Runners share motivation for Montana Marathon

2013-09-12T00:15:00Z 2014-05-26T22:29:31Z Runners share motivation for Montana MarathonBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Take a quick peek at the roster for Sunday’s Montana Marathon, and you’ll see as many reasons for running as there are runners.

And with more than 700 people from all over the country expected to participate in this weekend’s races, scheduled for Sunday, that means more than 700 reasons.

“There are people out there trying to make a difference,” said Calley Thompson, who helped organize the event. “We’re trying to make a cultural change for our kids and get them out.”

The annual marathon includes a full marathon, a hand-cycle marathon, a half-marathon, 10k, a team run and kids events and draws runners of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds from all over the country.

With such a variety of racers comes a wide range of motivations for getting involved.

‘I was scared’

In August 2012, Peter McCarthy weighed 280 pounds. The 35-year-old Clancy resident had struggled with his weight since high school, yo-yoing between overweight and healthy with a belief that he could lose the weight when he needed to.

He’d gain 50 pounds and then lose 50 pounds but, after graduating college, reached about 280 and kept the weight on.

Last year, he and his wife, Lindsey, learned they were having a child and between that and concern from his family, McCarthy decided it was time to lose the weight.

“I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to play with my kid or even be around long enough to raise him,” he said. “My parents got real concerned, and I got on a diet plan about the same time.”

Through a strict, rigorous diet plan,

McCarthy dropped to about 220 pounds through the first five months. During that time, a friend mentioned he’d like to do an Ironman triathlon and convinced McCarthy to eventually try one as well. An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run.

They settled on the Ironman triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in June 2014, and he began training.

“I lost a bulk of the weight using that diet until I got to that point, at a manageable weight around 220 pounds,” he said. “I was at a point where I can start running and it was only a half mile and that was tough.”

Today, he weighs about 180 and is well on his way to competing in his first triathlon. Sunday’s marathon will be his first and, while it’s a huge milestone, doesn’t represent an end goal for McCarthy.

In addition to the 2014 Ironman, he wants to stay healthy for his family. McCarthy trains when he can, getting in quick sessions in the morning before work and logging two or three long runs each week.

Confident that he’ll finish — he’s logged a 21-mile run at a pace of eight minutes and 45 seconds per mile — McCarthy said he uses fear of failing as motivation and is nowhere near done, but considers his progress an amazing accomplishment nonetheless.

“I’ll probably hit that line and say, ‘Wow I’ve got a lot of work to do before this Ironman,’” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve done a lot of hard work to get to where I’m at. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and look at how far you’ve come.”

A family thing

For others, running is a way to honor family members, both alive and departed.

Christina Taurman, of Billings, plans to finish the half marathon on Sunday in honor of her adoptive mother, Karen Whiteclay.

Whiteclay was a pastor in the Hardin area and died last October.

“My mom was always behind me 100 percent,” Taurman said. “She didn’t get to see me do it, so I’m going to do it for her and dedicate it to her.”

Taurman described Whiteclay as a woman who would help her family and complete strangers alike without question.

She started running right around the time Whiteclay died and said that it provided her with an outlet on the tough days and a chance for reflection other times.

“To get through everything, running has really helped me with that,” she said.

While it wasn’t the goal, Taurman also noticed she was getting in better shape and has lost about 35 pounds since then. She enthusiastically sought out advice from more experienced runners, the Internet and friends and now considers herself an avid runner.

When she crosses the finish line, which she said there’s no doubt will happen, Taurmen isn’t quite sure what to expect.

“It’s probably going to be emotional,” she said. “It’s going to be huge. I’ll be so proud of myself and I know my mom would be too. I’ve come so far this past year.”

Doing it for dad

Becka Swanke, of Billings, also will run with a parent in mind.

She picked up running from her father, Don Gleason, a health enhancement teacher and athletic trainer at Billings West High.

“Even though I started later in life, I didn’t really start until college, it kind of became an addiction,” Swanke said. “I guess that runs in the family because my dad is an avid runner.”

Gleason lived an extremely active lifestyle that included weightlifting, running and cycling every morning before work.

“He used to run a half marathon in the morning before work like it was nothing,” Swanke said.

But several years ago, Gleason was diagnosed with a heart condition and can no longer run or exercise like he used to, including running long distances.

“His running days are kind of over so I’m picking up where he left off,” Swanke said. “He passed his running addiction on to me.”

Sunday will be her first full marathon, although she’s completed a handful of half-marathons recently. She now averages 12 miles daily running and works out on an elliptical machine and likes the results.

While she hasn’t needed Gleason for fine-tuning or expert advice on running, her dad indirectly pushes Swanke to finish the marathon more than anything else.

“Knowing that he’s proud of me, that’s the most important thing,” she said. “I just was to see him there at the end, to have him waiting there when I finish.”

Elite athlete

While Matt Ebiner is running in the Montana Marathon, it’s far from his first or second or even 20th marathon.

Ebiner, 52, is a former UCLA track and cross country runner who teaches geography at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif.

He’s finished about 25 marathons in his life, including the 2013 Boston Marathon in two hours and 32 minutes. His goal now is to complete, and win, a marathon in each of the 50 states while finishing each with a time faster than two hours and 40 minutes.

“As far as I know, there’s just one other runner who’s accomplished victory in a marathon in all 50 states,” Ebiner said.

While in his 20s, Ebiner ran a handful of marathons and then took a 20-year break, only to start running them again around the age of 50.

That age milestone gave him incentive to see if he could still do it and fueled his desire to start running competitively again.

“At this age, It’s not that common that guys in their 50s can still run marathons like this,” he said. “I thought it would be a lofty goal but that it would be a great accomplishment if I could do it.”

He’s checked marathon victories in two states — Idaho and South Dakota, both earlier this year — off the list already. However, he said the 50-state marathon goal isn’t all about winning races or finishing them in a certain time.

He’s an amateur photographer — Ebiner will shoot the Little Bighorn Battlefield during his trip — and it allows him to travel to new places — his trip to Billings will be his first time in Montana — while doing what he loves.

“I figure I should take advantage of my good fortune, of being healthy and being able to do this, while I still can,” he said. “I want to enjoy it.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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