ANGLETON — A journey that started for health reasons is taking Angleton native Suzanne Dellinger to the Windy City, where she run her first marathon outside Texas.
Dellinger will be among 45,000 runners who will cover the 26.2-mile course through 29 Chicago neighborhoods Sunday in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
“I chose Chicago because it is one of the six international races that make up the World Marathon Majors,” Dellinger said. “I qualified for this one with my Houston Marathon time of 4:15.
“I am looking forward to the flat course along with the crowds. I am looking to enjoy it, not necessarily shooting for any particular time, but I want to do decent.”
The 52-year-old Dellinger’s running story started back in 2000. She wasn’t much of a workout junkie but she understood getting her high cholesterol under control — it was a dangerous 319 — was going to take a commitment.
“Running to me was the quickest thing I could do because I didn’t have to take time to go to the gym but I knew I had to do something,” Dellinger said. “In high school I played tennis, basketball but never really ran, so when I got started, I joined a couple of ladies in the neighborhood, Terry Allen and Kristie Gregory.”
Weighing between 115 and 125 pounds, heredity and not weight caused Dellinger’s cholesterol issue. Her routine of 3 to 4 miles a day about three times a week addressed the problem and helped her in other ways, too.
“The thing about running is that it isn’t an expensive sport, plus it was something I could do on my own without joining a gym,” she said. “Plus, being outside was a plus for me. It cleared my mind whenever I ran, and since I pray a lot, it just became my time. I could think about planning my day or organizing what I needed to do for the day.”
Sore muscles and aching feet greeted her early efforts, but she grew accustomed to things quickly because she was serious about accomplishing her goal.
“I had to really start off slow, like with a quarter of a mile for a few days and then later about half a mile and stick with that for a while,” she said. “Eventually I built up so that I could run my first 5K. But it wasn’t easy for me.”
She finished her first 5K in 27 minutes, eight seconds, in October 2000. It proved harder than expected.
“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be was what I remember from that one,” she said.
By Jan. 2, 2002, Dellinger had crossed the finish line at the Houston Marathon in 5:02.
Her time have consistently improved, earning personal bests with a 3:54.02 in the 47th running of the Chevron Houston Marathon and in February a 24:12 in the Angleton Mardis Gras 5K.
“I remember back when I started that I took a big leap from 5Ks, 10Ks and then doing a full marathon,” Dellinger said.
Chicago will be her 10th marathon, having competed in Houston seven times, qualifying twice for the Boston Marathon, as well as the Austin Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon.
“I have run almost all of my marathons by myself,” she said. “We usually start together, but then the last few marathons I’ve gone on to run by myself mostly because I’ve wanted to take time off, which is where my times have improved. My goal has been to PR every marathon and not necessarily to qualify for something else, but just wanting to improve my times with marathons.”
Training in Texas heat for the Chicago Marathon didn’t make it a fun time for her. Most of her training was done around 4 a.m. to beat that heat. But the workout sets the tone for her days.
“Crazy thing about running is that when I run in the mornings, I am not tired for the rest of the day,” said Dellinger, a teacher for 30 years. “It gives me that energy to get through the day. Running really gets me motivated to do things. It’s made me a better person; I can deal with my job a lot better.”
For quite a few years, Dellinger’s cholesterol has been down to 175.
After Chicago, Dellinger has a goal of running a marathon or half-marathon in all 50 states.
“I would like to keep this one around a four-hour marathon, but if I wake up that morning and if I am not feeling it, then I am just going to enjoy the sights of Chicago,” Dellinger said. “I will be looking forward to the low humidity.”