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Three marathons over four weeks? It's no sweat for this mom

Published Sep. 26, 2005

For most long-distance runners, three marathons in a year is a full load.

For one Palm Harbor woman, three marathons in a four-week period is ecstacy.

Basically, that's the attitude of Noora Alidina, 43, a mother of five children ages 3{ to 14 who will run her 24th marathon since 1989 at Ocala on Sunday. She ran the Disney Marathon on Jan. 9 in a personal-record 3 hours, 20 minutes, 51 seconds. Two weeks ago at the inaugural Florida Gulf Beaches Marathon, she paced her training partner, Mary Stewart-Wong of Safety Harbor, through a Boston Marathon-qualifying time of 3:36:48.

"I really don't push myself nor do I consider myself a fast runner," said Alidina, a registered nurse. "I just enjoy long runs and try to pace myself; running is a blessing."

Alidina, who was born in Jericho on the West Bank in the Middle East, came to the United States to study and train at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore at age 21. On her second trip to the states four years later, she met her husband-to-be there, Dr. Arif Alidina, an ear, nose and throat specialist now associated with Morton Plant Mease Hospital.

"My husband, who was a runner and serious racquetball player before he had a knee injury, got me into running after we had our third child," Alidina said. "He's very supportive, enabling me to do many of these races."

Because all of their children are active in swimming programs _ 14-year-old Janeen swims for Palm Harbor University High School _ juggling her schedule to train and compete isn't all that difficult, Alidina said.

"It isn't as if they were in different sports or I had to take them to different soccer fields," she said. "I train at 4:30 some mornings. That helps make it possible for me to average 70 to 80 miles a week."

Alidina made her marathon debut at the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., in 1989, clocking 4:27. She'll run at Ocala because it's convenient, only two hours away, and the course simulates what she'll experience at Boston in April for the eighth time _ hills.

"Boston is the ultimate challenge," Alidina said. "Still, I don't consider the hills there that difficult. I get in some good hill training here in Palm Harbor and in Countryside with my friend Rosalyn Randall of the West Florida Y Runners Club. It helps to have people to run with."

One period of the year is more challenging for Alidina. That is the Islamic religous month of Ramadan when she doesn't eat or drink from dawn to dusk. She said she just runs slower so she doesn't have as great a need to hydrate.

As for her influence on her five children, she said it's all positive.

"I believe I'm a good influence on my kids," she said. "Just by example, they are into sports too, and they are all good students. We'll all go to Gasparilla on Feb. 12 where I hope to pace my husband through it. But since I'll just be coming off the Ocala Marathon, maybe he'll be pacing me this time."

GULF BEACHES MARATHON: Preliminary reports from those who ran were favorable. Comments cited the scenic course, frequent refreshment stands, and good police protection crossing critical intersections.

"Running on the tree-lined (Pinellas) trail was wonderful," said Rue Morgan, public relations director of the 1,300-member Mad Dogs Club of St. Petersburg. "The trail is even; a great place to run. It's a fast course."

Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge Dee Anna Farnell, a member of the winning women's relay team, echoed that sentiment: "It's a great course and it was well-managed. I'm sure it will grow in the future."

The winning men's team consisted of the Fisher brothers of Switzerland, who clocked 2:34:37. They were followed by Mike Ferreira and Dan Eker of St. Petersburg in 2:43:49.

Clearwater's Judy Maguire barely missed qualifying for the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials, clocking a winning time of 2:52:38, good for eighth place overall. That was faster than the 2:54:12 she ran for 10th place at last year's Los Angeles Marathon, but slower than her 2:51:13 at the '98 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn.

Maguire, 41, wasn't particularly disappointed in not making a return trip to Columbia, S.C., to compete for a place on the Olympic team, knowing there wasn't time to recuperate for the Feb. 26 trial.

Following Maguire among women over 40 were St. Petersburg's Mary Ann Protz (3:24:18) and Clearwater's Linda Mason (3:32:46).

LAST WEEKEND: At Brooksville's Flatlander's Challenge 10K, marathon trials qualifier Lisa Vaill won her hometown race for the fourth time, clocking 36:02 for 11th place overall in a field of 210. She was followed to the finish line by triathlete Alison Hayden of Tampa (40:30), Lindsay Moffenbier, 15, of Riverview (41:35), and 1998 winner Elaine Nicholson of St. Petersburg (41:36).

