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Runners extend themselves for longer distances

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Sometimes crossing the finish line isn’t enough.

It’s exhilarating at first — arms in the air and a huge grin on your face.

But then you start to build a tolerance to the runner’s high.

At least that’s what happened to three Columbus residents — Angie Cunningham, Morgan Shofner and Catherine Cloteaux — who have finished one distance and are moving to the next for this year’s Mill Race Marathon and Mill Race Half Marathon, kicking off the morning of Sept. 27.

They were ready for the big leap.

All three women have taken the first — and arguably the most important — step by registering online.

After that, it’s a matter of preparing their minds and their bodies.

Angie Cunningham

Six years ago, Angie Cunningham went through bariatric surgery and lost 140 pounds.

But her road to health is paved with more than just medicine.

Cunningham walked in several 5K events throughout her weight-loss journey, including the 2013 Mill Race 5K.

“I didn’t even train for it,” she said. “I just walked it, and thought as long as I can get the endurance, I can do it.”

And she did do it — in less than an hour.

As she watched participants cross the finish line of the inaugural Mill Race Half Marathon later that day, the wheels in her head started churning.

“These are people I didn’t expect to see finishing. People like me,” Cunningham remembers thinking. “Maybe I can do it, too.”

She started yoga at Zen Fitness in the spring, and she started taking long walks on Saturdays with the Columbus Running Club.

Then she made the $50 commitment of registering for the race.

“I’ve made up my mind,” Cunningham said. “And the more people that know, the more I can’t back out.”

Last weekend she walked seven miles with the club, the most she’s ever walked at once. Working out with other people helps her get through the long days, she said.

Right now she’s focused on her pace. The cut-off time for race day is 17 minutes per mile, and she moves just a tad faster than that.

“It’s not if I finish, but when I finish,” Cunningham said. “I’m not worried about being faster, just fast enough.”

She had tried adding some jogging into her routine to improve her pace, but she hurt her hip and needed a cortisone injection. So for now, she’s sticking to walking and yoga.

She said the activity has put her in a better mood, and other people have noticed.

“It’s better than any antidepressant out there,” Cunningham said. “I didn’t realize how grumpy we get when we sit inside the house in the dark and watch TV all day.”

Morgan Shofner

She never thought she would cross the finish line to a half-marathon, but now Morgan Shofner is training for the next distance: 26.2 miles.

Before 2013, the Columbus resident said she “literally despised running.”

But she signed up for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis with a group of friends and became hooked.

“I don’t know if you can even describe it, the feeling of crossing the finish line,” she said. “I’ve never felt more proud of myself. Knowing I actually did it and didn’t die is amazing.”

But then she had an idea, inspired by the main movie character in “Forrest Gump.”

“And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going,” Gump says as he describes his epic run across the country.

Shofner signed up to run in the Mill Race Marathon this year.

She said her goal is to make it past the finish line — even if she is doing the “grandma shuffle” by the end. But she hopes to finish the full marathon in less than 4½ hours.

She has been training with the Columbus Running Club on Saturday mornings for her long run, which she said helps her past her mental blocks.

Although running in the heat and humidity has been a new challenge, she said she already has cleared the biggest hurdle: Registering.

She said her husband, Brandon Shofner, has been very understanding and encouraging — even though the training steals her away after already long workdays.

“I’ve never done anything physically challenging,” she said. “Just to do this for myself is awesome.”

Catherine Cloteaux

Catherine Cloteaux has completed several half-marathons, but she is sick of racing herself.

“I never felt sore or tired,” she said. “My goal was just to do a better time.”

But Cloteaux, who moved to Columbus from France two years ago for her husband’s work, said she wants to challenge her mind and body in a new way.

She’ll do that by running in the Mill Race Marathon in September.

“I’ll feel better crossing the finish line,” she said. “For the half-marathon, I know I can do it already. I’m still not sure about the full marathon, so I’ll be very happy.”

It’s not going to be her first marathon — she completed one 15 years ago, but she did not train properly and ended up with knee problems.

She said she wants to do this one right.

Cloteaux reached out to Danny Fisher, a veteran runner and the winner of last year’s Mill Race Marathon, and asked for tips and a training plan.

Fisher agreed and has been helping her progress since January.

“I am very thankful to him because he gave me confidence in myself,” she said.

She said the hardest part so far has been interval training — a method that includes bursts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with rest periods — which she has never done before.

“But you have to push yourself, even when you would like to do something else,” she said.

Cloteaux is getting her family involved, too. Her husband, Pascal Cloteaux, is moving up from the 5K to the half-marathon. Their four children are all participating in the Kids Fun Run the night before.

“We don’t feel like we have to exercise. It’s more of a hobby for us,” she said.

But for Cloteaux herself, running has become therapy.

“When I run, all my ideas can just go through my head,” she said. “I feel better in my body. I feel fit.”

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