Runners at McClellan half-marathon undeterred by cold
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Jan 26, 2014 | 3204 views |  0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Runners take off Saturday morning at the medical mall at McClellan on a half-marathon run. (Anniston Star photo by Joey D'Anna)
Runners take off Saturday morning at the medical mall at McClellan on a half-marathon run. (Anniston Star photo by Joey D'Anna)
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The temperature didn't rise above the freezing mark in Anniston until after 9 a.m., but that didn't keep runners from lining up on Saturday for the Half-Naked Half Marathon at the McClellan Park Medical Mall at 8 a.m.

One hundred and eight people took part in the morning event, for which many bundled up in extra gear — leg warmers, gloves and face wraps. Anniston Runners Club president and race director Nancy Grace said she thought the weather might deter some participants, but she said the runners proved her wrong.

"I think this is the coldest weather we've had for the half-naked," said Grace, who is 74, and a longtime runner. "I don't think the weather affects runners too much, unless it's lightning."

The run was named the Half-Naked Half Marathon because its distance, 13.1 miles, is half the length of a marathon, and because organizers don't award trophies to the winners. The Half-Naked is a non-competitive "fun run" that many participants use to train for longer competitive runs, including the Mercedes Marathon, which will be held in Birmingham next month.

Marty Livingston, 48, of Oxford and his friend Kyle McCartney, of Margaret, were using the run to prepare for a 31.25-mile trail run on the Pinhoti Trail next month.

"I'd rather run in the cold than in the heat," McCartney said. "5 degrees would be fine."

Ted Hegenbarth, 72, of Gadsden, and Ken Brewer, 72, of Oxford, were also among the runners in the half marathon Saturday.

They both said they began running in their 40s to avoid living sedentary lifestyles.

Overtime, the activity became part of their lifestyle, they said.

They wore long, stretchy pants and lightweight jackets, and said the weather wasn't a deterrent for them.

"If you do enough of this stuff, you just know you can get through it," Hegenbarth said.

Rick Okins, 40, said he was competing in his first organized run Saturday, and he used the event to prepare for the Mercedes Marathon. Already accustomed to cold weather, he wore lightweight clothing and said it took just about 15 minutes to warm up during the run.

Anniston runner Brooke Nelson was the first woman to finish the run. She wore running shorts and a thin jacket, and a 3-mile pre-run helped her warm up for the event.

"Runners are very durable and they're impervious to the cold for the most part," Nelson said.

Grace, the run organizer, wore a light pink toboggan, grey sweat pants, neon tennis shoes and a lightweight jacket. She didn't participate in the run, but greeted some people as they crossed the finish line.

Grace said it was cold weather that actually motivated her to begin running more than three decades ago. One day she started one of her routine walks at the YMCA in Anniston with a light jog.

Before she knew it, Grace said, she had run half a mile. Her love of running grew from there, and today she has run three marathons and many half-marathons.

She said it's easy to understand, but tough to explain, what motivates runners.

"I think that sometimes you just have to be a runner to understand what motivates them," Grace said. "There is an overall good feeling when you finish the run, no matter how long it is."

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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