On The Run
Story: Azriel Relph Photos: Brent Van Auken
MARATHON RUNNER TONYA GEERS
Tonya Geers never meant to run marathons, but has completed eight over the last 10 years. After finishing the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, she said eight was enough.
“The eight that I did were by accident,” says Geers, 51. “I don’t know if I want to run another one.”
Geers, who teaches a boot camp fitness class at Fit One in Redding, said her marathon runs have always been a way to support friends. On that November day in New York, she ran with four other Redding residents: Julie Burke, Shawn Burke, Jeanette Fisher and Debbie Miller. Despite an injury, Geers finished first among her friends, and hopes to keep encouraging people to run.
With more than 40,000 runners, the 2009 ING New York City Marathon is the world’s largest. It runs through all five boroughs of the city, drawing millions of cheering spectators along the route.
The day before the marathon, Geers said she was just hoping to finish, and would be happy with a time around four and a half hours. She finished the 26.2-mile course in four hours and 25 seconds. She suffered a groin injury in Sacramento during the California International Marathon in December – still finishing under four hours. She later pulled a hamstring playing flag football.
Geers’ accidental marathon days started in 1999 when her husband Brian signed her up for Redding ultra-runner Luanne Park’s 10-week training program. That’s where she met Debbie Miller, 56. The two have been training and running marathons together ever since, including the California International Marathon in 2000 and New York in 2007. This was also Miller’s eighth marathon; she finished in 4:27:38.
“I never really ran one for me, I ran for my girlfriends,” says Geers. She and Miller decided to run New York again when their friend Jeannette Fisher, 37, told them she would be running it for the first time.
Geers says that she usually dedicates each mile of a marathon to one of her friends as a way to stay motivated. This year she dedicated only 20 miles to friends, leaving the last six for herself. She switched between walking and running for those last miles, and took time to enjoy the views of the city and the marathon crowd. She said she didn’t get to look around during her last New York City Marathon because she didn’t want to bump into other runners. The relaxed pace of her last six miles allowed her to see what she’d been missing.
“This was a good way to say goodbye to my marathon days,” says Geers. “We all finished, we all felt great.”
Jeannette Fisher finished at 4:12:03, Shawn Burke finished at 4:09:46 and Julie Burke finished at 4:22:44.
Geers plans to focus on training other people for now. “I want to encourage and inspire people to run,” she says. “I am going to hang my running shoes up and pass my inspiration on.”