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Susan Gallagher is Chief Naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania. She also is one of 525 runners set to participate in the upcoming Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Marathon and Half-Marathon along the D&L Trail on October 23.
Susan has one marathon under her belt and is looking forward to competing in her second long-distance run. She took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions about the upcoming race. You can contact Susan at [email protected].
D&L: What attracted you to the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Marathon and Half-Marathon?
Susan: I live near the Rockport access to Lehigh Gorge State Park, so I run there a lot and almost feel a sense of ownership on that trail. When I heard there would be a marathon on part of “my” trail system, I had to sign up.
D&L: What is your goal: to finish, improve upon a personal time, have fun?
Susan: Last year I did Steamtown (in Scranton). I followed everyone’s advice for my first marathon and went out without a time goal, just to enjoy the race. Well, that took nearly six hours, so I’d really like to improve on my time. I know I can do better and am looking forward to proving it to myself.
D&L: Have you run on the D&L Trail before?
Susan: A few times in Lehigh County, but most of the course is new to me. These past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of training runs out there and it’s just beautiful.
D&L: How are you approaching race training? How often and how many miles a week do you run?
Susan: I have a training plan taped to the ‘fridge. I think I downloaded it from the (Rodale’s) Runners World website. It maxes out around 45 miles per week. I run four days per week and try to assign a purpose to every training run: speedwork, recovery, long slow distance.
D&L: How have your previous marathon experiences gone and how do you expect to use those experiences in this run?
Susan: I’ve only done one other full marathon so far. It hurt. A lot. But I also learned what my body can do, and what I have to give it in return: water, proper nutrition, and lots of sleep.
D&L: Where do you train? Are you running a lot of hills to improve your speed for a flat course, or are you running a flat course to prepare for the D&L Trail?
Susan: Training has been almost entirely in Lehigh Gorge or along the marathon route. After long runs I like to soak my legs in the Lehigh River. They’re not near as sore the next day if I do. I call it Magic Water. One day I went for a soak under the bridge at the Glen Onoko access. It was summer and a bunch of kids were playing in the water, just splashing around. I remember thinking how perfect the scene was – the river, the trees, kids playing. It’s as beautiful a setting as anywhere, and it’s right in my back yard.
D&L: What were your thoughts when you first heard about the race?
Susan: Hooray! A chance to shed my pitiful 5:57:42 PR!
D&L: Have you been training alone, or with a group?
Susan: With a group – a wildlife group, that is. In the gorge I’ve met milksnakes, osprey, herons, mergansers, porcupines and one bear. Like anything worth doing in life, there are some small risks. I’ve gotten to know where the rattlesnakes tend to hang out, and was once chased by an obviously sick raccoon. But those kinds of things make me love the trail even more. It humbles me, and I think that’s what a true nature experience should do. Oh, you mean do I run with other PEOPLE?? My husband bikes while I run. He brings me water and gummy bears. What a guy!
D&L: Are you affiliated with a running club in your home area?
Susan: No, and I don’t know much about any except the LVRR (Lehigh Valley Road Runners). Is there a Carbon County one? If not, there should be.
D&L: Did you begin running to improve your health or are you a former athlete who simply runs because it’s a part of your life?
Susan: Running has taught me more about myself than would ever fit in your article. I used to smoke a pack and a half a day, and now you’re asking me about my marathon training. That’s crazy! And it’s proof that if I can accomplish my running goals, then ANYONE can. I wish more people would try it. The true beauty of the D&L Trail is that it makes running – or just being outside – available to so many people. With so much ease of access, there’s no excuse for not getting out there and at least giving it a try. Running may not be for everyone, but there’s a reason so many people lace up every day. Running experiences can be profound. And runners come in all shapes, ages and sizes. They don’t really need fancy tech gear or equipment, just a decent pair of shoes. Go out, run a minute and walk a minute. Work yourself up. Accomplish something you never thought you’d do. One mile, five miles, whatever. Chances are you’re faster than I am!