Cindy Pater Chasey insists it was all an accident. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would ever run a marathon. She had never even considered it. In fact, when Cindy signed up for the first Dallas Fit running program three years ago, she thought it was a series of classes where she’d learn such things as how to breathe properly, how to stretch, the correct shoes to wear, and maybe she would even learn how to jog a little faster.

“I can still remember hearing the voice over the loud speaker welcome everyone to the first Dallas Fit MARATHON training class. I couldn’t believe it! There I was, standing in a group of “real” runners. I knew I’d never be able to run 26.2 miles and I didn’t know what to do. It was 8 a.m. on Saturday and I was there. I decided I might as well stay. It was three to four months before the word ‘marathon’ came out of my mouth —I didn’t want to mention ‘quitting,’” Cindy said.

Now, three years later, Cindy is preparing to run the 30th Dallas White Rock Marathon, her third White Rock Marathon and her fourth total. She ran the New York City Marathon with one of her running pals from the group last year. Cindy smiles as she recalls how far she’s come since stumbling into that first class at the Bath House at White Rock Lake.

Maggie Riba, on the other hand, knew exactly what to expect when she signed up. Her mentor and husband, George Riba of Channel 8 Sports, had run several marathons. After taking a few years off from running long distance, George thought the new running program that was starting in Dallas would be a good way to get back into the discipline that goes along with training. And he thought it would be an excellent way to introduce Maggie to the world of running marathons. At the time, she had not run more than a 10K. She, too, was a little apprehensive.

Maggie says the experiences of the last three years have been tremendous. This year’s Dallas White Rock Marathon will be her third and George’s 12th marathon.

So, what’s the key to success in running a marathon? “I always tell people, especially beginners, that running long distances is truly a mental game,” Cindy said. “It’s important during training to focus on the goal for that day. If it’s five miles, then think only about running five miles. Or if it’s 10 miles, think only about going 10 miles. Nothing more,” Cindy said. She cautioned that runners get into trouble psychologically if they think too far ahead. The final goal may seem impossible and fear of failure is sure to set in.

Participants in the Dallas Fit program are divided into groups according to their pace for running a mile. Each group has a leader who acts as a mentor. Both Cindy and Maggie are group leaders.

Customized schedules are designed for each group, which insures progress is made by safely adding mileage gradually, Maggie explained. “Some people are fast and some are slow. And we also have a walking group. There’s something for everyone,” Maggie said.

Dallas Fit training kicks off in June. The groups meet at 6 a.m. each Saturday at White Rock Lake for a long run based on a certain number of miles set out in each schedule. Then during the week, each runner is responsible for logging a certain amount of time every other day, according to his or her schedule.  Maggie explained that psychologically, people have an easier time running for 30 minutes rather than 4 miles, for example.  She said this approach works better during the week.

In addition to the running, seminars are scheduled to teach runners about nutrition, breathing, avoiding injury, stretching, exercise physiology, proper shoes and outer wear, to name a few.

For Cindy, the best part of being in this program is meeting great people and the enduring friendships.

“It’s really not even crossing the finish line that’s the highlight of the program, as one might expect.  It’s the entire journey during those six months that becomes so special.  While it may not always seem fun at the time, the camaraderie of doing it together, of encouraging each other, and knowing you’re not alone helps keep everyone motivated.  The friendships that come out of the whole experience are phenomenal and last way beyond the running program,” she said.

The 30th Dallas White Rock Marathon, benefiting Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, will be Dec. 5, 1999.  “The Rock” starts and finishes in downtown Dallas at City Hall Plaza.  It winds through the beautiful neighborhoods of Turtle Creek, Highland Park, Lakewood and the Swiss Avenue historical district, and includes a nine-mile loop around scenic White Rock Lake.  Wheel chair participants will begin the race at 7:55 a.m., with the marathon beginning at 8 a.m.  Course records are 2:12:18 (Men) and 2:33:39 (Women).

Don Lucas, director of the Dallas Fit program and owner of Luke’s, said this year approximately 450 people signed up for the program, the largest number since it started three years ago.  Participants range in age from 18 years old to 75 years old.

For those who want to get into shape before marathon training begins in June, Dallas Fit has implemented a program called The Beat Goes On, which begins in January.  Emphasis for this session is on speed work, hill work and drills, rather than distance, with a 10K as the farthest distance run.  It’s a great way to get into shape, as well as maintain some level of endurance for those having just rained for a marathon Maggie says.

For more information about Dallas Fit or The Beat Goes On, call Luke’s at 214-528-1290.  For information on the 30th Dallas White Rock Marathon, call the hotline at 214-467-3369.