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For runners, fall is prime road race time. Dozens of marathons, half-marathons and 5K events are scheduled throughout central Indiana in the coming weeks. The inaugural Mill Race Marathon is Sept. 28 in Columbus. The Monumental Marathon, Indianapolis’ only full marathon, is Nov. 2. Many Johnson County residents will be taking part. They have shared their stories of why they’ll be racing in the coming weeks. Some are primed to set their personal bests. Others are aiming to simply cross the finish line. A few are using the events to mark birthdays and other special occasions.

‘I didn’t know what energy was’

Two years ago, Dan Hutton couldn’t imagine running one mile, let alone 13.

The Franklin resident weighed nearly 300 pounds and was struggling with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and borderline diabetes. He never considered exercising and only marginally changed his diet to avoid sodium, fat and excess calories.

But in 2012, Hutton realized his life depended on making a change. He started walking, then running. Over the course of 1½ years, he lost more than 100 pounds.

At the end of September, he’ll take the next step on his path to fitness — he’ll attempt to run the Mill Race Half-Marathon in Columbus, his first long-distance race.

“People always commented that I had a lot of energy for my size. But I didn’t know what energy was,” he said. “I have never felt better.”

Hutton, 54, has been overweight all of his life, even as a young man. By the time he was 35, he was taking medication to control his blood pressure. His weight reached 280 pounds.

When he started his fitness odyssey, Hutton made small changes. He walked 30 minutes every day, first at a slow pace, then increasing his speed as his body adjusted.

Sticking to a strict 1,500-calorie diet, he gave his body the nutrients it needed without excess. He also gave up all soda.

The first 10 pounds melted away, then another 10.

“I was very consistent. I can probably count on one hand the days I didn’t walk those first few months,” he said. “After those first few pounds, I got excited about how far I could take it.”

Hutton had support from fitness-minded friends such as Margie Davis, a personal trainer who encouraged him to run with her.

He started with a half-mile and admits it wasn’t easy. But he’s stayed with it. Training hard for the past three months, he has run four days each week, putting in 20 to 22 miles getting ready for the Mill Race Half-Marathon.

Though nervous, he feels good about his chances of finishing.

Hutton also hopes that his story can help encourage others to make the slight changes that can lead to a healthier life.

He didn’t have to go to extreme measures to get healthy; he weighs about 170 pounds today because he committed to exercise and proper eating.

“Everyone can find 30 minutes a day to walk,” he said. “It can be done. You just have to have the willpower to stick with it.”

‘It’s just something I enjoy’

The training had lasted for weeks, with some runs approaching 20 miles.

Bruno Reynolds had prepared all fall to qualify and run his first New York Marathon. He booked his hotel, had his flight ready and was mentally preparing for the 26.2-mile run.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit.

The widespread destruction forced organizers to cancel the race, and Reynolds was one of thousands of runners who flew all the way to New York only to be sent back home.

“It was very disappointing to travel all the way there and then cancel at the last minute,” he said. “But that’s why I’m going back to do it again.”

Despite taking up running only four years ago, Reynolds has quickly moved up to qualify and run in some of the country’s biggest marathons. From the Circle City Marathon to the Boston Marathon to hopefully New York this year, the Greenwood resident found an obsession with logging miles and the thrill of crossing the finish line.

“You get started on it, and you enjoy doing it. I don’t know how to explain why, it’s just something I enjoy,” he said.

Reynolds, 62, had been an avid bicyclist for more than 30 years before he started running. After retiring from the U.S. Postal Service, his daughters persuaded him to run a 5K race with them. Something clicked during that race, and he’s been doing short road races and marathons ever since.

Since starting, he’s finished dozens of 5K races and six marathons. He competed in the Boston Marathon in 2012 and hopes to qualify again in 2014.

This weekend he is racing through Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, for the Air Force Marathon, an event he’s already completed twice. Then he’ll run the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus the following weekend, before heading to New York again for its marathon.

“I have a pretty full fall,” he said.

But despite his experience, Reynolds admits that no matter the size of the race, he still gets a little jittery before the starting gun sounds.

“You always want to do your best. It’s a long run, and you don’t know how it’s going to go,” he said. “They say even elite runners get them.”

‘I’m not a runner, but I can walk’

What a way to celebrate a 65th birthday.

Debbie Mohr plans to cross the finish line of the Mill Race Marathon and cross a major life achievement off her to-do list at the same time.

Mohr plans to walk the race, and her goal is to finish. This will be her first race of any kind.

“I’m not a runner, but I can walk. I’m going to try to do it,” she said.

To get ready, Mohr takes a general fitness class at her gym, Total Fitness in Columbus. She learned about the half-marathon through her instructor, who suggested that the class give it a try.

Mohr and a few friends from the class thought it sounded like fun and signed up over the summer.

