Local runners ready to be part of massive Chicago Marathon

Friday, October 8, 2004
Ben Coffey, sports and fitness director at the Salt Fork YMCA in Marshall, takes a break from his training to enjoy some ice cream cake. Coffey will be one of 40,000 people running in the Chicago Marathon.

The marathon. It's the beast of all long distance running, composed of 26.2 miles. That's 42.195 kilometers, 46,145 yards or over 16 million inches.

For local runners Ben Coffey and Kristin Sandwith, it will be the reason for a weekend trip to the shores of Lake Michgan for the Chicago Marathon. There, they will be two of the 40,000 people who have entered the event, joining one of the largest races in the world.

"I've never really been to Chicago, so this is a first visit," Coffey said. It's also his and Sandwith's first marathon.

Coffey, sports and fitness director at the Salt Fork YMCA, and Sandwith, a 2000 Marshall High School grad and currently a Missouri Valley College student as well as a part-time physical education teacher at St. Peter School, met at the YMCA and have been training together every Thursday for several weeks now.

"The highest I've gotten up to is 15 miles," Coffey said of the weekly training runs. That distance is not unusual for first-time marathoners. For most recreational runners, the marathon distance is the farthest they will ever run, with few exeeding 20 miles during their training for the big day.

The goal for Sandwith and Coffey during the race is to alternate between running 10 minutes, then walking for one minute, Coffey said. Just finishing the course in the six and a half hours allotted will be an accomplishment worth bragging about.

Legend has it the first marathon was run by a Greek soldier in 490 B.C. The story says the soldier ran the distance from the city of Marathon, where a battle had been raging, to the city of Athens to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. He completed the 26-mile run over hilly land, announced his news and collapsed, dead. For Sandwith and Coffey, survival on Sunday shouldn't be an issue, however.

Members and workers at the Salt Fork YMCA threw a sendoff party for the two Thursday, complete with cards, balloons and an ice cream cake. While cake isn't generally part of a marathon runner's diet, they persuaded Coffey to have a piece anyway.

Contact Matt Heger at