By Jason A. Smith
Seven local athletes recently laced up their running shoes, joining others to help a city heal.
Members of Atlanta Southside Runners, a support group for running enthusiasts, were among thousands of people who ran in the 118th Boston Marathon, April 21.
ASR President Clay Loyd praised members of the group who qualified, for their dedication.
“This is the top level for a running athletic event in the country,” said Loyd. “The amount of running and training that has to be completed to even qualify is beyond belief. There’s a very small percentage of people who can qualify.”
Each of the local runners agreed that being in the marathon was about helping a city heal. The 2013 Boston Marathon was marked by tragedy, when bombs claimed the lives of three people and injured more than 260 others, according to the Associated Press.
This year’s race was the third Boston Marathon for ASR member and triathlete Brenda Herrington of McDonough. A runner since 2006, she said such events appeal to her for two reasons.
“The most enjoyable part for me is the training,” said Herrington, 44. “I also love to see when new people get into the sport. I love to see them get the ‘bug’ and the enjoyment of running.”
Herrington said the Marathon was important for her in the wake of the bombing.
“It was more about standing up for what’s right and not being fearful,” said Herrington. “I just feel that deep down inside, you can’t let things like that dictate your life in more ways than one.”
This year’s Boston Marathon was the first for Jerome Scales of McDonough, and his fifth marathon overall. The 42-year-old has been a runner for seven years and said he wanted to help Boston cope with the bombing.
“I wanted to participate to help Boston and community get back to what running was all about,” he said. “I originally tried to qualify for that event last year, and I missed qualifying by four minutes. So this year, I wanted to do my part to take back the finish line and move past the events of last year.”
Scales, a board member of the Atlanta Track Club, said he enjoys the sense of meditation and the health benefits that come with running, as well as the opportunity to interact with his fellow runners.
Sean Davis of McDonough began running 12 years ago, after being diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Now 42, Davis credits his running with helping him to lose nearly 60 pounds.
“It just kind of stuck,” he said. “It’s really the sense of accomplishment and how you feel afterward that I really enjoy about it.”
Davis began running marathons at age 39. He has run in the last two Boston races, bringing his total number of marathons to 11, and is also active with ASR.
Davis said despite last year’s bombing, he wasn’t afraid to run in the Marathon this year.
“I felt like it was going to be one of the safest ever,” said Davis.
Kellie White, 36, runs with ASR and the McDonough /Stockbridge Chapter of Moms Run This Town. She said she was encouraged by spectators who turned out to watch the Marathon.
“It was lined pretty much from the start to the finish,” said White, of Stockbridge. “I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the experience because I prefer to be by myself, but I would happily go back.”
Suzanne McGuire of McDonough has been an avid runner for six years, and runs more than 70 miles each week. She posted a personal best time of 3 hours and 15 minutes in last month’s Boston Marathon -- her first. McGuire, 34, loves the freedom that comes with running, even when it is hard to keep going.
“Forward progress to the finish line,” she said. “The dedication, willpower, sacrifice and my training partners are all worth it in the end.”
Last month’s race was the eighth marathon overall for Lindsay Pitfick, who lives in the Lake Spivey area. Pitfick, 33, began running cross-country and track when she was 11 years old. She ran in Boston in 2005 and had already qualified again this year when she learned about the ASR group.
Pitfick said she loves the “endorphin rush” that comes with running. She said her fellow ASR members encouraged each other throughout her training.
“Even though it was a race, everyone wanted to support their fellow runners and see them succeed,” she said. “ASR is also a great group. Someone is always willing to meet up for a run, travel to a race, or share advice.”
David Dodd, 48, of Griffin works in Henry County as a financial advisor and has been a runner for 20 years. He ran in last year’s Boston Marathon but didn’t complete it because of the bombing.
Dodd said he went to this year’s Marathon to raise money for youth groups through his nonprofit organization, Impact Racing Ministries Inc. He said the human spirit was inspiring in light of last year’s bombing.
“It’s full of elite athletes who are committed to getting faster and healthier with each run,” said Dodd. “There were blind people running with guide runners, and probably a million spectators. I could have run for 26 miles and gotten a high-five every step of the way.”
ASR Member-at-large, Stephanie Middlebrooks, said runners in the group trained for months to compete in the marathon. Some of them, she said, began their runs as early as 4:30 a.m., logging hundreds of miles in the process.
“Atlanta Southside Runners is proud to have them as members and would like to congratulate each of them on a job well done!” said Middlebrooks.
For more information on ASR, visit www.atlantasouthsiderunners.com, or see the Atlanta Southside Runners page on Facebook.
©Henry County Times, Inc.