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Sports Backers Marathon Training Team celebrates 20 years of making it to the finish line

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 5:52 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2021 at 7:05 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Since 2002 Sports Backers Marathon Training Team has been meeting up on the weekends to help the community go from five miles to 26.2 for 20 years.

It was a team brought together with help from Don Garber who served as the head coach for the 23-week program for its first 16 years. Garber says Sports Backers was looking for a more put-together program to help anyone run the Richmond Marathon.

“When we first did it, the idea was we wanted to do it for what we call the novice runner, the person who had never run a marathon,” Garber said.

Garber said when the group first started they would meet at the Downtown YMCA with just over 150 participants. As they grew the groups met over at Sports Backers Stadium with more than 1,200 in 2019, overall helping 17,000 runners reach the marathon finish line.

“It hit a nerve that people wanted to run with other people,” Garber said.

From July up until race day teams and coaches help keep runners motivated to reach their running goals. With a training manual and running schedule, organizers say it feels a lot like school.

“Marathon day really is graduation and it really just like we have taken them from kindergarten to graduating from high school for a lack of a better way to put it and it is tearful but joyful,” Carrie Parker, the current head coach, said. “It’s exciting and then there’s also that sense of accomplishment for everyone. Not just our runners but our coaches.”

One of those coaches is 77-year-old Lynn Anderson who has been with the training group since day one. Who even in freezing temperatures Saturdays Anderson still makes it to Sports Backers Stadium to keep her team motivated even if it means dressing up.

“I’ve been a lot of different things in the last 20 years and a carrot I just love it,” Anderson said.

After a water break during their last team training run on Saturday a cake was cut for the last two decades of work, sweat, and miles volunteers have put into the program.

“I know I’ve gotten a lot out of it friendships that will last forever and the ability to know somebody,” Anderson said. “If I can do it then you can do it.”

While the Richmond Marathon is Saturday, Nov. 13. you can sign up for next year’s marathon training team on Sunday, Nov.14.

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