West runners complete first half, full marathons

Megan Battleson, Staff Writer

Like many others, senior Liz Baylon struggled to enjoy a sport that would soon become a passion of hers. “At first I despised running, but eventually I became in love with it,” Baylon said.

For many, running can be a horrific and unenjoyable activity necessary under only dire conditions, but  Baylon can think of no better outlet. Last week, Baylon was one of over 980 half marathon runners at the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins.

The Colorado Marathon is organized to accommodate to runners of different abilities, with options for a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon relay, and full marathon. The majority of the over 13 mile course took the runners down the Poudre River Canyon, and into downtown Fort Collins where the half marathoners finished. “The course was absolutely stunning. It distracts you from the fact that you are running,” Baylon recalled.

Cross country coach Rich Davis first introduced her to the idea of running a half marathon, and served as her coach throughout her preparation process. To train for the run, Baylon followed a mileage schedule and maintained a seven day training program containing rotations of long, easy, and tempo runs. Six months of training was no easy feat, but the value of perseverance was a valuable lesson Baylon can take from her first half marathon. “This race proved to me that hard work pays off,” Baylon said. “During that time it was difficult to stay motivated but all those miles paid off at the finish.”

Although Baylon had been running since her freshman year, the half marathon was a beast of its own compared to her previous races. “I was used to running 5ks since that is the only event we do during cross country season. Running a half [marathon] was really different because it is much longer,” Baylon said. As it is her senior year, she decided to shift her focus from track this spring to dedicate her time to becoming a half marathoner. “I definitely feel like focusing on the half was a smart choice. Track is a more speed based sport; my training was more suited for longer distances.”

With a time of 1:48:44, Baylon took first in the women under 19 division, and secured a 133rd place finish overall in her first half marathon. “I did not expect it to be fun, but to my surprise it has been one of my favorite races I’ve ever ran,” Baylon stated. Currently, Baylon has no intention to run at the collegiate level, but plans to continue running for fun. Although her running future is uncertain, she does plan to race another half marathon, with a possible full marathon in the future. “I never expected to run a half but I ended up doing it. Hopefully that will be the case for a full marathon.”

Baylon used her last high school year to challenge herself, and have a little fun while doing it. “Considering that this was my last season running, there was no better way to end it than by pushing my limits by running a half.”

To make the experience even more memorable, Baylon had a fellow Spartan there with her at the start line. Senior Ana Rivera raced at the same event, but had her eyes set on the full marathon. After quitting track last year to compete in two half marathons, Rivera wanted to get a marathon under her belt before running them in college. This year, her focus was once again on individual long races rather than shorter events, although diverting her focus away from track was not a difficult decision for Rivera. “It was definitely worth it because I was never a fan of track since I’m better at longer distances,” Rivera stated.

Like Baylon, Davis had coached Rivera during her preparation for the race, and had given her a detailed schedule similar to Baylon’s, but geared toward the marathon. For seven months, Rivera’s training was done primarily alone, although Baylon occasionally joined her, making the training a bit more bearable. “She’s always great to talk to on runs which makes them go by quickly, which is the best,” Rivera recalled. Training wasn’t always easy, but she was able to push through. “There were plenty of long runs where I would cry while running because I was in pain but I got through it.”

Unlike most races in her past where she gets “super-duper nervous”, Rivera felt “really confident and calm” before her first full marathon. Looking back, Rivera thinks that “maybe that’s a sign that [running marathons] is my calling”. As the event is so long, most racers agree that the last six miles are equally as difficult as first 20 miles. As Rivera competed, she was “ecstatic about [her] performance since [she] felt amazing for the first 22 miles,” and did not hit the barrier as early as she was told to expect. “When I crossed the finish line I was inexplicably happy… and starving,” Rivera recalled. Overall, the senior Spartan was pleased with her run. “The race went great! I’m very proud and surprised about how well I performed.” As a senior, she was able to finish the 26.2 mile course in just over three hours and 40 minutes, earning her 163rd of 769 marathoners, taking 3rd in her division.

With her first marathon in the bag, Rivera is excited to start the next chapter in her life as a collegiate athlete. This fall, she hopes to continue focusing on marathons while still participating in the 5ks during cross country season, competing in both at Oklahoma City University. As the stepping stone to her long road ahead, Rivera can begin this next phase in her running career with satisfaction. “This race makes me so happy and it made my entire summer because it’s a huge accomplishment,” Rivera said. “Every time I think of it now it makes me a happier person knowing I’m actually living.”