By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> After months of training, continuous self-motivation thoughts and 13 miles of road; the letters F-I-N-I-S-H stood out as not only the end of their first half marathon race but also as a goal accomplished.
Sheri Reazor and Terri Valinote completed the first-ever Pottstown Half Marathon Saturday morning, the longest distance either had ever run before. As Reazor and Valinote ran those last steps, they were greeted with cheers, applause and high-fives from friends and family.
Reazor, 49, of North Coventry, said it felt amazing to finish the race. She said she didn’t finish first but the point was that she finished.
“No one runs at the same pace. You have to run your own race. I can’t worry about the 400 people that finished before me today. I can only worry that I finished,” she said.
Valinote, 48, of Gilbertsville, said she’s an avid walker. As a breast cancer survivor, she has participated in the three-day, 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk for the past five years. She will walk once again this October in Philadelphia. No stranger to walking, Valinote wanted to add the challenge of a long-distance run this year.
“My 2015 goal was to do a half-marathon,” she said. “If I can do it then anybody can do it. I know that you hear that all the time but it’s just about starting slow.”
The running duo was two of about 450 people that came out Saturday to race in the Pottstown Half Marathon. Runners from 14 different states registered for the event. The race began at Montgomery County Community College and ended at Riverfront Park with an awards ceremony.
Thomas Kehl, a senior at Shippensburg University, crossed the finish line first with a time of 1 hour and 16 minutes.
Kehl, of Philadelphia, said he ran his first-half marathon only a month ago. He usually runs shorter distances. Kehl ran at such a fast pace, he didn’t stop until several feet after the finish line and appeared hardly breathless.
“I just wanted to finish strong,” he said.
Race director and founder of the Sly Fox Track Club, Chris Bayless, said there is already plans to have the Pottstown Half Marathon again next year.
“Our goal is to have an annual event and make it bigger and better each year,” he said.
Bayless said Saturday’s race went amazing and the 87 volunteers along with Pottstown police officers and fire police really stepped up.
He said next year’s course will be certified which mean runners will qualify for races like the Boston Marathon and Olympic trials.
Valinote and Reazor were able to finish their 13-mile running goal with support from the Sly Fox Track Club. The athletic club, which co-hosts events and share its name with Sly Fox Brewery, trains people for running and track events.
Reazor and Valinote joined the running group last winter and then started training for the half marathon in April. Reazor said the group and its directors provide accountability.
“It’s important to find a buddy because it’s always more motivational to run with somebody else,” she said.
Bayless said he was very proud of the first-time half marathon finishers. He said they’ve improved greatly since joining the group.
“I’m more proud of the beginner group because I see them going from walking … to now most of them have run half marathons,” he said.
Bayless said his wife Allison, who helped train Reazor and Valinote, cries when she talks about their running accomplishments.
“You don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy the sport. That’s what our club is about. We want people to live a healthy lifestyle and set goals for themselves,” he said.
Reazor said it was a very emotional experience to cross the finish line and see her family waiting for her.
“I had to fight back tears but then again I was so dehydrated, there weren’t too many tears in here,” she said.
For more information about the Sly Fox Track Club, visit slyfoxtrackclub.com or call 484-941-1952. Race results from the Pottstown Half Marathon can be found at www.pretzelcitysports.com/roadracesresults.html by Monday.