When she isn’t taking her class, she walks near her Edinburgh home.

At most, she’s walked for eight miles straight. The hope is to add a mile or two to that total, which should prepare her for the upcoming race.

Finishing a race is something Mohr had on her “bucket list,” to complete during her life. Getting it out of the way on her birthday seemed like a fitting way to do it.

“I feel pretty good. But then I think, 13.1 miles, that’s a lot. Still, I’m not out to win anything. I’m just doing it for my own satisfaction,” she said.

‘I was ready to do my next one’

The stubborn baby weight just wouldn’t melt away.

Rachel Barnes had just had her son in 2011 and found that the extra pounds she had put on during pregnancy were difficult to get rid of. She felt unhealthy and wanted to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight.

Barnes turned to running to lose those 15 pounds, and the habit stuck. She is getting ready to run her first half-marathon Sept. 28, when she competes in the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus.

What started as a goal to run a 5K race has morphed into a habit that the Edinburgh resident now loves.

Where Barnes, 29, has found the most success getting started was a series of interval training — mixing walking with jogging to help her body build endurance. The program was 35 minutes each day.

After about four months, she was running her first 5K race. She only intended to do the one race with a friend then scale back her running habit. But it didn’t work out that way.

“As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was ready to do my next one,” she said.

Barnes has now run six 5K races. Her plan to work up to higher distances was slightly altered when she became pregnant again in 2012. But even that didn’t prevent her from running.

She ran up until her 25th week of pregnancy.

She even ran a 5K.

“There were so many people who run through their pregnancy that I had high hopes and aspirations. But that didn’t happen,” she said.

Heading into her first half-marathon, Barnes is confident in her training.

She had been running two or three short runs during the week, before putting in a 7- to 10-mile run on the weekends.

But having never done it before, she is still plagued by uncertainty.

“I’m nervous. It’s a big deal. No one wants to train for so many months and not be able to finish it,” she said. “What if I’m sick or I get injured. It’s a guessing game.”

‘Running becomes part of you’

Distance running has become a family tradition for the Beshears family of Greenwood.

Every year, Gary Beshears runs three half-marathons. The first and final ones he’ll do with his children, 13-year-old Julie and 11-year-old Kevin.

It’s an opportunity to train together, aiming for the goal of finishing 13.1 miles and then relishing the fact that they did it. Sometimes they wear silly costumes or wild hats. They consider the races a chance to bond.

“Running becomes part of you, something you look forward to doing every four months,” Beshears said.

But every year, Beshears also sets aside one race to do alone. He sets a personal goal for his time and works to see how close he can get to it. This year, he finished the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon with his daughter. He plans to complete the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in October with his son. That leaves the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus as his personal run.

“I always save one for myself, just to see what I can do,” he said.

Running started as a way for Beshears to lose weight. He signed up for the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon months in advance and used it as a motivational tool. He had to pay for it up front, so he was going to follow through and finish.

“It was more to force myself to do it. If I signed up, if I committed to it, I was actually going to accomplish it,” he said.

He’s now done eight half-marathons and hopes to continue his rotation of running three races each year. The half-marathon distance is perfect for both him and his children, so he plans to stick with that race format in coming years.

“I don’t think I’m crazy enough to do a full yet,” he said.

‘We can encourage each other’

Finding activities to do together is a successful way for husbands and wives to build strong marriages.

Cody and Camille Cutler found that as they trained for the upcoming Mill Race Half-Marathon.

The day will be a significant milestone for both. Cody Cutler turns 29 the day of the race, while this will be the first half-marathon for Camille Cutler.

“It gives us an accomplishment we can do together. We can encourage each other and train together when we can,” Cody Cutler said. “It’s about doing the race together.”

Cody Cutler has been a casual runner for years and since 2011 has tried to complete one long-distance race each year.

He did the Geist Half-Marathon that spring, and last year he crossed the finish line of the Monumental Marathon.

Signing up for a race serves as a built-in training program.

“It forces me to get out and exercise. I know I don’t want to tank it on race day. It makes me go train, lose a little bit of weight and get in better shape,” he said.

As Cody Cutler has found enjoyment in distance running, he has encouraged his wife to join him. Camille Cutler, 26, had run short distances in the past but admits that she’d always come up with excuses.

But this spring, she gave in and agreed to sign up for the Mill Race Marathon.

“I decided I was doing it for myself. I wanted to set a goal and accomplish it,” Camille Cutler said.

Because the New Whiteland couple have conflicting work schedules, they don’t always get to train together. But they’ve come up with a routine of short runs during the week and a longer 5- or 6-mile run on the weekends that they try to do at the same time.

Having that support has been important, Camille Cutler said.

“It’s not fun being out there for so long. It can get boring. But having someone right there to push you helps. It means a lot to work hard together,” she said.


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