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Jay Jones - From newspaper man to marathon man

I may have overdone it this year by committing myself to run three half-marathons in three months. The trouble came when my friend Alan White, who did a triathlon last year, said he would support me by running with me in all three races.

Now I've really done it by writing about it in the newspaper. I guess there's no way to weasel out of this plan of mine.

At the end of this month, Alan and I, along with a few friends, will line up for the Georgia Marathon in Atlanta. Next month, we will strap on the trail shoes for the Granite Grinder at the Georgia International Horse Park. My tour of pain will end in May with something called the Twisted Ankle Marathon in Summerville where we will literally run up and down a mountain.

I think running has become my way to deal with my mid-life crisis. I can't afford a fast sports car or a big old Harley motorcycle. Besides, neither of them have room for child seats.

Running has some advantages for 40-somethings like me. For one, it's cheap. About the only money you spend is on shoes. Another advantage is that I can do it pretty much anytime, anywhere, except on the interstate highways, of course.

The drawback is training. You have to put in the miles to finish the race, and I think preparing for a half-marathon is much tougher than actually running one. While my simple plan is to run every other day, with long runs on the weekends, there is the issue of keeping up appearances.

I do a lot of training in Olde Town Conyers, but my endurance stinks and I walk part of the way. However, when I come upon another runner or someone walking, I am compelled to keep running even though my legs feel like concrete.

I also see a lot of people I know when I run in Olde Town. That's motivation for me to run hard. Otherwise, I hear about it sooner or later.

"Jones, I saw you doggin' it yesterday," I can hear someone say at the Perk Up Coffee Shop or the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners office. "My kids can run faster than that."

I've never been a speed demon in running shoes. I recall about four or five years ago when there was a 5K for the Cherry Blossom Festival, I headed up the rear of the pack with the small children and grandmothers.

I have nothing against grandmothers running, but I nearly collapsed at the finish line to keep one from passing me at the end.

However, for a half-marathon my glory will come from finishing the 13-mile race. The Georgia Marathon will have a seven-hour cap for everyone to finish before police begin pulling up the barricades. I should be able to make it well within that time frame.

Hopefully, there won't be too many grandmothers running.

Jay Jones is a staff reporter for the Rockdale Citizen. E-mail Jay at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.