13 Coaches
13 Cadets
26 Strong

Runners come in all shapes and sizes and at all levels of experience. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow. We run to let off steam, to spend time with friends, to compete with ourselves. But whoever we are and whatever our reasons, we all started from the same place, as wannabe runners. And for those of us who are now marathoners, before we accomplished that lofty 26.2-mile goal, we were wannabe marathoners.

Running may be a solo sport, but we are stronger as teams than we are on our own. This year, Saucony, Competitor and Women’s Running have come together to create a team of 13 newbies (“cadets”) who are training to run their very first marathon and 13 coaches who will guide them through their journey—all the way across the finish line.

  • Sarah Bowen Shea: Being a Good Patient Pays Off

    Starting at the age of two, I had to wear glasses to correct a cross-eye or, as most folks say more gently now, a “lazy” eye. An ophthalmologist I’d end up seeing a great deal over the coming years, Dr. Ostriker, prescribed glasses as well as a regimen of eye drops, patches, and exercises to strengthen my weak right eye. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of doing sewing cards while wearing a flesh-colored adhesive patch over my good eye, and playing pirate on the days my mom would let me wear a black, fabric-and-elastic eye patch instead. While... Read More
  • Jessica Hofheimer: Rolling With It

    During marathon training, I set aside about 15-20 minutes a day, every day, for a session with my foam roller and self-massage tools. When the mileage increases and long runs and speed workouts are in full swing, muscles tend to tighten and beg for attention. Since paying for a regular massage can be cost prohibitive (unfortunately!), it is up to us to take care of treating our muscles to some myofascial release. I strongly believe this should be a part of every runner's training regimen. It makes a big difference and a little tender loving care goes a long way!... Read More
  • Laura Anderson: Train for the Course

    Training for a marathon means working hard for a few months, and then having just one day to put it all together. During training you have a LOT of control; you can choose your routes, the terrain you run on, you can even choose to avoid undesirable weather. Race day is a different story. The best way to prepare is to train specifically for the marathon you will be running, not just any 26.2 miles. When laying out training, planning routes, and detailing logistics for workouts, early on in the training cycle, I like to nail down the key race... Read More

2015 Teams

  • Team 1

    Danica Newon

    Danica Newon

    Coach

    30, Lakewood, Calif.

    Danica Newon joined the cross country team in eighth grade and hasn’t stopped running. Now 30, she gives back as a track and field and cross country coach at Lakewood High School in California. “It’s been a part of my life for so long that I feel lost when I’m not running,” she says.

    Bridget Durkin

    Bridget Durkin

    Cadet

    32, San Diego, Calif.

    Finding the right training partner was all Bridget needed to go from a ho-hum exerciser to dedicated half marathoner with a sub-two-hour PR. The newness, unknowns and discipline of running a marathon have her nervous, but, with the help of the 26Strong team, she’s ready to tackle the challenge. “When it comes to running a marathon, it’s different saying I think I can do it versus saying I did it.”

  • Team 2

    Michele Gonzalez

    Michele Gonzalez

    Coach

    33, Staten Island, N.Y.

    Born and raised in Stated Island, N.Y., Michele Gonzalez has always been a runner: first as a basketball player, then as a cadet at West Point Military Academy, and finally during her three deployments to Iraq as an Army captain. Now 33, Gonzalez has run seven marathons and is also an ultra marathoner and an Ironman triathlete. “I love setting big goals and then pushing myself to get there, day after day,” she says.

    Ruth Fizzarotti

    Ruth Fizzarotti

    Cadet

    59, Forked River, N.J.

    Ruth used to watch the New York City Marathon and think, “I would like to do that.” Yet, until just over two years ago, the wife, mom, grandmother and small business owner with her husband, didn’t run. Inspired by watching her daughter-in-law finish her first marathon, Ruth decided it was time. Now she’s completed a half marathon, participated in a Ragnar Relay and says running a marathon “is like a dream come true!”

  • Team 3

    Angela Bekkala

    Angela Bekkala

    Coach

    37, Dover, N.H.

    Angela crossed the finish line of her first race, a half marathon, shortly before her thirtieth birthday. Now an ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist and RRCA Running Coach, Angela has trained for four marathons and crossed countless other finish lines. As someone who used to think running was boring, she now can’t imagine her life without it. “Running has given me more confidence and strength, physically and mentally, than I ever thought possible.” Angela also said that being a coach for 26Strong was like reliving her first marathon all over again. “Running is such an individual sport, but it really does take a team to make a dream come true.”

