
"I'm not a runner at all," Barth said. "I hated it. I would cringe at even running a mile."
But Barth has since changed her mind about a sport she was never interested in.
"I think in volleyball it's such a team approach," Barth said. "When you're out there running, it's you against yourself. With that aspect, it's mind over matter, I believe."
Although the women don't know if they'll compete in another marathon, it's a possibility for Barth.
"From what I hear they say it's addictive," Barth said. "I may want to try another one. I don't know if I can talk LeAnn into doing that."