First Time Marathoner Stories

First Time Marathoner Stories

First Time Marathon Stories

A nationally syndicated cartoonist. A guy nicknamed Gimpy. A mother of four who has never been to Canada. An overweight adolescent . And an expectant father.

Since 1999, the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon has recognized the drive and determination of first-time marathoners by asking them to wear green bib numbers. That makes it easier for spectators -- and fellow runners -- to offer encouragement during the 26.2 grueling miles.

So we've asked a few first-timers to send us e-mails with their stories heading into Sunday's 30th Free Press Marathon. We'll start with someone whose work appears each day in the paper.

Jef Mallett - 45 Lansing, is using his first marathon as a stepping stone to get ready for an Ironman next summer. Runners may know him from reading his comic strip Frazz, which appears in the Free Press and some 150 other newspapers.

He been running since he was a teenager in the 1970’s, “with occasional life detours” he says. Detroit feels his hometown although he has never lived here. “I admit that the international border crossing aspect is just cool.”

He describes his best running experiences as “those moments when you are, by design or accident, firing on all cylinders and really feel like a runner. Call it a runner's high or a sweet spot or Zen or just stuff coming together.”

His wife Patty goes to most of his races. And he says “there are more exciting things to do with one's weekend than watch a triathlon.” His comic strip fans have been terrific. “They ask and listen and follow along just like my friends, and in fact a lot of them have become friends. I'd never have predicted that.”

For those not familiar with Frazz, it’s about a janitor in an elementary school. Since it's written and drawn by Mallett, readers may have noticed a subtle buildup to the Detroit Marathon in recent weeks. He’ll be signing t-shirts, posters and books at the New Balance booth from 1 to 3 pm during Saturday's race expo.

Tony Van Meter - 50 Farmington Hills, started running in 1979 after a freak accident severed his right achilles tendon. “The doctor told me that if I was a horse that they would shoot me, and I would not be able to walk without a limp probably for the rest of my life.”

‘I had a very bad limp and a new nick name at work, Gimpy. At 22, I had to do something to fix this. I had my whole life in front of me. So I started doing leg exercises and running. My co-workers now call me the energizer bunny.”

My three bothers and six sisters have a genetic curse called high blood pressure and high cholesterol with heart disease. One brother died last October and I’m running the marathon in his memory.”

Mrs. Therese Fogarty-Cremonte - 40 Brighton, can’t wait for the marathon because the anticipation is killing her. She and her best friend Barb, who she met in the Michigan State Police Academy, just turned forty and plan to run the marathon together. “We wanted to prove once and for all that we are truly insane.”

“Detroit was a natural choice for us because we live in the area. I guess this is strange but I’ve never been to Canada and look forward to crossing the border.”

“Two great milestones for me were when I realized I could run and carry on a lengthy conversation without feeling winded and when we ran our first 13 mile run under two hours.

She wants to be a role model to her four kids and let them know it’s OK to go outside your comfort zone. “Anything worth having or doing comes with hard work, planning and effort. “

“I’ve listened intently to the advice of those who have gone before me. I have learned about things like chaffing, blistering, dry heaving, double socks, mole skin & glide.

“My children are all proud of me. My 21 year old son is actually impressed. My husband, Tom, and by far my biggest fan & strongest supporter, gets up with me at 4:30 in the morning on week days to run with me.

“I believe that it is never too late to get healthy and change your life for the better.

When Noah Schlosser - 18 Bernardsville, NJ, started running, his junior year in high school he was 225 pounds at 5 foot 8 and would be winded after running 30 feet.

“That first day of training was hell. I ran what I later traced to be about 1.2 miles with walking breaks. The rest of the day my throat and lungs burned and my legs shook. Later that night at rehearsal for an orchestra that I was a member of, I could barely play.”

He decided to run a marathon after just three days. Several of his mother’s friends were marathoners and he knew he needed a goal in order to maintain his running.

He chose Detroit for two reasons. It’s not far from the University of Wisconsin where he’s a freshman and didn’t want to worry about New York’s (he hails from New Jersey) lottery system.

As a show of support his mother is flying in from NJ to see him run and three friends are driving out from as far as Massachusetts.

Melissa Wabeke - 30 Wyoming, decided to run the marathon after completing the Riverbank Run 25K race. She started running last January. The Free Press will be just her second race.

“I discovered that other runners weren't really opponents, but more like fellow encouragers.” Through Team in Training she decided to do Detroit as a way to support a friend whose son has Leukemia. She has raised $1,500 and made a number of new friends and supporters along the way.

Her best running experience was a Labor Day 16 mile training run at a friend’s home in Pennsylvania. She mapped out a 4 mile loop and was ready to quit after three but her friend’s family came out and helped her through it.

“I'm excited about running in honor of my young friend RJ, who in the middle of some really intense chemo treatments decided to shave all his hair off. This is what makes the early morning runs all worth it.”

Brad Dahlhofer – 30 Ferndale, started running last summer to get back into shape after 10 years working behind a desk. Why pick Detroit? “Gotta support the D!”, he said.

He used the marathon’s web site training schedule to prepare for and found it a lot harder than training for a half. “Not just because of the miles, but also because my running partner isn't participating in this event, so I have to run alone. Good thing I have my mp3 player.”

“My wife and I are expecting our first child this December, and I don't know when I'll have enough time to train for another marathon. It's also been tough, because my wife and I are in the middle of opening a honey winery (Mead) in Ferndale which sometimes cuts into my training time.”

Brian Milantoni - 51 Southgate, is excited, yet nervous about the event. “As you know, those nerves make one feel alive. I can't wait for the start.”

He’s wanted to run a marathon since watching Frank Shorter win the 1972 Olympic Marathon. At the time he was a high school cross country and track runner. “I even ran against a young Doug Kurtis. But life takes you in strange directions and I wasn't able to put in the time to prepare for a marathon. After college, a career and family I’m ready.”

As Rocky Balboa said in his last movie, "The older I get, the more I'm leaving behind", couldn't explain better how I feel about this challenge.”

Jennifer Elliott – 24, New York, NY, wanted to take her running to another level. “I was a division 1 collegiate athlete and felt a void after my four years on the field were over. I started running with the New York Road Runners and progressed from the 5K to the half-marathon. The marathon was the next logical and somewhat daunting step.” She has logged a lot of her training miles in New York City’s Central Park.”

Jessica Ziecina – 30 Williamsburg, has been running for three years and recently completed a half ironman. Last year she ran the Detroit 1/2 Marathon. She likes to run with friends, “Because there is nothing better than a good therapy session. It makes the time go by, I feel refreshed, energized, and closer to the people I ran with.”

Kim Keller – 40 Howell, has always wanted to run a marathon but decided to do it this year just after her 40th birthday. “I figured what better way to celebrate the beginning of the next decade of my life.”

“I've managed to find the willpower to accomplish this goal through the support of two friends that rarely miss our early Saturday morning running ritual.”

Joyce Segedi – 48 Canton, helped a friend prepare for the marathon last year. She kept saying to her, “You’ve run all these miles why not do the marathon too.”

But it was a difficult year for Segedi to race. With a family that includes three kids she also took on the roles of caretaker. “My father was run over by a truck and I helped take care of him for five months. He later died of cancer.” She runs for a different reason now and loves to find new races that are fun. She hopes the best comes Sunday on the streets of Detroit and Windsor.