    Marina Hill

    Marina Hill

    Cadet

    33, Londonderry, N.H.

    Balancing work and kids is an everyday challenge, and running is Marina’s time to think and enjoy being outside throughout the seasons. “Fitting in long runs has me nervous, but I’m excited to have a personal coach to help me accomplish such a big goal.” To Marina, running a marathon means dedication, determination, and physical and mental strength.

  • Team 4

    Sarah Bowen Shea

    Sarah Bowen Shea

    Coach

    49, Portland, Ore.

    Sarah Bowen Shea, the co-author of three running books with fellow 26 Strong coach Dimity McDowell, began running when she was training for her collegiate crew team. Now 49 and living in the outdoor-friendly city of Portland, Ore., Shea says her favorite part of the running community is feeling a connection with her fellow runners. “Dimity and I experience this connection countless times when we travel around the country meeting other mother runners,” she says.

    Laura Baughman

    Laura Baughman

    Cadet

    46, Portland, Ore.

    After several summers of mountaineering and biking throughout Oregon, Laura wanted a way to maintain fitness through the winter and rainy season. Last fall she tried running and was hooked. She has since completed three half marathons—running her first one in December just months after lacing up. She’s excited to celebrate her first year in the sport by running a marathon!

  • Team 5

    Katherine Hopper

    Katherine Hopper

    Coach

    31, Richmond, Va.

    Hopper used to find running “ridiculous and pointless,” but after a friend encouraged her to take up the sport in 2010, she soon discovered its benefits and was hooked almost immediately. “I understood what all my runner friends had been raving about and I made the leap into marathon” she says. “I just finished my fifth in April, the Boston Marathon.”

    Lauren Fisher

    Lauren Fisher

    Cadet

    30, Richmond, Va.

    Sixth grade was when Lauren discovered her passion for running, continuing with cross country and track in high school and running for stress relief during law school. She’s since run several half marathons and even completed a triathlon. Now the newlywed is ready to accomplish her lifelong goal of running a marathon. “It’s a huge mental and physical mountain to climb, and I’m so excited for the moment when I’m at the top!”

  • Team 6

    Laura Anderson

    Laura Anderson

    Coach

    27, Rochester, N.Y.

    As an All-American college track athlete and now an avid marathoner, Laura has always identified as a “runner”. While the road hasn’t been easy, learning to turn setbacks into comebacks and obstacles into stepping-stones has been her biggest driving force. Laura uses running as a way to push herself competitively while socializing, traveling and experiencing life. “Trusting yourself and using your training to gain confidence goes a long way towards accomplishing your running goals.”

    Brittany Champagne

    Brittany Champagne

    Cadet

    27, Buffalo, N.Y.

    As a lifelong resident of Buffalo, Brittany has run in every kind of weather, including two winter half marathons. To date, her proudest athletic achievement was qualifying for the state cross-country meet when she was a senior in high school. She’s been sidelined with an injury for the past year. She’s on the mend and feels ready to tackle 26.2 for the first time. “I used to think running marathons was crazy talk!”

  • Team 7

    Jessica Hoftheimer

    Jessica Hoftheimer

    Coach

    39, Reston, Va.

    Jessica Hofheimer wanted to change her post-college life, which consisted of bad habits that kept her from taking care of herself, such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. So she signed up for a marathon before running her first 5K and has been running ever since. “I never imagined it would change my life as much as it has,” the 39-year old mother of three says.

    Kristi Dushek

    Kristi Dushek

    Cadet

    31, Alexandria, Va.

    Kristi began running after her daughter was born because she wanted to be a fit parent. Her daughter passed away a year ago, but Kristi continues to run in her honor and has completed five half marathons. While the longer distance makes Kristi nervous, she looks forward to having the opportunity to work with a coach. “Running a marathon means I can go farther and accomplish something new.”

  • Team 8

    Katie Hart Morse

    Katie Hart Morse

    Coach

    30, Cardiff, Calif.

    “Finishing my first marathon was the first time I got a taste of endurance sports and what it feels like to overcome mental and physical adversity. There is a sense of pride and independence when you cross the finish line—I crave it!” In addition to running, Katie competes in 70.3 and iron distance triathlons, and loves to go out to brunch and travel when she’s not racing or training. She always wanted to support someone else on her journey to complete a marathon and intends to make race day fun.

