By HOLLY McCRAY
Intent to finish strong, Adam Leathers pounded past his teammates without seeing them as he ran the anchor leg April 26 in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon Relay. They had sprinted from the crowd to join him, so that all five members of the Oklahoma Conference Wellness team crossed the finish line together.
"Waist Management" ran the 42 kilometers in 4 hours 29 minutes. They placed No. 348 in the ranking of 769 relay teams.
Rev. Leathers covered the 10K anchor leg in just over 50 minutes, only seconds short of his personal goal.
Running and walking a 5K portion, Lesa Rhoads averaged 11 minutes 17 seconds per kilometer. "Respectable," she commented. "Our goal was just to finish."
They did more than that. Their efforts call all members of the Oklahoma Conference to take steps toward better physical health.
The five agreed in January to enter the relay. They already participated in the Amazing Pace walking program, part of the Conference’s ongoing Wellness Plan. They all worked at the United Methodist Ministry Center, making it easy to encourage each other while training.
"I usually don’t run unless a ball’s involved," Rhoads said. But "I love to be outside," and her son is a personal trainer. With a friend, she ran the annual event’s half-marathon about five years ago.
"There’s such an energy down there; it makes you want to be part of it," Rhoads said. "It’s heartwarming to see the crowd react when they see (runners) in the military or firefighters. The whole way, people applaud for you."
Leathers said, "I really like competing." Born and raised in Colorado, he was a sprinter in high school.
An enthusiastic rock-climber for about 10 years, he competed in a challenge last fall on Arkansas cliffs. He raised funds for Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries (CJAMM), the Conference ministry that he directs.
"I like the idea of pushing myself symbolically," Leathers said.
Running the marathon, he was excited to recognize other United Methodists, including clergyman Michael Dye.
Jeremy Basset declared, "I am not a runner." But he did begin swimming more than three years ago, highly motivated after major heart surgery and a diabetes diagnosis.
"I’m determined nobody’s going to cut me open again," said the Conference director of the Office of Mission.
Last fall, he added running and entered a fundraiser for Volunteers In Mission.
To prepare for his 5K leg of the Memorial Marathon, Basset trained using the Couch to 5K ® running plan.
He laughed when recalling the costumes on some runners. One man wore a suit and tie! But each time Basset passed a firefighter, "you just have to greet them, have to acknowledge that," he said. He lightly touched each firefighter’s shoulder and said, "Thank you for what you do; God bless you."
In relay order, these five represented the Conference in the marathon: 10K, Andrea Reid, who is a member of OKC-New Hope UMC and a former Camps assistant; 5K, Rhoads, CJAMM assistant director; 12K, Carlos Ramirez, Office of Mission associate director; Basset, 5K; and Leathers, 10K.
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