In the men's race, Muchapiwa Mazano of Tampa successfully defended his title in 32:40. Second place went to Gary Crossan of Lakeland (33:03). Jody Spangler, the assistant coach at Florida State, was third in 33:19.

Largo High's Danny Bauer and Mike Gately finished second and fourth in the 2-mile run.

At the Naples Half-Marathon, where $15,000 in prize money was awarded, Forerunners Mary Hanlon, Christy Phillips and coach Joe Burgasser placed in their age divisions. Hanlon was the third masters woman in 1:28:23, Phillips was second in 35-39 in 1:23:02, and Burgasser won his 60-64 age division in 1:29:52.

Also, Steve Wilson finished second in 40-44 in 1:10:40, Howard Rubin finished second in 70-74 in 1:48:15, and Ginger Herring finished third in 55-59 in 1:52:17.

Rod DeHaven of Wisconsin won in 1:03:12 and Kim Pawelek of Jacksonville finished second to a Russian woman in 1:12:46. Pawelek won the Twin Cities Marathon last October in 2:37:56.

At the Lady Track Shack 5K at Winter Park, Heather Schulz, 25, of Orlando won over a field of 579 women with a time of 18:30. Bonnie Theall of Dunedin and Yvonne Rodgers of Seminole finished 1-2 in the 55-59 age division.

FINISH LINES: Laura Drake will defend her women's title at Gasparilla on Feb. 12. Last year she covered 15K in 54:33. "This year I plan to average 5:45 and finish closer to 53 minutes," said Drake, 31, from Atlanta. "I've been averaging that in 10-milers here on hills. But I don't care if I win. I'm focusing on the New Zealand Ironman on March 4 where I finished first amateur last year."

The Disney Marathon will be held on Jan. 7 next year. The cap has been increased from 10,000 to 13,000 runners. The half-marathon will remain capped at 5,000.

Johnny Kelley, who ran Gasparilla and the Valentine 5K at Largo's Taylor Park in the early '90s, was named Runner of the Century by Runner's World. He finished 58 Boston Marathons, winning in 1935 as a florist and, disparately, as an Army soldier in 1945. Kelley, who resides in East Dennis, Mass., earned places on the Olympic marathon teams of 1936, '40 and '48 when he was 40.

On Feb. 12 after Gasparilla, the West Florida Y Runners Club will co-host a round table discussion at the Tampa Convention Center, Rooms 15-16, lower level. All members of Florida running clubs are welcome to attend to learn what's being done to promote running in different communities.


+ Feb. 6, 8 a.m.

Town N' Country Run for Health. Tampa. Free. (813) 876-6822.

+ Feb. 12, 9 a.m. _ Valentine Couples walk/run, 1-mile event from Clearwater's Morningside Recreation Center, 2400 Harn Blvd. Couples finishing together get a Valentine photo. Trophies to first- and second-place finishers, plus door prizes. Entry fee of $5 per couple. Call Trish Shea at the Parks and Recreation Department, 507-4065.

+ Feb. 12, 8:15 a.m. _ First of America Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K. Also, 5K at 10:30. Call (813) 229-RUNN.

+ Feb. 12, 1-3 p.m. _ A meeting of the Florida clubs of the Road Runners Club of America in Rooms 15-16 of the Tampa Convention Center. The meeting will deal with promoting running in local communities and related issues.

+ Feb. 26, 8 a.m. _ Strawberry Classic 10K and 5K. Temple Terrace. (813) 920-8521.

+ March 4, 8:30 a.m. _ Meadow Pointe 10 and 5K, North Tampa. Adidas running shorts to first 500 registrants. Call USF track office, 813-974-4094.

+ March 11, 8 a.m. _ Unicorn 5K Classic, Largo Central Park. Serves as the Road Runners Club of America state championship. Awards five deep; certified course. Entry fee of $13 includes ticket to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival; free post-race massage. Hosted by the West Florida Y Runners Club with Pete Pfannerstill serving as director. Call 393-9987 or go to