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Run toward marathon starts with class, dedicated effort


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Pat Pierz, pictured April 16, 2013, uses core exercises to stay on course with his marathon training.
Pat Pierz, pictured April 16, 2013, uses core exercises to stay on course with his marathon training.


Columbus resident Becky Folger had no problem summing up her participation in the first Mill Race Half-Marathon last September.

“It was insane,” said Folger, a 42-year-old “non-runner.”

She made one very good move, though, after deciding with co-workers that she was going to participate in Columbus’ first marathon and half-marathon.

She signed up for Pat Pierz’s training class called “Powered By You!”

“I went head-long into this thing and I had no idea what I was getting into,” Folger said. “I began running before I took Pat’s class, so I started out injured and with the wrong pair of running shoes.”

In her first class, designed to prepare rookie runners for the half-marathon and marathon, Folger received expert advice and changed her shoes.

“When I got the right ones, everything changed,” she said. “With the way I run, I can get severe shin splints. Runners Forum came to that very first class and they had us run barefoot to see how our feet hit the floor.

“The classes also covered nutrition, and I found out that I needed more carbs. I am not sure that I even would have done the race if I hadn’t taken that class.”

The Mill Race Marathon and Half-Marathon returns Sept. 27, and once again Pierz will offer another free 17-week training session to prepare novice runners for the task.

“We started with 200 runners last year,” said Pierz, a 53-year-old Cummins employee and an avid runner. “it was mind-blowing. The whole YES Cinema was full.

“You could see the same expression on everyone’s face. ‘I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.’”

Pierz isn’t certain he will have 200 students to start this year’s class, which begins at 7 a.m. June 7 at Yes Cinema.

“Clearly there was a buzz associated with (the first Mill Race Marathon),” Pierz said. “It was such a great time.”

Certainly, the participation still will be impressive. Pierz remembered back a dozen years ago when “five to seven” runners would show up on Saturday mornings to run with the Columbus Running Club. Now hundreds run.

The Columbus Runners Club pays the YES Cinema’s fees to host the class, and Pierz noted that the series of classes will go through more than $1,000 just in cups for the water stops that runners will make as they train each week.

It’s another signal that a spirit of health and fitness has spread through the community.

Pierz volunteers his time, and he said no paycheck could replace the feeling he gets when he sees his students excel.

“At the beginning, they say, ‘I can’t go a mile, how in the world am I going to do 26?’ Then I always learn about people’s amazing spirit, their will to succeed and achieve things they didn’t think were possible.”

Amy Mensendiek, a 40-year-old runner, said she couldn’t have gotten through the half-marathon without the class.

“The class made me feel more confident about doing it,” she said. “I would think that anyone who hasn’t done anything like this should take the class,” she said. “There is so much information out there. It is so helpful, even just discussing the aches and pains you get.

“And Pat can tell you his story. He has been there, done that. He wasn’t always a runner, a guy who just sat on the couch. He says, ‘I got up and got active.’ He is very motivating.”

Pierz, who began running at age 37, will be motivating a training class in Columbus for the final time. He plans to move out of state and will turn over the class to Cummins employee Alejandro Contreras.

He doesn’t take a lot of credit for the effectiveness of the class.

“I am just a coordinator,” Pierz said. “We get recognized experts.

“Our recipe is borrowed from Pace. That’s a very well-developed class. It’s just a switch over from running in the cold to running in the summer and the heat.”

Pace for the Race, taught by Shayla Holtkamp, is a series of classes designed to prepare runners for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon and the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis. That class begins in January.

Although Pierz will have taught just two 17-week sessions for the Mill Race Marathon, he won’t forget the first day of the 2013 class.

“We lined all our runners up in front of Cummins’ corporate offices and said, ‘Go!’ It was our official start to training. The police stopped traffic, and no one was honking when they saw what was going on.

“I loved the ethnic diversity of the class. It just blows your mind. We looked like the United Nations, and everyone was so grateful to participate. The police were totally behind us. The city was totally behind us.”

And his students in the 17-week class are totally behind Pierz.

“Pat is the ideal person to do it,” said 45-year-old John Lashbrook, who took the course last year.

“He is extremely motivating in his personality and he is passionate in what he does.”

Lashbrook said he plans to take the series of classes again.

“I felt it was very helpful,” he said. “I would tell any new runners that they need to do it. It is essential. I learned about eating habits and sleeping habits; stretching and toning was a key factor for me and getting the flexibility.

“I learned something great about shoes. My previous shoes simply were sized the wrong way. After you have been running five miles, your feet swell. I couldn’t have done (the half-marathon) without taking Pat’s class.”

Folger isn’t sure she will run another half-marathon this year, but if she does, she will relay on Pierz again.

“He does such a fantastic job,” she said. “And he just does it out of the goodness of his heart.”

Mensendiek said if she runs the half-marathon again, she will take the series of classes.

“It must be important,” she said with a laugh. “Who wants to get up on Saturday morning and sit and listen to somebody?

“But there is a lot more information there than you think you need to know. They even trained us on how to do water stops. There is a lot of little stuff you don’t think about.”

Powered by you!

WHAT: 17-week running class to prepare for the Mill Race Marathon and Half Marathon

WHEN: First class June 7 at 7 a.m.

WHERE: YES Cinema

COST: Free

INSTRUCTOR: Pat Pierz

MILL RACE MARATHON DATE: Sept. 27

DID YOU KNOW?: You can register now for the race or the series of training classes by going to www.millracemarathon.com

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