Locals bring marathon to SLO

A marathon was always on my list of things to do in my lifetime,” says Heather Hellman co-founder with Samantha Pruitt of  “Get Off the Couch Potato”, a sports production company in San Luis Obispo. At 45 she decided the time had come and entered into Team in Training that not only prepares a runner for the race but raises funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Hellman has a wealth of experience in event marketing and wanted to bring world-class sports events to the Central Coast. So together with Samantha they formed the idea for the San Luis Obispo Marathon to be held April 22 in conjunction with the SLO Life Expo. This is the first ever San Luis Obispo Marathon and it involves not only a 26.2 mile event but a half marathon of 13.1 miles and a 5K race.
Hellman also had strong feelings about the Team in Training type of training because she had seen a report on a child suffering from leukemia and asked her to be her honoree teammate in her first marathon. She felt strongly about raising funds to help find a cure for this type of cancer. “Because of a sciatica problem, I actually walked my first marathon,” she said, “and the Team in Training coaches were there with me all the way.”
Team in Training has participants at all levels of training supported in achieving the goal of performing a marathon and raising funds to find a cure for leukemia, myeloma, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Another type of training is a fee based training that is a motivational training program with certified coaches from the Road Runners Club of America.
But why do the SLO Marathon? “You experience the best of what good running has to offer right here in San Luis Obispo,” said partner Samantha Pruitt. Pruitt, who is originally from Southern California, got into running after struggling with some difficult health problems. She went back to school and studied holistic health and adopted not only a stress-reduced lifestyle, but one based on good nutrition and exercise. In co-founding Get Off the Couch Potato Sports Productions with Hellman, Pruitt lives her passion of inspiring others to use sports as a life enriching experience. She is now a certified race director, triathlon coach, personal trainer, endurance athlete, and endurance sports coach.
As a long distance runner and triathlete Pruitt knows how lucky she is to be able to train here. “The weather is ideal,” she said, “and the terrain is smooth. There is crystal clean air, so you can breathe deeply.” Pruitt also feels that another great thing about being a runner in this county is that here people embrace runners, cyclists, and walkers. “All of this and more are really good reasons to try the San Luis Obispo Marathon,” she said.
The marathon coincides with Earth Day, a great day for the first San Luis Obispo Marathon. On race day the full marathon begins at San Luis Obispo High School and 20 minutes later the half marathon begins. Both courses have similarities, with the half marathon turning around at the 6.5 mile. The race takes runners through downtown SLO and out to the open spaces of the Edna Valley. Both races finish at the Madonna Inn and the SLO Life Expo. “Participants will get to enjoy wine tasting, dining, and live entertainment at the three-day event,” Hellman said.
The 5K race course goes up a gentle incline for 1.55 miles and back and starts next to the Madonna Inn on the newly paved bike path and sidewalks. Registration for this race benefits the Special Olympics.
All races are supported by aid stations along the route, with water, sports drinks, race fuel foods and medical supplies as well as on-call medical care. Sanitary stations will be located at the start, finish and on-course. More than 400 volunteers will be there cheering you on your way.
Pace groups that consist of a group of people who want to finish the marathons within a certain time are also available. SLO Marathon provides pacers who can run at the particular time that a person desires to run the race. For instance, participants who want to finish the marathon in three hours will sign up with the three-hour pace group that contains two pacers who can finish the race in that time. A pace group helps a runner meet or exceed their personal record and helps athletes run a better race and meet their time goals.
It’s a marathon but that doesn’t mean you get to run it until you finish no matter what time that occurs. There are limits. In order to qualify as an official finisher the race must be completed within the eight-hour course limit. Runners/walkers must maintain an 18-minute per mile pace. Participants who don’t hit their mile markers at a certain time will be picked up by the Sag Wagon that will be following the slowest people.
“We’re honoring Earth Day by making this a green marathon too,” Hellman said. “Athletes are encouraged to bring their own water bottle, and we are using recycled paper and plastic for marketing and vendor materials.”
You can register for the races and sign up for training by going to www.slomarathon.com. Do it now and get off the couch -- potato!
— Ruth Ann Angus