By Kristine “Aster” Medina, Assistant Editor
Imagine running 13.1 miles alongside the Mississippi River as a marked number in the midst of others on the morning of Feb. 14 in Greenville, MS. The chest tightens during the last wind. The pace of breath goes out of control. One foot after another, the finish line suddenly appears within sight. The body lunges forward to push past its limits and reaches the finish line.
The month of February marks the beginning of the foot race season, including 5K and 10K runs, obstacle course competitions, half marathons, marathons and triathlons.
Stephenie “Remedi” Lai, University of Georgia graduate student and director of events, competed in the Mississippi River Half Marathon on Feb. 14 with members of her family line and affiliate member educator, Holly “Forté” Kamau, Jasmine “Infiniti” Render and Hannah “Enigma” Mwangi.
“I ran my half marathon while I was sick,” Lai said. “I was in so much pain at the finish line that I just started crying because I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
But Lai pushed herself and finished despite the pain.
“Crossing the finish line is such a great reward,” she said. “Knowing that you gave it your all and having your friends and sisters there to catch you is the best. Plus, there’s usually free food.”
From fitness junkies to the underrated underdogs, races engage a diverse demographic. In order to register for a race, all an individual needs is courage and a bit of cash (proceeds usually go toward a charitable cause).
Lai got into running races a couple years ago with a group of Delta Phi Lambda and Lambda Phi Epsilon alumni. Together, they created a team for the Firefly Run in Atlanta, GA.
To discover races like the Firefly Run or the Mississippi River Half Marathon, communities may have local running clubs, or races can also be found easily online through search engines and websites like www.runnersworld.com, which also features training programs for all sorts of races and levels.
“For people like me who are not very athletic, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not all about the time and not to compare yourself to others,” she said. “Everyone has different levels of ability, and as long as you do your best and cross that finish line safely, that’s all that matters.”
For training, Lai keeps an open schedule and runs a trail at the UGA Intramural Fields. She also incorporates yoga and BodyPump classes for strength and flexibility training at the campus gym. She said that a group of friends and her line sisters motivate her and keep her goals in check.
“They always remind me that it’s not always about the time,” Lai said. “Just crossing the finish line is an accomplishment in itself.”
For running races as a beginner, Runner’s World suggests training in five stages to become a runner. First, start walking. Second, start running, and then, run nonstop. The final stages are running longer and faster. Plans for these five stages of running can be found on www.runnersworld.com/the-starting-line.
Lai ran her first 5K on Oct. 6, 2013. Since then, she has been in eight other races, including four additional 5K runs, one 10K run, a Spartan Sprint and one half marathon. She said that she doesn’t have any races ahead yet, but she hopes to participate in a race each month this year.
Featured Image: provided by Stephenie Lai