As Ellen Klingler crossed the finish line of the Virginia Beach Half Marathon last fall, a volunteer handed her a red, white and blue popsicle. “It was the best popsicle I’ve ever had in my life,” she says.
Klingler, director of special events in the chancellor’s office, could well savor the moment. The race marked the end of a very long and improbable road that began more than a year ago when Klingler decided to get serious about her health.
“I continually surprise myself,” she says, laughing. “I’ve never been a runner and I’m not built like a gazelle. I thought there was no way someone like me could finish a half marathon.”
Klingler’s thinking has changed a lot since October 2008, when she won a fitness makeover contest in the Bulletin sponsored by Campus Recreation. The 12-week package included fitness assessments, one-on-one training sessions, and health and fitness advice from a certified trainer.
It was just what she needed to kick-start her health and fitness regimen. By the end of the 12-week program, Klingler had a new attitude. When a friend suggested she get out of the gym and join a running group, Klingler was eager to try a new challenge.
She signed up for Raleigh Galloway, a marathon training program started by Olympic runner Jeff Galloway that includes long distance runs throughout the Triangle every weekend. Galloway encourages participants to alternate running and walking (five minutes of running followed by one minute of walking, for example) so they can cover more ground.
“You can run longer and faster if you give your body the opportunity for small recovery times,” Klingler explains. “Their goal is to get you running and keep you injury free.”
The program also places participants in “pace groups” so that no one runs alone.
“We started with three miles,” Klingler says. “I was pretty petrified, to be honest with you. I finished, but not as well as I thought I would considering how hard I had been working out.”
But she stuck with it. Every Saturday the runs got a little longer: four, five, six, and then eight miles. The runs jumped to 10 miles in July and stayed there all summer.
“Think about how hot it is in July,” Klingler says. Still, she didn’t give up.
“I had a philosophy: I’m slow, but I’m out there.”
As she came across the finish line at Virginia Beach, Klingler knew her hard work had paid off. It was not only an accomplishment but also an example.
“My kids got excited about the idea of me being in a race, so I knew I was hooked,” she says. “My goal is to teach my kids how important it is to be healthy. I couldn’t quit.”