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Monday, April 15, 2013
Women celebrate fitness, unity at half-marathon

By Rachel Cooperman
Special to espnW

Half Marathon
The Salisbury Divas left their kids behind and hit the New York City streets on Sunday at the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Womens Half-Marathon.

NEW YORK -- Theyre a group of 18 women. They count 50 kids among them. They share babysitting duties when they want to get out in their neighborhood of Salisbury Estates in Woodbury, N.Y., to run and relieve a little -- or a lot of -- stress.

They call themselves the Salisbury Divas.

This is a race well never forget, said Lulette Infante, one of six Divas who competed in the 10th anniversary More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Womens Half-Marathon on Sunday in Central Park. Running with friends by your side, with strong women and dedicated mothers, we couldnt ask for more. Today we accomplished our dream of running a half-marathon in NYC.

It certainly wasnt her time that left Infante feeling so excited. Shes been suffering through tendonitis, and she held back to run with a friend who hurt her knee early in the race; they took it slow.

It was my worst half-marathon time ever, she said. But crossing the finish line meant more to me than any of the others.

The group started about two years ago. Their training runs and races are stress-relievers, therapy sessions and an opportunity to check things off their bucket lists.

My friend Jessica has five kids, and shes my inspiration to run and be healthy, Infante said. I was her cheerleader for her first half, which was this event in 2010. I had so much fun cheering that I decided I needed to do it.

Infante began running to improve her health and stamina. Her teammate, Martha Baumann, donated her kidney to her brother years ago, so she is particularly health-conscious. Race day was also Baumann's birthday, so the Divas threw her a pre-race party Friday night, which consisted of lots of carbs and laughs. Race weekends afford them the chance to have fun together and add meaning to their workouts.

Sarah Sperrazza and a few friends started a training group, the Suffield Runners, less than two years ago. At first it was a Facebook page for a few friends, and now the team is 60 women strong, most of whom live in Suffield, Conn.

More than anything, these women cite their improved mental health from running together.

We all have kids, ranging in age from 2 to 13, Sperrazza said. When you are working toward a common goal, and you know that youll let others down if you skip a run, it motivates you.

Their first race was a 5K and they built up slowly to half-marathon and marathon distances. Their first half was last June, and yesterday was their inaugural More Half-Marathon. They said the supportive and friendly environment at womens races is what drew them to New York.

Its also great to run and see dads and kids along the route, Sperrazza said.

The route consisted of two loops of Central Park. Three-time Olympian Deena Kastor was the first to cross the finish line, setting a course record of 1 hour, 13 minutes, 25.05 seconds.

But the race featured women of all types and ages, including first-timers and old-timers.

According to Running USAs most recent report, the half-marathon is the fastest-growing race distance in the United States. This past year, women were 60 percent of the finishers at this distance. Simply put, the half is popular, and many runners --43 percent of all female runners, according to Running USA -- say its their favorite. Its long enough to get the runners high and not as taxing on your body as the full 26.2-mile distance, which requires a longer recovery.

From before the race started to well after it ended, there was a lot of chatter. You could hear singing and laughter from the course. Once each finisher crossed the line and got her medal, she was invited to the post-race festival where songs like Cyndi Laupers Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Beyoncés Single Ladies, were blasting from the speakers.

Pro triathlete -- winner of the 2012 Ironman 70.3 Branson in September -- and model Jenny Fletcher was part of a group of women invited to the race by More and Fitness magazines to represent their 10 Women Run the World campaign.

I didnt race it, I just ran, Fletcher said at the finish. It was all about the experience for me. Its rare that I get to just run, instead of doing all three sports, and its rare for me to do something like this for women only. I was taking it all in today.

I dont fly [home] until tomorrow, so Im going to enjoy my time here, Fletcher said. I think Ill go out to brunch.

Freelance writer and editor Rachel Cooperman is a frequent contributor to espnW.