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Frostbite race continues to draw runners despite January chill

Starkville — They don’t call it the Frostbite Half-Marathon for nothing. The usual daytime temperature in Oktibbeha County this time of year hovers around the 40-degree mark. The annual race, sponsored by the Oktibbeha County Hospital’s HealthPlex, was held last weekend with more than 200 runners. The 13.1-mile race was under the direction of a local running club until 2001.

Cindy Orrick, the hospital’s director of wellness, said the wellness center became involved for the fitness aspect. “We’re trying to keep health and wellness out there so people can make informed decisions,” she said. “It’s good community involvement and visibility for us; not a money maker.”

The half-marathon takes a multitude of volunteers to help the hospital get the race on the road. Orrick says many know nothing about running but want to see the event continue to be successful.

“It takes over 100 volunteers to make it possible, and I always recommend that every runner help with a race during the year so they know what’s involved,” she said. “No matter the length of the race, there’s a lot of work.”

Volunteers must man the water stops that are placed every two miles along the route and some must work as “splits” to call off the time to runners at each mile. Many help at the all-important finish line and some set up the awards presentation. Others help with food for runners, the post-race party for runners and their families and with photos and videos provided for all entrants.

There are usually about 200 runners in the Frostbite. While most of the participants come from Mississippi, others come from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. There aren’t many races anywhere this time of year, and Orrick says there are normally some runners who come from way off. Some runners come because they’re members of the Fifty States Club, an organization that requires runners to run at least one race in every state in the country. Last year’s race had entrants from Arizona and Colorado as well as Belgium and England. A runner from New Mexico entered this year’s race. The Frostbite is listed on running Web sites and in running publications.

Orrick, who’s an exercise physiologist and has been with the hospital for 17 years, says running is part of the training at the HealthPlex. “There is all kinds of research to support that those who exercise are more healthy, not as prone to injury and are strong and flexible, plus it’s great for stress,” she said. “The mental and social benefits are great because they make people feel better about themselves. They have a sense of accomplishment and self esteem.”

She hastens to add that people don’t have to run in marathons to be fit. In fact, most of the center’s 1,600 members don’t participate in the Frostbite but do benefit from the HealthPlex’s classes for wellness, weight reduction and smoking cessation and support groups for various illnesses. The full-exercise facility is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of area residents.

However, she points out that someone who’s been running consistently should run three miles per day three, four times a week and already run in races when they enter a half-marathon. “With a solid base, the usual training time would be eight weeks,” she said. “You should be able to run 15 to 20 miles a week to prepare.”

There’s a relay option for those wanting to ease into a half-marathon. Each relay team member runs 4.36 miles, and Orrick says most of those return the following year to run the full course.

Orrick commends the businesses who sponsor the Frostbite each year. This year’s sponsors include AmSouth Bank, Old Venice Pizza Company, Holiday Inn Express, Phillips Financial Advisors, Fitness Expo, Four Seasons Starkville Clinic for Women and Rick’s Café American. “They make it possible. They’re interested in fitness and keeping their customers healthy,” she said.

Lynn Phillips, owner of Phillips Financial Advisors of Starkville, is a sponsor and a runner. She sponsors the event because a good friend, C.T. Carley, started the race and she respects the way he has encouraged others to be physically active. “It’s a good thing to sponsor,” she said. “Starkville is known for it, and it’s a well-organized race.”

This year the 49-year-old certified financial planner is also running in the Frostbite as part of her regimen to prepare for an April 15th wedding. She’s been doing yoga three days a week and started running seven months ago. She ran in years past and had run the half-marathon distance before.

“I never thought I would look forward to time spent out running,” she says, “but I do and I’ve gone slowly in terms of adding distance. I’m learning how to be strong all over.”
For Mandy and Mann Conrad of Starkville, both in their 20s, the Frostbite is all about togetherness. “It’s something we enjoy doing together, being active and training together,” Mandy said. “It’s been fun preparing and spending time together.”

Longtime runner and retired high school French and Spanish teacher Marcie White ran her first Frostbite in 1991 and says it’s a favorite race. She has run or helped with the race each year since that time.

“The runners are bussed out and run back in to town, so that makes it different and every step gets you closer to the destination,” she said.

White, 55, holds the master’s record for female runners over 40. She’s been running for more than 20 years and considers it very important to stay fit and healthy. “I do something to stay in shape every day, cycles or lifting weights, but usually running,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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