Everybody’s Doing It
Joys and Pitfalls of Running
I run almost every day. In freezing rain, fog, and when it’s hotter than the south side of the Sahara. I wish I could say I look like a gazelle—graceful, agile, and strong. Instead, I look like I’m carrying a dead body. It’s glorified walking, really.
Here in Fairfield, I am clearly not alone in my running activities. Forget the bikers in their sporty gear and matching cleats, we’ve got young and old throwing on a pair of Nikes and hitting the road. Many of them are women—and they are far better runners than I. Marathons, Ironman, Ragnar Overnight Relays. They’re fit. They’re hip. They’re here to stay. Some of these women have been lifetime runners. Some started out as athletes in different sports and settled on running to keep them in shape. And some, like Ronnie Behringer, were dared to do it.
While watching a triathlon in the Bahamas with her father, Behringer, a 58-year-old Norwalk resident and member of the Pequot Runners Club in Southport, cheered runners on along with the rest of the crowd. She remarked how fun it looked. Her father teasingly told her there was no way she could do that. “I thought—I’ll show you,” she quips. “I did it out of spite. I trained hard and my first event was that same triathlon in the Bahamas the following year.”
When the exercise craze took shape in the 1970s, women increasingly joined the ranks of serious runners. According to John Bysiewicz, event coordinator for the Fairfield Half Marathon and 5k, women now dominate the 5K with 55 percent and the Half Marathon with 63 percent of total runners. Even the number of races has substantially grown. Bysiewicz said there were only about three or four half marathons 15 years ago. Now, the state has about 30.
Some of that is in part due to demand. Like the “Run 169 Towns” Society, or as it’s officially known DEBTiConn (Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut). The goal of this group is to run a race in every one of the 169 towns in Connecticut. There was one teeny tiny problem, however. Not every town had a race. But that didn’t stop them from trying to start one. If a town didn’t have a registered race, they worked hard to get it off the ground.
Karen Rogers, a 66-year-old Clinton resident, and Janet Romayko, a 70-year-old of East Hartford, were part of the original group who founded Run 169. Both have been relatively injury-free and they both attribute that to cross-training. Swimming, weight training, and yoga–ro name a few, keep these runners in tip-top shape while using different muscle groups. “It helps me keep a steady pace,” says Romayko.
Sandy Farber, 48, of Fairfield has been running for nearly 20 years. While she frequently offsets it with brisk walking, she has run in the Fairfield Half Marathon. Recently, she planned to walk home after running those 13 miles. Her legs didn’t exactly cooperate. “On the way home, my legs cramped up so much I had to be pushed back in a jogger stroller,” says Farber, with more than a hint of embarrassment.
Behringer commiserates with Farber. While running in the Boston Marathon, she was making good time, feeling invincible. “Then, I got passed by a guy in a cheeseburger outfit,” she explains.
Training for races and marathons is not all there is to running. Whether it’s two miles or 26, most runners cite the mental calmness attained during an outing. Fairfielder Stephanie Kelly agrees. “I continue to run for what it gives me,” says Kelly. “Not only does it keep me in good shape physically, it’s when I find myself most reflective and at peace.”
But that inner peace can get interrupted by the typical injuries runners experience, from Plantar Fasciitis, Iliotibial Band Syndrome, to stress fractures, and more. Don’t fret though: there is even more you can do to prepare and prevent.