The barefoot man: Char Richards put three small signs in her in-laws’ Devereaux Road lawn to inspire her husband, John, during his half-marathon run – “You can do it!” “Go John” and a photo of John, who runs barefoot.
John Richards, a 41-year-old heating-air conditioning engineer from Columbia, started running in 2006 as a New Year’s resolution to get into better shape. He set a goal of running a marathon, which he did before that year was over.
Four years ago, he read how running barefoot prevented heel spurs and other injuries. Running barefoot involves starting strides on the front of foot rather than the back.
“Anyway, shoes are expensive and he went through a lot of them,” Char Richards said.
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When John Richards sprinted by his wife before the six-mile mark, he tossed her a pair of his running pants. “Now the shorts!” Char Richards shouted. Fortunately, the only things he kept bare were his feet.
Roadside inspiration: Families came out to support loved ones navigating the course’s longest hill on Trenholm Road right after Beltline. Jayden and Walter Griffin III, ages 8 and 5, held a pink sign for their stepmother, Conetta, that read “Way to Go, CoCo” at the end of the hill across from Trenholm Road United Methodist Church.
Kim Weber brought a large cowbell her family used to carry to minor-league hockey games in Orlando to spur her husband and his running partner. But all runners needing an extra boost at the top of the hill seemed to pick up their pace a bit every time she rang it. “We need more cowbell!” one runner hollered. Cowbell ringing has drawbacks. Weber rubbed the skin off her knuckles ringing the bell for so long for her husband at an Ironman event.
Lizi Lengel of Fayetteville, N.C., held a sign for her father that inspired many participants on Saturday: “Run 4 Beer.” Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lengel planned to celebrate his race – a week after running an ultra-marathon – with his first beer in a little while, said his wife, Amy. Lengel’s other daughter, Madison, cheered on all others with a sign of her own: “Run, Random Guy, Run.”
Play those drums: Of all the water stations, runners will probably remember the kindergartener playing drums at the mile 7/20 mark on Kathwood Drive. Five-year-old Luke Shalkham got to do what he couldn’t inside the house on the drum kit that Santa brought him last year – make a lot of noise for a long time.
Most runners gave Luke smiles and thumbs-up. A few even stopped to get their licks in before grabbing a cup of water or Gatorade. When he stopped, runners asked Luke to play – especially on their second time around the course. “It makes me happy,” said Luke, his cheeks covered with powdered sugar from a doughnut. “I liked helping.”
They hear you: Runners came in various types on Saturday. There were the chatterers, who sounded like they were at a coffee shop: “We’re going on vacation next month,” one runner said to another. There were the complainers: “These hills last forever!” one runner screamed.
Karen Salmon, a Columbia attorney who ran the half-marathon, said she hears people shout her name, which is on her racing bib, and she loves to hear bells.
“The whole idea is that we get in a zone,” said Salmon, who has run in three marathons. “It doesn’t always look like it, but we appreciate it.”
What’s GU for you: Being a good water station worker requires a few skills. Hold the cup in the palm of your hand for easy pickup. Shout the distance point on the course. And be ready for some runners picky about which flavor of GU you hand them.
GU (pronounced goo) is the brand name for a gel with vitamins and carbohydrates in a small foil pouch. The flavors available at the Brennen Elementary School station were mandarin orange, chocolate outrage, vanilla bean and blueberry pomegranate. Volunteers fanned out several pouches in the hands as the runners came by.
Runners preferred orange and all but shunned the chocolate and blueberry – some even stopping to make sure they grabbed the right flavor.
“The chocolate is too thick,” said Salmon. “You’re looking for that nice balance with sticky and not too sweet.”
Take note race organizers: She likes the peanut butter, which the company website says is its most requested flavor.
Compiled by Andy Shain