By DEE MOORE
For the Keizertimes
Running is Rebekah Maddox’s life, so much so that she will be running her first marathon this weekend at the inaugural Iris Festival event on Sunday. The 18-year-old McNary High School senior is on the school’s track team and was on the cross country team this past fall.
But all of these elements of Maddox’s life are relatively new. She began running a little more than a year ago.
“It started when I wanted to lose weight,” Maddox said.
According to Maddox, her dad, Michael, bought her a gym membership and then challenged her to run more than he did. He runs two to three times a week at the gym, but isn’t a running enthusiast.
At first, the going was difficult for her, but she didn’t let that get her down. She kept one goal in mind; “I just thought, I got to beat my dad,” Maddox said.
One year later, she is headed to the district meet to compete in the 1500M and 3000M runs, is 75 pounds lighter and is about to run her first marathon.
“It took me awhile to actually start to like running.” Now she is a distance runner who loves the sport.
“I am really passionate about running,” Maddox said. I am not running to maintain my healthy weight; I am running because I love it. I was lucky I just happened to have a passion for it.”
Though running worked for her in her efforts to lose weight, she doesn’t recommend it to everyone. Her advice is simple, do what you love. According to the teen, the key is finding something, some form of exercise that you enjoy, and do it.
“You have to find something you are really passionate about,” she said.
Though she is about to embark on one of the most grueling challenges a runner can take on, Maddox began her running career on a treadmill at the gym. It took her awhile to get the self confidence to run in public. It was not long before that phase passed; in addition to running at school she has run two half marathons.
She has heard from other runners than no matter how much or how hard she trains it will still be painful.
According to Carlos Soto, a personal trainer at Courthouse Fitness in Keizer, no amount of training can prepare a runner for her first marathon. There is more to running than the physical aspect; it is very much a mental sport.
“It’s about 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical,” Soto said.
The runner and fitness guru has been lending his expertise to the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the festival and marathon. Soto has assisted with setting up the marathon and he will be helping manage the 5K, 10K and half marathon.
Most runners begin their physical training six months or more before a marathon.
“It takes months of planning,” Soto said. “Many runners average 10 miles or more a day every day of the week.”
Maddox has been training for the marathon by adding extra run time to her schedule and running additional miles while at track practice.
But, no matter how much a person trains, it isn’t ever enough to keep the self-doubt from creeping up while running the race.
“Mentally you are going to hit a wall; it’s going to hit on the course. You have to break through, then after that you got it,” he said.
The more inexperienced the runner is the larger the wall, the more difficult to break through it.
“We are human. We are going to have negative thoughts. All runners get it; you’re going to want to stop. With more experience it won’t be as big a wall, but no one is beyond it,” Soto said.
“My advice is to mentally prepare yourself, know you are going to get it and have something in place that’s going to help you,” he added.
There are all sorts of ways to prepare beyond practice. He recommends carrying an inspirational quote or saying; write it on your hand if you have to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, support groups are important, the trainer said. Ask family members to be waiting at check points to provide incentive and encouragement.
“That is mentally so awesome,” Soto said. “Don’t think of this as a competition. This is for you, you are doing it for yourself, enjoy it.”
And Maddox expects to; she is doing it because she loves to run and to challenge herself; all the right reasons for someone to run a marathon, according to Soto.
She is sentimental about this first marathon because it takes place on the anniversary of her first long run outdoors.
“It’s going to be really awesome,” she said.
That sentiment is echoed by Keizer Chamber of Commerce director Christine Dieker, the force behind the festival and marathon.
“I think this is what the valley needs,” Dieker said of the marathon. “Our valley is so cool looking; I think this will be a great opportunity.”
According to Dieker this is the first and only certified full marathon in the county. The director has been working toward this goal for the past two years.
The marathon starts at 7 a.m. Sunday at the KeizerFEST Fun Center along Cherry Avenue and is one of several running events during the course of the weekend.
The marathon was certified by the Oregon branch of the USA Track & Field. The USTF is a “national governing body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States,” the agency’s website states.
This makes the event a qualifier for the Boston and New York marathons, Dieker said.
“We have a strong base of runners, 25 to 30,” Dieker said.
The marathon will have a “there and back” course rather than a circular course and will follow the Willamette Valley Scenic Bike Route. The idea was the USFA certifier’s idea and made the planning much easier for Dieker.
The Keizer and Marion County Fire District is assisting with course management and will provide emergency services if needed. First aid certified volunteers will be manning a tent to provide help with minor problems.
“I don’t know what we’d do without the volunteers we have,” Dieker said. “I know we are going to be able to pull this off and have a fun, safe event.”
The chamber has purchased ChronoTrack bibs. These are radio frequency monitors, which will allow race managers to track the time of reach running.
Rather than hiring an outside agency to manage the marathon and track the runners, chamber marketing director, Stephan Wurzberg, and other staff members went to Illinois to learn how to operate the software so that the organization can track the runners themselves.
“These are the same monitors that are used for the Boston and New York marathons,” Wurzberg said.
Though Maddox hopes this marathon is the first of many, she isn’t thinking about that distant future. For now she is focused on training and preparing for this run. Then there is graduation and college.
She plans on attending Oregon State University in the fall, her major as yet is undecided, though she is considering physical or occupational therapy as a career. While there she plans to continue running, though not as part of the school’s team. She hopes to join a running club while in Corvallis.
“I want to do something that’s just for fun,” Maddox said.