Running as a family

Steamboat families take to the roads in today's marathon, races

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Steamboat Springs

Angela Nilsen is getting married in August and wanted to tone up and get in shape for her big day, so she decided to run the Steamboat Marathon. She is dragging her younger sister, Amanda, on the 26.2-mile run with her.

Well, not exactly. Amanda Nilsen, 24, once ran a marathon in Fort Collins, so while Angela, 26, may have had a reason for running it, Amanda is the one who knew how to prepare and what to expect when the pair took off with more than 500 marathoners at Hahn's Peak Cafe this morning.

"She's definitely an inspiration," Angela said of her younger sister. "Running a marathon was a goal that I had in my life. I wanted to run at least one. With all these big changes -- new job, getting married -- this is the time to do it. With all the other stresses, (training) has been a relief."

Both Nilsen sisters teach math. Angela has lived in Steamboat Springs for two years. Amanda traveled from Littleton for the weekend race. They have done other distance runs before, but this will be the first marathon they have run together. They won't be alone.

A quick glance through the sign-up sheets for each race shows a large number of family members -- siblings, spouses, parents and children -- registered together, particularly those from Steamboat Springs.

It seems appropriate in an active and athletic community such as Steamboat that families find joy -- or, in many cases, pain -- in running together even if they don't always stay together during the race.

Amanda's marathon experience has her shooting to finish in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes on the tougher Steamboat course. Angela, the soon-to-be-bride just wants to finish.

"I think it will depend on what happens, but I don't think we're planning on sticking together," Amanda said. "I think Angie will do a lot better than she thinks. We both have been very competitive, and she's done a good job training."

Samantha Pal, 17, and her sister Kelsey, 14, are counting on their athletic training and active lifestyle to help them through today's 10K race. Both are distance runners and play lacrosse, so they are accustomed to running almost daily, but their mother, Kelli Pal, 37, is the veteran runner of the group.

Consequently, the Pals didn't have to make much of a lifestyle change to prepare for today's run. They eat healthy food and enjoy being active, so the opportunity to race in their hometown is a welcome one.

"It's such a nice race," Kelli said. "I used to volunteer, and I've run the half (marathon) a couple times."

Today marks the first time Steve and Sue

Lowrie will run the half-marathon distance. Both have participated in the Boston Marathon and between the two, they have run more than a dozen marathons. Sue, 41, is a personal trainer and works out three hours a day teaching classes, so she is confident she's in shape to run 13 miles. As an inspirational trainer, she had little trouble recruiting others to join her, including her daughter Ashley Zeeb, 16, who plays basketball.

"She's never been in any running events," Sue said of Ashley. "She's now starting to get into exercising for the sake of exercising instead of just for sports."

Because of her vast distance running experience, Sue has a pretty good idea of what she needs to eat and do during the week leading up to a race. She has to ease up on her exercising and classes to save her legs and build up strength, but she doesn't change many of her eating habits because she says the body doesn't always react well to a new diet.

There are other advantages in having run a long-distance race before, Sue said, other than knowing what the legs and stomach can handle before the start.

"It's your body, but it's also your mind," she said. "I remember my first marathon. I hit the wall and thought I'm going to die now. I was running with my husband and told him to keep going because I'm not going to make it. You do get past it."

And if not, many runners in today's races have the comfort of knowing family will be around waiting to greet them at the finish line with water and hugs.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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