    Kellen McAvoy

    Kellen McAvoy

    Cadet

    24, San Diego, Calif.

    Ballet was Kellen’s sport of choice while growing up, but she eventually traded ballet slippers for running shoes and hasn’t looked back. Her 2014 New Year’s resolution was to run a half marathon. Instead, she ran two! Kellen also blogs about food and fitness at Acupofkellen.com. “I’m going to test my limits, push myself and, most likely, devour quite a few breakfast burritos.”

  • Team 9

    Lindsey Hein

    Lindsey Hein

    Coach

    31, Indianapolis, Ind.

    Lindsey, who has been running for 16 years, ran her first marathon in 2008 and has completed 13 since. As the mother of two boys, she loves a good stroller run and plans to run her fastest times in her thirties. “I get a huge sense of satisfaction from helping people realize what they can accomplish with hard work and persistence—it’s usually so much more than they think they can.”

    Olivia George

    Olivia George

    Cadet

    24, Indianapolis, Ind.

    Olivia turned to running as an outlet for stress during graduate school. She completed her first half marathon in November, and the training elicited a competitive spark. “This is a silver-platter opportunity. I’m looking forward to pushing myself mentally and physically to places I’ve never been.”

  • Team 10

    Elizabeth Weil

    Elizabeth Weil

    Coach

    33, Portola Valley, Calif.

    Elizabeth started running when she was nine years old. She and her mom ran three miles every evening, and used the time to help Elizabeth learn her states and capitals. She and her now husband were both on the triathlon team at Stanford and Elizabeth even ran Boston when she was pregnant with her son, who is now nine months old. “Running marathons is about accomplishing a goal, inspiring others and showing people that you can live a full life, have a career and a family and still make time to run.”

    Annelies Gamble

    Annelies Gamble

    Cadet

    24, San Francisco, Calif.

    Annelies began running in high school and continued her running career as a middle-distance athlete at Yale. Since she started working full time, she’s been doing less speed work and more distance running. She looks forward to re-immersing herself in a training program and being part of a team.

  • Team 11

    Morganne Hockett

    Morganne Hockett

    Coach

    27, Mount Juliet, Tenn.

    Morganne Hockett has aways been active, whether it was playing basketball and soccer or during her days as a young gymnast. Her father was a marathon runner and he inspired her to get out and start running. “Everyone is so supportive of one another,” the 27-year-old says of the running community. “It doesn’t matter if you actually know the person running next to you or passing you by, it’s a very uplifting community.”

    Kendall Shultes

    Kendall Shultes

    Cadet

    27, St. Louis, Mo.

    After moving from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Louis, Kendall began running as a social gathering with new acquaintances. It quickly turned into lasting friendships and a love for the open road. She has now run seven half marathons. “Five years ago I never thought I would run a marathon. It’s going to be a great new adventure, and I’m excited to enjoy the ride.”

  • Team 12

    Theodora Blanchfield

    Theodora Blanchfield

    Coach

    32, New York, N.Y.

    Theodora hasn’t always been a runner. A tennis player and gymnast growing up, she slogged her way through the mile test in high school, hating every second of it. After college, she lost 50 pounds and discovered running. Since then, she’s run four marathons, more than 25 half marathons and six triathlons. She loves wine as much as she loves running. And she really loves running. “Running marathons means doing something I never thought I could do and continuing to get better at it. It shows me that if I can do this, I can do anything!”

    Heather Cavanagh

    Heather Cavanagh

    Cadet

    36, New York City, N.Y.

    Running has allowed Heather to meet new friends and travel, and is a wonderful stress reliever for her corporate job. “Meeting a friend in Central Park for a morning run is one of my favorite ways to catch up while getting some exercise.” After running four half marathons, Heather looks forward to finally accomplishing her marathon goal.

  • Team 13

    Sara Wells

    Sara Wells

    Coach

    35, Elgin, S.C.

    Sara began running in in her mid-twenties as a way to focus on healthy goals that weren’t weight-loss related. She fell in love with the challenge of endurance running after completing her first marathon. To date, she has completed multiple marathon and ultra marathons including the coveted 100-mile distance.

    May Zhu

    May Zhu

    Cadet

    23, Charleston, S.C.

    Running began as way for May to stay in shape during college after playing competitive volleyball in high school. She loved the adrenaline rush from races as well as the mental strength she gained along the way. “I love that even though every runner runs for a different reason, there’s a connecting passion—it’s motivating to me.”