Running is one thing. Running 26.2 miles is something else. On Sunday, about 120 Tampa Bay-area runners will culminate months of training by attempting to complete the New York City Marathon or the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va.
What would motivate someone to run a marathon?
"It's an achievement for me, as a person and a woman," said Ginger Mabe, 47, a secretary with the Pinellas County Juvenile Court. "Two years ago I started running, wanting to be a good masters (40-and-over) runner. Now I'm up to 50 to 52 miles a week, and I enjoy it. I feel good about it."
For Sonny Gessner, 28, of Largo and the Forerunners Club, the Marine Corps Marathon is a steppingstone toward a lifetime goal.
"I've always wanted to run the Boston Marathon, which I regard as the epitome of marathons," Gessner said. "I've been running for 13 years now, but because my wife and I plan to start a family next year, I figure this is the year I want to qualify."
Gessner's qualifying standard is 3 hours, 10 minutes. His wife, Karen, 27, also plans to run the 15th annual Marine Corps Marathon, trying to meet her standard of 3:40.
Clearwater resident Mary Lou Fry, 43, enters her third marathon to run in the shadows of the Iwo Jima Monument, the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
"Running keeps me in shape, and it seems like the thing to do," said Fry, a secretary at the Largo Medical Center. "It doesn't take that much time, and it seems to enhance the other things I do."
Fry has been training this summer and fall with Jack Houghteling's Marathon Mules. Twelve members of that group plan to run the Marine Corps, and 53 are set to run the five-borough race in New York.
The Marine Corps will be the third marathon for Susie Perrow, 50, of St. Petersburg and the Forerunners.
"I just like marathons. It's a goal you can work on for months and plan vacations around," said Perrow, a computer operator for Raymond James Associates. "I'd like to qualify for Boston. I hate training for them, but I love running marathons."
Jim Horden, 34, is the president of the West Florida Y Runners Club and a two-year member of the Marathon Mules.
"I look at the marathon as the ultimate celebration of life an expression for the gratitude I have that I'm physically able to do it," Horden said. "You go through a lot of emotions out there during those miles and learn a lot about yourself in the process. You feel the energy of 25,000 other runners, and it just carries you through the race."
Race roundup: Dan Landry, president of the Suncoast Runners Club, placed second among 180 runners at Saturday's Mt. Masochist 50-mile race, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. His time was 7 hours, 27 minutes, 6 seconds.
"It was beautiful running through the trails, woods and streams," Landry said. Jim Spencer of St. Petersburg was 11th in 8:23:49, and John Holmes of Pinellas Park was 34th in 9:43:33. All three represent the Forerunners Club.
Rick Clark of Tampa represented the United States in Saturday's World Championship at 100K (62.2 miles). The race started in Finland _ Finland, Minn., that is _ and ended in Duluth. He found his time of 8 hours, 44 minutes disappointing, and the U.S. lost to a team from what was West Germany.
"The hills were terrible, the footing was rough, and the temperature was cold," Clark said.
Bob Smith of Clearwater was the first Florida finisher (10:13) in last month's Ironman Triathlon, in Hawaii. He is an endurance consultant for triathletes.
Chris Bloor and Mary Dougherty were the winners of the Suncoast Runners Club's cross-country race at War Veterans Memorial Park two weeks ago.
Mary Level Menton, formerly of Seminole, ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2:47. The 1992 Olympic-trial qualifying time for women is 2:45. Tracy Schluter of the Sunshine Running Team clocked 3:44:10 in Minneapolis, a personal record.
Christine Riley, a teacher at Palm Harbor's Curlew Creek Elementary School, and her training partner, Laura Snyder, ran their first marathon together Sunday in Chicago. They finished in 4:16.
At Saturday's MacDill Marina five-miler, Carol Virga of Boca Raton edged Judy Mercon of the Clearwater-based Dianetics Running Team for first place. Virga, 39, clocked 29:25; Mercon had a time of 29:40. Tom Tisell of USF was the overall winner, in 26:33.
Mike Sandford of Clearwater led all the way in the Rotary Tarpon Springs Triathlon two weeks ago. His time was 49:03 for the quarter-mile swim, 10.5-mile bike ride, and three-mile run.
Coming up: The Grand Prix 5K run is Sunday in downtown St. Petersburg, on the same course used by the race cars. It starts at 8 a.m. On-site registration is $12. Cathy Kalway of Seminole is the defending women's champion.