David Freeze column: Marathoning can happen to anyone

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2012

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
After my column about the top male marathoners in county history, next up is a list of the fastest women. I will do just that today, but will also follow the advice of Joe Trainor of Sterling Court and say something about the regular folks who just decided to take on a huge challenge and made it happen.
Two of my friends asked me last year about the possibility of helping them run a marathon. Robin Bernhardt is a patient account representative with Rowan Regional Medical Center and Sheila Basinger is a Trust Fund Officer with the NC Department of Public Safety. Both had been running for a few years since joining one of our Beginning Runners Classes. Funny thing about that is that they lived on the same road, went to the same church, but both came to the class without really knowing each other.
Robin and Sheila definitely know each other now. Robin said “We started from nothing. We couldn’t run a mile, but we worked our way up to running regularly. Still, a marathon was a scary thought to us.” Sheila actually had the idea and said, “I wanted one of those 26.2 stickers for my car!”
They took a training schedule and faithfully stuck to it. Training included weeks of long runs, with a high of 22 miles, some of it in cold and rainy conditions. The congregation at Grace Lutheran Church got behind them, and even had a children’s sermon about them. Robin told Sheila “There is no backing out now!”
They completed the Virginia Beach Marathon on March 18th. Sheila said “Don’t tell our time. It wasn’t as fast as we wanted.” They passed the half marathon on pace for a 5 hour finish, but Sheila developed a serious blister and the two friends stuck together as planned even though their pace slowed.
Now for the fast women. I love fast and sweaty women, and this group has done serious training along the way. The top Rowan County female marathoner is Mary Dudley Bertram. Her best time came at the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon with a finish of 2 hours, 49 minutes, and 35 seconds. She also has another sub 3 hour marathon at the 2009 Boston Marathon with a clocking of 2:58, a time that placed her as the top NC woman. Mary is now Mary Tramazzo, having recently moved to New York with her military husband.
Second, and the county record holder for 31 years previous to Bertram’s fast finish, is Kim Fisher Shuping who teaches math at Erwin Middle School. At age 16, Shuping had a time of 3:08:26 at the 1977 Columbia Marathon. Third is Rebecca Bosley with a fast finish of 3:24:18 at the 1981 Charlotte race. Fourth is Carol Hauss, a long time area standout runner with a personal best of 3:32 in the 2006 Myrtle Beach race. Fifth is Dr. Kathi Russo with a fastest time of 3:35 in the 2011 New York City Marathon. Russo did that at age 52, and will compete in her fifth straight Boston Marathon next week.
The next group is headed by three friends who finished together in last year’s Myrtle Beach Marathon. Meredith Abramson, Kelly Lowman, and Ashlynn Trexler all had a time of 3:41:09. Abramson and Lowman are also headed to Boston, with Lowman being 18 weeks pregnant. Katelyn Story at age 16 is next with a clocking of 3:41:44 at the 2011 Charlotte event. Judy Lynn had a time of 3:44:33 in the 1981 Charlotte Marathon. Delaine Fowler, the area’s top female triathlete, had a stand-alone marathon best of 3:45 in the 2010 Nation’s Bank Marathon.
Two other notables are 14-year-old Karen Hopkins with a 4:06:56 at the 1980 Charlotte Marathon and Susan Moore of Woodleaf. Susan points out that she is the best marathoner in Woodleaf, but she readily admits “I am the only one.” Her best time of 3:51:09 was set in Charlotte in 1995.
Once again, thanks to Ed Dupree for helping me compile this list and if we left anyone out, please feel free to send the information to salisburyrowanrunners@gmail.com .
Marathoning is tough work. The emotional highs and lows of training and the race are amazing. Robin Bernhardt said “It is the most physical and the hardest thing that I have ever done. Just reaching the finish line is life changing. Who would have thought that we could have done this?” Now their family members are starting to run and exercise, and Robin and Sheila are the inspiration for that. They earned those “26.2” stickers and the future is bright for more.