MIAMI — I ran
a minute, walked a minute.
Ran. Walked. For 30 minutes.
That was my
first day of training for the Miami Half Marathon — 7 a.m.
on the first Saturday of October five years ago. I can still
remember my fear, my dread.
earth am I doing?” I asked myself, the refrain racing
through my mind as I parked my car, tightened my laces and
marched down the sidewalk to the running store.
I was 58 and
hadn’t run since my senior year of high school — when I
was one of eight girls on the boys’ track team. It was not
that I loved running, but rather I was making a political
statement at age 17: A girls’ team didn’t exist — this
was pre-Title IX — so we joined the boys’ team. (At the
meets, we ran the 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 relays against other
girls who had done the same.)
Fast forward to
that October morning and my first training session with
TeamFootWorks, the nonprofit running program of FootWorks, the
family-owned store in South Miami that will begin its 46th
year on May 15. TeamFootWorks, which started with eight people
running the 1995 Metro-Dade Marathon, has trained thousands of
people to run a marathon (26.2 miles), a half marathon (13.1
miles) or a 5K (3.1 miles) — people like me, who never
thought they could master such a feat.
the program, I’ve run 10 half marathons. The Fitbit Miami
Half Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 27, will be my 11th and my fifth
I’ve run in
Halloween costumes (OK, a Halloween shirt). I’ve run in
40-degree weather. I’ve run in rain (Ugh!). And I’ve
chugged up and down the hills of Nashville, which are
beautiful but killer on the last mile.
Along the way,
I’ve lost weight, gained muscle, eaten healthier, slept
better, gotten closer to my husband Ken (who is running the
full marathon on Sunday and has completed an Ironman) and
learned to break down complex challenges to manageable tasks,
literally one step at a time.
importantly, I’ve gained a rich circle of friends. We have
sweated side by side, yelling “We’ve got this!” as we
make our way past each mile post. We’ve laughed. We’ve
cried. We’ve celebrated the birth of children, and mourned
the death of loved ones.
Saturday, after our runs, we treat ourselves to breakfast,
dissecting our performance and the latest in our lives over
eggs, grits and café con leche.
tell my runners that the most meaningful relationships they
will find in their lives will come from the moments or
struggles they share with someone else,” said Frankie Ruiz,
co-founder of the Miami Marathon and a longtime cross country
coach at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School.
what running is. You’re going to sweat when you run in South
Florida. And that sweat, and that struggle, binds you with
I didn’t run
13.1 miles overnight.
I started with
those 30 minutes on Saturday morning — two miles, running
and walking. The following Saturday, three miles — seven
minutes more going out, and seven minutes more on the return.
(We average a 14-minute mile pace, between the walks and
runs.) Then four miles. Five. Each week another mile.
Saturday morning schedule. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there
are the ‘fun runs’ — 3.1 miles each, meeting at the
store at 6:30 p.m. and running through the neighborhood. On
the days we don’t run, I’ll walk or ride my bike to keep
partner and I, Alina Cruz, an immigration attorney, work late
so we run at Tropical Park every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
We run around the park three to five miles, depending on our
energy, how much sleep we’ve had the night before and how
hot it is. (The recent cold spell has been great!)
We met on that
first October morning. We parked next to each other and walked
to the store, each with the same look: “What are we getting
Turns out, we
have a lot in common. We’re six months apart in age. She has
two sons, as do I. She was a graphic designer who worked with
the media before becoming an attorney; I’m a journalist. And
her Cuban heritage and my Italian-Greek roots have bonded over
our love of cooking, travel and family.
We have been
running together ever since, and we know we couldn’t have
come this far without the other. Feel like not running the
next morning? Can’t say no when the text comes the night
before saying: “We’re running, right?”
We run in the
1/1 pace group — that’s one minute of running, one minute
of walking. All of our training is at that pace, including the
half marathon. We usually finish the race in three hours,
sometimes a bit less.
TeamFootWorks group is built around a one-minute walk break.
The program has six running groups — 1/1, 2/1, 3/1, 4/1, 5/1
and mile/1. The 2/1 group runs for two minutes, walks a
minute. The 3/1 group runs for three minutes, walks a minute
— all the way up to the mile/1 group, which runs a mile,
then walks a minute. (They run an 8-minute mile.) There’s
also a walking group, dubbed the Street Walkers.
the U.S. Olympian who ran the 10,000 meters in the 1972 Munich
Olympics, developed the method, also known as intervals. He
had just opened a running store in Atlanta, Phidippides, named
for the Greek runner who alerted his countrymen that the
Persian Army had invaded Marathon in ancient Greece in 490 BC.
He started a
running program, quickly realizing that new runners — and
older runners — had to build up gradually if they were going
to finish the race. He’s since written books — “Jeff
Galloway: The Run-Walk-Run Method” — and conducted studies
showing how half marathon runners who follow the run/walk
method will run an average of 7 minutes faster than non-stop
runners. (Full marathoners following the run/walk method will
run 13 minutes faster than non-stop runners, Galloway says.)
that one-minute walk break, it allows you to recover and
prepare yourself for the next one minute, two minutes or five
minutes of running,” said Josh Liebman, who runs the
TeamFootWorks program and has completed 101 full marathons.
Many of the
runners are in their 40, 50 and 60s. Our team leaders, Betty
Perez and Teri Patton, worked together at Caribbean K-8 Center
in southwest Miami-Dade. Patton had learned Perez was planning
on running the Hot Chocolate 5K in Atlanta back in January
“I spoke to
Betty and said, ‘Sign me up,’” said Patton, 64, who runs
the school’s Special Education program.
24-degree temperature at the start of the race, they got
training with TeamFootWorks’ Fitness 101 — which trains
runners for a 5K — and quickly moved up to the half
marathons, becoming team leaders of the 1/1 group.
Since then, the
two have run the inaugural Disney Princess Half Marathon in
Paris (2016), the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon Dublin (2017),
the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon (2018) and
countless Halloween and Miami half marathons. They also
returned to the Hot Chocolate 5K last fall in Chicago.
“I love the
running,” said Patton, who lost 70 pounds before running and
has kept the weight off. “I love the friends I’ve met.”
started Footworks with her husband Hans in 1974, coming to
Miami from Minnesota to work at her father’s Earth Shoe
store, which they transformed into the running store. About 25
years ago, the two started TeamFootWorks. (Hans, an avid
runner, died in his sleep on Saturday morning of the
Thanksgiving weekend in 2014. He was 64.)
says she met her best friend, Dr. Ana Campo, professor of
psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate dean for
student affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of
Medicine, in one of those early training programs. They’ve
run in races all across the country.
Over the years,
Huseby has seen friendships, marriages and a few divorces
through TeamFootWorks, which created the Mercedes-Benz
Corporate Run, which attracts thousands of runners in Miami,
Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
“I hear on
and on from all the participants — and often the
participants’ spouses — how you’ve changed my life, or
how you changed my husband’s life,” says Huseby, who now
does the walking program, whose walkers average a 16- to
“The truth is
anyone can do it,” she added. “You don’t need to be
fast. You don’t need to break a record. But the
accomplishment of completing the program and finishing the
race — that makes you feel like you can do anything.”
will begin its Spring Training half marathon program on Feb.
16, ending the last week of May.
information, go to teamfootworks.org