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Some Half-Athed Tips for Running the AthHalf Half-Marathon

I like to work out. I exercise primarily to manage my moods, which means that I enjoy plenty of rest days and rarely set goals to meet. But all of my super-ripped friends are abuzz about AthHalf—the sixth annual half-marathon and fundraiser for AthFest Educates—being days away. Scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 25, the race starts downtown and finishes up at the Tate Center on the UGA campus.

This half-marathon is much more than just a foot race. First off, it’s a huge fundraising event for AthFest Educates, which also hosts our annual local music festival of the same name. Funds raised “can be awarded to any local public school educators and/or youth development specialist working to advance music and arts education in public school settings, 501(c)(3) community programs or ACC government programs,” says Jill Helme, executive director of AthFest Educates.

The fundraising is great, but what else motivates a person to push her body like that? Ashley Poole is an Athenian and sports enthusiast who regularly runs marathons and participates in Iron Man competitions and triathlons. Starting the day with a five-mile swim and following it up with 10 miles each of running and biking is nothing for her, and this year she’s using the AthHalf to help her train for a full marathon in November. This will be Poole’s third AthHalf.

“Finishing a long-distance [run] does make me proud and feel like I accomplished a goal that I had to work towards,” Poole says. “I think if any of that dedication can spill over into my day-to-day life, then it can only help.”

Elementary school teacher Hope Zimmerman has different reasons for running the AthHalf this year, which will also be her third time participating. “It’s a very Athens-y event, which I love,” she says. “I always know others who are running and training. I see my students, neighbors and friends cheering along the way. I run past my house and through so many neighborhoods in Athens. It’s a pretty run, full of nice people.”

Poole agrees. “The atmosphere is really lively out there,” she says. “This is one of my favorite races to run.”

Poole and Zimmerman are in the running for prize money and accolades, which include cash prizes for top finishers and awards for the top three in each age group. Everyone who finishes the race will get a medal. You can still sign up to volunteer through, and those who want to come out and support the runners should refer to the route map to find their preferred live music location. Those who want to register to participate can do so up to the day before, and Poole and Zimmerman both recommend it.

Poole expressed pride at running to aid a local charity, and Zimmerman just seems to love the AthHalf because she loves Athens. “The AthHalf is a real community event,” Zimmerman says. “I wasn’t thinking of signing up [this year], but the thought of me not being part of it made me sad, like I was going to miss out on something.”

I’ve gotta be honest: The course does seem pretty dope. There will be live music spread along its entirety, as well as plenty of hydration stations and portable toilets for the runners’ conveniences.

I’ll admit that as someone who just runs 5K or less, I’d always assumed that distance runners did not stop to go potty during their courses, which of course is ridiculous when you consider how long it takes to run 13.1 miles. Then there’s the pop culture stereotype of marathon runners losing control of their bowels mid-run. As both a runner and a reporter, I couldn’t resist—I had to ask. With 2,300-and-counting runners registered as of Flagpole’s deadline (2,850 registered last year), it must have happened at least once. Right?

“By the time the 2015 AthHalf is complete, we’ll have had nearly 15,000 AthHalf participants in total,” Helme says. “Given those numbers, I’m sure just about every bodily function has been a part of the AthHalf.”

Poole is a veteran of distance running, and she offers some practical advice for avoiding an accident: “I have found that if I am doing a long race, I will get up around 4 a.m. and eat my breakfast, then go back to sleep,” she says. “This gives mother nature time to do her thing before I head to the starting line.”