Popularity of running has grown significantly

August 12, 2011

Running shoes must be flying off the store shelves these days.

More people are slipping on their sneakers and running a mile or two or more each day.

The number of participants in marathons and other long-distance events illustrate this trend, as does the number of 1-mile and 5-kilometer races in our area.

According to, a half-million runners finished marathons last year, almost double the finishers in 2001 when 295,000 crossed the finish line.

In the previous 12 months, 14 distance races were reported to the Democrat.

“When I was in high school,” Candice Martin, 32, of Sedalia, said before the After-dark 5K/Fun Run 5K race Aug. 6, “we didn’t have any of this, never even heard of fun runs or 5Ks or 10Ks or anything like that.”

According to, 402 distance races were registered for 2011. There were 397 in 2009 and 372 in 2008.

“A lot of people are starting to run now,” long-time Sedalia runner Jim Waldo said. “I have a good friend over at Pittsburgh-Corning. He’s 2 years older than me and he started running two years ago.”

Sedalia Runners Club President Kent Lang has a theory on why long-distance running has taken off.

“Locally, it seems like its being led by our females,” Lang said. “Back in the day, for every female runner there were three males.

“A lot of people participate as an activity. A lot of people do it for recreation or a cause.”

Lang runs to win. The Sedalia resident, who began running at age 15 and ran for the then-Central Missouri State University cross country team, has won more than 100 races in the 30-plus years he’s competed.

“I’m a pretty competitive person,” said Lang, who has run everyday for 30 years  and  averages 50 miles a week. “God didn’t give me many attributes to be a baseball player or basketball player.”

The Boonville native likes to see more people running.

“I’m  just tickled to see that little 5K (After-dark 5K/Fun Run) the other night and the Turkey Trot” succeed, Lang said. “They had 250 on Thanksgiving morning! The Sedalia Half-Marathon doesn’t get that many.”

The half-marathon is one of four annual races put on by the runners club.

The club started in the late 1970s and held a full marathon. The Firecracker Mile started around 1980, and  they had several 10Ks. They’ve added two duathlons in recent years.

The After-dark races drew a variety of runners, from veterans to novices.

“I like to go out on the road and run. It depends on work,” said Sedalia resident Phil Webster, who runs for exercise. “There for a while, I was running about 2 miles everyday.

Then all of a sudden, work just got too much. ... I’m doing that about once a week now, maybe.”

Webster tries to run a 5K every week.

“We’ve been at races all around the state, from the east side to the west side,” Webster said.

Waldo, who began running in the seventh grade, is a competitive runner.

“I try to run everyday,” Waldo said. “Again, the injuries, I haven’t been able to (run everyday). Now I’m starting to get  (better).  When I’m healthy, I’ll put 4 for 5 miles in.”

Waldo said the health benefits of running helped draw him back to the sport after a 25-year break.

“There’s a lot of emphasis in workplaces on wellness, getting healthier,” Waldo said. “For one because it’s a way to help reduce health insurance costs. Employers are promoting wellness activities and a lot of people are getting involved in running.”

Waldo began running again after adopting a little boy named Isaiah, who is 5 years old now.

“When he was 2, I realized that I was not in good enough shape to play with him. So I told my wife .... that it’s not fair to him for me to be in as bad a shape as I am,” Waldo said. “.... That’s why I decided to start running, because of Isaiah.”

Novice runners, Kristee Lorenz and Martin, run for health reasons.

“I think our society is a lot more health conscience, trying to get more physically fit, eat better, take care of ourselves,” said Lorenz,  who has run the Firecracker Mile the past three years and the After-dark 1 1/2-mile run was her first race over a mile.

Martin, who played volleyball at State Fair Community College, began running in college.

“I started running in the summer just to get in shape,” Martin, 32, said. “College sports are pretty demanding. I wasn’t an avid runner in high school at all, but I played three sports and never cared to run. Once I signed on here, I knew there was going to be a lot of work (to do) on my own. I started running that way.”

Martin ran in both the 5K and Fun Run on Aug. 6. She ran the Fun Run with her 6-year-old daughter, Zoe, before going it alone in the 5K.

“She’s been wanting to run with me. We’re starting out small, getting in all the kiddie runs we can,” Martin said.

Running can be a stress reliever, too.

“I used to hate running. Now the more that I run, the more I like it,” Martin said. “Like when I get some time to myself, that’s what I go do. ... You can be by yourself and do something alone and work out at the same time. When you have two kids and a husband that works out of town ... you have to do more than one thing at a time.”

Lang said that running has been a boon for his health.

“I can still wear the same clothes that I did in high school and I’m almost 49,” Lang said. “I’ve never been to a doctor, never been to the hospital and I sleep well at night. There’s probably some luck involved, too.”