Chasey insists she started running marathons quite by accident. The wind was cold and blustery as Cindy Pater Chasey and Maggie Riba prepared to embark on a grueling 26.2 mile run. It was the race both Lakewood residents had trained long and hard for.  And now it was finally here, the 30th Annual Dallas White Rock Marathon.

Held annually the first Sunday in December, runners know Texas weather can run the gamut.  This year it was the wind that would make conditions less than ideal. As the race kicked off at 8 a.m. downtown at City Hall Plaza, approximately 3,500 full  marathoners wound their way through the beautiful neighborhoods of Turtle Creek, Highland Park,  Lakewood and the Swiss Avenue historical district, as well as a nine-mile loop around scenic White  Rock Lake.

Much of it was uphill with the wind in the runners’ faces.  Riba said it literally felt like she was running sideways at times because of the whipping  wind gusts.

“The wind was not fun and made the race difficult,” she said. Chasey agreed. For her, it meant a much slower time, almost an hour slower than her usual  time of five  hours. Riba was pleasantly surprised as she crossed the finish line with a time of 4:01, 18  minutes faster than last year’s pace. She said she thought the faster time was due to starting her  training in January rather than June.

Riba said there was tremendous support from the crowd that gathered along the marathon  route. The cheering and enthusiasm kept the runners motivated. It’s an experience to watch,  especially towards the end of the race from about 20 miles on. So, what is it about running a marathon that has more and more people entering these races  every year?

Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would ever run a marathon. She had never even considered it. In fact, when Chasey signed up for the first Dallas Fit running program three years ago, she thought it was a series of classes where she’d learn such things as how to breathe properly, how to stretch, the correct shoes to wear, and maybe she would even learn how to jog a little faster.

“I can still remember hearing the voice over the loud speaker welcome everyone to the first Dallas Fit MARATHON training class. I couldn’t believe it! There I was, standing in a group of ‘real’ runners. I knew I’d never be able to run 26.2 miles and I didn’t know what to do. It was 8 a.m. on Saturday and I was there. I decided I might as well stay. It was three to four months before the word ‘marathon’ came out of my mouth — I didn’t want to mention ‘quitting.’” she said.

Chasey smiles as she recalls how far she’s come since stumbling into that first class at the Bath House at White Rock Lake. Now, three years later, Chasey has run her third Dallas White Rock Marathon and her fourth total. She ran the New York City Marathon with one of her running pals from the group last year.

Riba, on the other hand, knew exactly what to expect when she signed up. Her mentor and husband, George Riba of Channel 8 Sports, had run several marathons. After taking a few years off from running long distance, George thought the new running program that was starting in Dallas would be a good way to get back into the discipline that goes along with training. And he thought it would be an excellent way to introduce his wife to the world of running marathons. At the time, the new runner in the Riba clan had not run more than a 10K. She, too, was a little apprehensive.

Riba says the experiences of the last three years have been tremendous. This year’s Dallas White Rock Marathon was her third and George’s 12th, marathon. He finished in 3:35.

Chasey said she thinks there is a key to success in running a marathon. “I always tell people, especially beginners, that running long distances is truly a mental game,” she says. “It’s important during training to focus on the goal for that day. If it’s five miles, then think only about running five miles. Or if it’s 10 miles, think only about going 10 miles. Nothing more.”

Chasey cautions that runners get into trouble psychologically if they think too far ahead. The final goal may seem impossible and fear of failure is sure to set in.

Participants in the Dallas Fit program are divided into groups according to their pace for running a mile. Each group has a leader who acts as a mentor. Both Chasey and Riba were group leaders this year. Customized schedules are designed for each group, which insures progress is made by safely adding mileage gradually, Riba explained. “Some people are fast and some are slow. And we also have a walking group. There’s something for everyone.”

Dallas Fit training kicks off in June. The groups meet at 6 a.m. each Saturday at White Rock Lake for a long run based on a certain number of miles set out in each schedule. Then during the week, each runner is responsible for logging a certain amount of time every other day, according to his or her schedule. Riba explained that psychologically, people have an easier time running for 30 minutes rather than four miles, for example. She said this approach works better during the week.

In addition to the running, seminars are scheduled to teach runners about nutrition, breathing, avoiding injury, stretching, exercise physiology, proper shoes and outer wear, to name a few. For Chasey, the best part of being in this program is meeting great people and the enduring friendships. “It’s really not even crossing the finish line that’s the highlight of the program, as one might expect. It’s the entire journey during those six months that becomes so special. While it may not always seem fun at the time, the camaraderie of doing it together, of encouraging each other, and knowing you’re not alone helps keep everyone motivated. The friendships that come out of the whole experience are phenomenal and last way beyond the running program,” she says.

Approximately 450 people signed up for the Dallas Fit program, the largest number since it started three years ago. Participants ranged in age from 18 years old to 75 years old. Dallas Fit has now implemented a program called The Beat Goes On, which begins in January. Emphasis for this session is on speed work, hill work and drills, rather than distance, with a 10K as the farthest distance run. It’s a great way to get into shape, as well as maintain some level of endurance for those having just rained for a marathon, Riba said.

For more information about Dallas Fit or The Beat Goes On, call  214-528-1290.

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