[Marathon Gal: Gina Orr]
Gina Orr is a collector of miles and medals. Since becoming “addicted to running” 15 years ago, this quiet go-getter has crossed 23 marathon finish lines from New York to Houston, Phoenix to Savannah (she’s revving up for number 24 this month). But the 44-year-old’s top triumph has been helping beginners step into the sport. Encouraging others to go the distance, Orr directs the Witness My Fitness challenge group on Facebook, shares advice with rookies, and joins local races often. “Charleston is a beautiful place to run year-round,” says this wife, mother, nurse anesthetist, and business owner, who rises before the sun, typically logging five miles from her Mount Pleasant home before sprinting into her days. “Running is my time to sort through problems and think about to-dos. When I’m in a good zone, my mind goes elsewhere and I don’t even know what mile I’m on.”
“Many novices assume they can throw on a pair of shoes and go as far and as fast as they can,” says Amy Minkel, co-owner of local retailer Fleet Feet. “Then they get injured or find the sport not fun.” Here, some advice from the experts to get newbies off on the right foot:
Get fitted for appropriate footwear. The right shoe can prevent blisters, shin splints, knee pains, and other injuries.
Start slow. Setting out too fast or too far can lead to frustration and injury. A training plan offers gradual increases in mileage that allow your body to adjust.
Meet other runners. Join a training group for accountability, coaching, and camaraderie.
Running requires little equipment beyond suitable shoes (score one for this sport!), but the industry has made great strides when it comes to extras. Here are some must-haves from Minkel:
Shoes. A professional fitting (typically complimentary at run-gear retailers) determines the best footwear for your gait and size, which can alleviate common maladies and ensure comfort. By assessing your body’s natural motion, an expert can see if your foot rolls inward (called “pronation”) or outward (“supination”) and then recommend the best category of shoe—neutral, stability, or motion control—for properly aligning your gait. Shoe-shoppers should also have their feet measured. “Athletic shoe sizes run differently than those of everyday shoes, and feet change throughout our lives,” says Minkel.
Wicking apparel. “We can sweat up to a cup of liquid into our socks when we exercise,” notes Minkel. “Wicking socks can prevent fungus and blisters, and wicking apparel can minimize chafing.”
Sports bra. “Never celebrate a birthday with a sports bra. After a year, it’s not doing its job,” says Minkel. Consider donating your under-duds when you’re done. Fleet Feet works with garment recyclers to repurpose retired sports bras for ladies who really need them.
Massage rollers. “Not only do you need to stretch, you also need to release the fascia (connective tissue) surrounding tight muscles in order to keep things in alignment and prevent problems such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis,” says Minkel.
Fabulous running routes can be found every few steps in Charleston, with its canopied park paths, sandy stretches of beach, and endless urban trails through the heart of this historic city. Here are some local experts’ choice courses:
Catherine Hollister, Blue Sky Endurance: The Ravenel Bridge: an elevation gain of 200 feet and a four-percent incline will fire up your glutes, but the lofty views at the top make this path worth the burn. (2.5 miles, end-to-end)
Amy Minkel, Fleet Feet: Head up Coleman Boulevard from Houston Northcutt over Shem Creek and into the Old Village on Church Street, then onto Pitt Street to the end of the old bridge and back. (5.4 miles)
Gina Orr: Isle of Palms Connector at Rifle Range Boulevard to Palm Boulevard towards Sullivan’s Island to Ben Sawyer Boulevard to Rifle Range. Zone in on that runner’s zen with four straight stretches that take in three bridges and plenty of serene scenery. (12.2 miles)
Other top tracks:
City Marina to Waterfront Park: Wrap around the peninsula from Lockwood down to the Battery, up to Waterfront Park, and back, with water views most of the way. (5 miles) Charleston City Marina, 17 Lockwood Dr. Paid parking.
Hampton Park: Scenic inner-paved loop with workout and stretching stations. (1 mile) 30 Mary Murray Dr. Free parking.
Laurel Hill County Park: Multiple unpaved trails are open dawn to dusk. $1 admission. 1251 Park West Blvd., Mount Pleasant; ccprc.com
West Ashley Greenway: This former path of a rail line runs from the South Windermere Shopping Center to Main Road on John’s Island for bicycle and pedestrian-use only. Paved in portions, the Greenway traverses neighborhoods and woods, with marsh and Stono River views in the final third of the trail. (10.5 miles) Open dawn to dusk.
Ready to run but want a little more help? These training programs and groups will get you going in no time:
Charleston Runs: Personal and group guidance for 5K races and marathons; charlestonruns.com
Get America Moving: Former TrySports owner Jim Kirwan presents the Anyone Can Run 18-week training program along with an eBook and videos. www.getamericamoving.com
No Boundaries: Fleet Feet’s 10- to 12-week walk/run interval program meets two days per week and offers training plans for the remaining five. Finish with a local 5K race. www.fleetfeetsports.com
Team In Training: Get weekly coaching to run and complete a marathon of your choice while raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. www.teamintraining.org
Without Limits: Offers biweekly group runs, personal coaching, and virtual training programs; www.iamwithoutlimits.com
Black Girls RUN: Encourages African-American women to engage in a healthy lifestyle through local running groups; www.blackgirlsrun.com
Blue Sky Endurance: A group run for all paces every Thursday, 6 p.m.; www.blueskyendurance.com
Charleston Happy Heretics Hash House Harriers: Noncompetitive “drinking club with a running problem”; find them on Facebook and Meetup.
Charleston Running Club: More than 650 members strong, this organization is a great resource for information about running groups, local races (including the club-sponsored Charlie Post Classic), and more. www.charlestonrunningclub.com
Fleet Feet: Group runs (three and five miles) for all ages and paces Monday, 6:30 p.m., and pub runs every second and fourth Wednesday; www.fleetfeetmountpleasant.com
She Runs This Town/Moms Run This Town: This female-focused, free social running group is open to walkers and runners of all levels. www.momsrunthistown.com or find the local chapter of the national group on Facebook.
For the Kiddos
Girls on the Run Charleston: Youth development program that leads third- through eighth-grade girls on twice-weekly runs and concludes with a 5K; www.gotrcharleston.org
Louie’s Kids’ Family Race Club: This 12-week training program—launched by Louie’s Kids, a national nonprofit helping to treat childhood obesity and promote healthy, more productive lifestyles—motivates Lowcountry families to stay active and prepares them for the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 1. Training begins January 11, Mondays & Wednesdays, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park, $45 for a family of 4; $10 for each additional family member. www.louieskids.org