A runner's town

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A runner's town

By Chris Starrs - Athens Banner-Herald
Published Sunday, December 12, 2010

In tough economic times, folks have been known to participate in all kinds of low-cost activities for sustenance, entertainment or to just pass the time.

At this juncture in our country's history, it appears that one of the most popular pastimes is getting in good physical condition, most notably by that time-honored mode of transportation, running.

A renewed interest in putting one foot ahead of the other in a forward progression is evidenced by the almost-weekly 5K races held in the area, as well as the successful sprint triathlon held at Sandy Creek Park in August and the inaugural Athens, GA Half Marathon, an AthFest-sponsored event, in late October.

"Running is the simplest sport there is," said Elliott Austin, who manages the New Balance-Athens store and ran track and cross country at Mars Hill (N.C.) College. "You don't need clubs, you don't need a field and you don't have to be a member of a gym. You just go and get fitted for a shoe and run. You can do it from your house, or you can go someplace and run with friends. ... That's the trend and I think it will keep going. That's the new reality."

Branching off into more intense physical challenges - like triathlons - can result in a substantial financial investment, though many start out with a thrifty posture.

"When you get into triathlons, you are talking about investing some money in it," said Nelson Wells of the Classic City Tri Club.

"I call it the healthy golf - you'll probably spend the same amount of money, but you'll probably be in better shape. You have a certain investment.

"I spoke to a woman who just did her first triathlon - she's been doing marathons for years - and she said she borrowed a bicycle for the triathlon so she could prove to herself she could do it. She didn't buy anything fancy - just a regular bathing suit and regular running shorts and she did it. I did the same thing. My first four triathlons, I rode a mountain bike. I was just so hooked after that. There are so many athletes selling really expensive equipment; they're always upgrading, so you can find used stuff all the time, which is the next thing to do."

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