A long-distance relationship for five Alabaster women

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You can&8217;t be part of their group unless you can run 15 miles – on your first run.

A tough standard considering this group is made up of five women who double as baseball moms, wives, sisters and friends.

Alabaster residents Angela Talbert, Paige Ashmead, Kerri Pate and Stephanie and Misty Johnson have been running as a group for a couple years now.

Just a few weeks ago they completed their third marathon, Birmingham&8217;s own Mercedes Marathon, and are now preparing to focus on their next challenge – the Chicago Marathon.

Misty and Kerri began running together in 1998, welcoming the other three as pregnancies and busy schedules demanded more running partners.

&8220;We don&8217;t claim to be fast,&8221; Pate said. &8220;But we can sure run a long way.&8221;

A long way usually measures 26.1 miles, the standard marathon distance. The group runs together five times a week and averages anywhere from five to 10 miles each outing. On the weekends they up the length, running 15-20 miles at a time while training for their next marathon.

With a combined 12 kids between them, the five women have to scramble between baseball practice and bedtimes to get in their miles each week. The group admits that finding time to run can be a challenge.

&8220;It really has to be strategically planned,&8221; Ashmead said. &8220;Every kid has something to do it seems like all the time.&8221;

The women meet to run whenever they can find that open moment, which usually occurs around nine in the evening or four in the morning.

Their running &8220;portfolio&8221; includes two Mercedes marathons and one Memphis marathon. Training for the first run took the group over 24 weeks, Ashmead said. Since then its gotten a lot easier for them.

&8220;We definitely want to improve our times,&8221; Pate said. &8220;We&8217;re always looking to run better.&8221;

Even with over 78 miles of racing behind them, the group will tell you that they&8217;re a long way from hanging up their shoes.

&8220;We say that every runner has a last step,&8221; Ashmead said. &8220;We just haven&8217;t gotten there yet.&8221;

The group will begin training for the Chicago Marathon in July, with the race scheduled for October 22.

Running together is about more than just finishing races they admit.

&8220;We love to talk with each other,&8221; Pate said. &8220;This is definitely something that spreads over into every part of our lives. When we look back we can say &8216;I finished that race, so I can do this.&8217;&8221;