JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Twenty-six miles. You have to have a reason to run that far by choice.
Eight people in Jacksonville are training to run the New York City Marathon in November, which was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. It's not an easy marathon to gain entry to.
Runners have to win the marathon lottery, fundraise or qualify.
For at least three days a week, usually more, these eight meet before the sun rises to get their miles in. They'll slowly increase their run length until the November marathon.
Eli Ramirez has been dubbed the group leader. He's a Navy veteran who is used to waking up early in the military. His group gives him energy.
That group includes Sheila Cribb who has run 40 marathons. She started running 11 years ago to lose weight.
“Everybody starts out running to lose weight, right?" Cribb said. "We all do that and you find out it is so much more than that. We’ve got such great friendships that we’ve built through running. The accountability and just being healthy right. It’s a healthy lifestyle, great habits, great friends, and good for your heart and lungs too. Much more than your jean size.”
Running alongside her is Diana Fletcher, who just turned 50 and will celebrate her 50th with the NY Marathon's 50th anniversary this year. She started running 10 years ago.
“It’s had a big impact on my life," Fletcher said. "In the last three years, I’ve lost 150 pounds. So running really helps keep maintaining and you keep going from there. It’s a really good experience.”
Dark and early they run around different parts of Jacksonville. The runners are all friends who met through the Jacksonville Galloway Training Program.
Fletcher tells me when her legs start hurting, she runs with her heart.
Amy Fashner got emotional talking about being able to run this marathon. When she was 17, she came down with a severe form of meningitis. She was in a coma for over a week and doctors believed she may need amputations.
She recovered and says now she is using her legs to run 26.2 miles in NYC. Fashner won the lottery to get into the race, which means she was picked at random.
According to a running blog, nearly 100,000 people apply to the lottery and hope to be chosen to run.
As for the others, they have to raise money and they have until October to do so. Below are the links to their fundraisers if you want to help them meet their goal to be able to run in November.
- Eli Ramirez: Raising money for Homes For Our Troops
- Sheila Cribb: Raising money for Homes For Our Troops
- Diana Fletcher: Raising money for American Cancer Society
- Cathy Rogaski: Raising money for American Cancer Society
- Pia Caguimbal: Raising money for Aktiv Against Cancer
- Rosita Fucci: Raising money for NYRR Team for Kids
- Carey Thomas: Raising money for Shoe4Africa