The weather was cool and cloudy Saturday morning--nearly perfect for running, according to co-director Jodi Richey--and 630 runners from across the United States were in Norfolk to do just that by participating in the 2014 Laugh-and-a-Half Marathon.
“This is more runners than last year,” Richey said. “It was a really good morning. We were really organized; the weather was perfect for running; and we had great support from all of our volunteers, the police, the entertainment along the course--everything had been organized really well. I’ve heard some really good feedback from people.”
Two noteworthy runners at this year’s event included author Denise Malan, whose recent book “The Runner’s Bucket List” included Norfolk’s Laugh-and-a-Half Marathon as one of “200 races to run before you die.” Malan was in Norfolk for a book signing the night before the race as part of a promotion, but also enjoyed participating in the race itself.
“The reason the Laugh-and-a-Half was in the book is because it really personifies the reason behind the book which is running should be fun,” Malan said. “It should be something you want to get out of bed and do, something that you enjoy. This race does that perfectly. The people were so nice, there were people along the course giving support, the jokes were funny, so everybody was out there having a good time--and the whole town supports it, so yes, it’s great.”
Malan, who has been a newspaper journalist in the Kansas City area prior to writing the book, is also an avid runner who runs “a couple races per month” for fun and for the book.
“There are great 10K’s, half-marathons and 5K’s out there, and most of the races are ‘walker-friendly’,” she said. “Everything in the book has kind of a unique twist to it or a particular theme to it, for example, I saw a man run a 5K in a gorilla suit in Cincinnati as part of a gorilla theme. Another race called the Groundhog Run involves a 5K or 10K, entirely underground through tunnels. It’s bizarre.”
“I was primarily building my own bucket list of events as a runner, and I decided to share it,” she said. “The book just came out in March. It’s been doing well. It’s been fun for me to attend some of these races and take part in them. I’ll probably do between 6-10 this year.”
For her next run, while in Nebraska, Malan also intends to run in Fremont as part of the “10K the Hard Way” which involves primarily a trail run across and through the various difficulties of a landowner’s farm ground.
Another participant, 71-year-old Richard Friedrichsen, a retired farmer from Clarks, Nebraska, promotes a resume of over 179 marathons run in all 50 states--twice each--and has run on every continent, including a race in Antarctica which Friedrichsen describes as the “most miserable marathon he ever ran.”
“I started running when I was 50,” Friedrichsen said. “I took a physical, and they told me that I needed to exercise. So I started running 10K’s and 5K’s, and when I was 53 I ran a half-marathon and did really well. So then, people said you’ve got to run a marathon (26.2 miles), so I went to Lincoln and ran a marathon. Next thing you know, in my first marathon I qualified for the Boston Marathon. Then everybody said you’ve got to go to Boston. Since then I’ve run in Boston every year for the last 18 years.”
Friedrichsen now has almost run three marathons in every state as well as on every continent, and the experience in Anarctica.
“When I ran there it was the 7th of March,” Friedrichsen said. “It was actually warm, 38-40 degrees, it was melting, and I was way over-dressed. In some places the water was over your shoes. There was no aid station, so anything you wanted you had to carry with you. One interesting thing was a sign that said if there was a penguin walking by, you had to wait. The runners didn’t mind, they’d take a picture of the penguin and then run on.”
Friedrichsen, who travels with his wife Marlene, runs 12 to 14 marathons per year and has lost track of the number of half-marathons he’s run. His races are often grouped according to geographical location. His training regimen is self-directed.
“If I’m going to do Rhode Island, Maine, and New Jersey, I’ll run maybe five marathons in six weeks,” he said. “We stay the whole time, and every week I run a different marathon. After a marathon I’ll walk for two days, jog for two days, rest for two days, and then I run another marathon. Most of my training is based on trial and error, although when I first got started I bought a book by Galloway and followed that week-by-week. I also lost 50 pounds along the way.”
Friedrichsen described being about a mile from the finish, with Marlene inside of a building about a block from the finish line, when the tragic bombing took place at the Boston Marathon last year.
He also considers Greece as being a place for any avid marathon runner to go.
“We ran the original course in Greece,” Friedrichsen said. “We ran into the Coliseum and the Olympic Stadium, so when you think of the thousands of years it was very very interesting.”
Friedrichsen, who was running the Laugh-and-a-Half Marathon for the third time, finds his enjoyment of running to be somewhat “addicting” and after finishing a run is already looking forward to the next. Marlene is always waiting at the finish line and, sometimes, such as in the heat in Athens, is instrumental in caring for her fatigued husband.
And now, as he turns 72 next month, how long does he intend to continue to race--typically running around 1,000 miles per year?
“I tell everybody I want to run Boston 25 times,” he said. “After you’ve run it 25 times they put your name in the program. As long as I stay healthy I’ll continue, but Marlene has suggested that I just do the runs that I enjoy the most, so I may not continue the really big ones that have thousands of runners--that’s a lot of people.”