MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- In today’s fast-paced, high stress world, more people find themselves that they just don’t have the time to go to the gym.
Bonnie J. Lewis, substitute teacher, Laurel Bay Schools is not one of those people. She started running 13 years ago, when her husband, Staff Sgt. Larry D. Lewis, Air Traffic Control, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, left for recruit training.
“I thought that when he got back from boot camp, he’d really want to go out and run,” Lewis said. “But he absolutely didn’t want to, after that. I was just hooked.”
Lewis has entered the Boston Marathon, which has been her long-term goal for as long as she has been running. Her last 26-mile marathon took two hours and 38 minutes to complete. She hopes to match that time or better it in Boston.
“I’ve been constantly dropping my time since I started, with each run taking less time,” Lewis said. “I sprained my foot after my last marathon, so I couldn’t run for a little while, but I hope to at least match my time on the next one.”
Lewis’ was not always able to say that about her running ability.
When she started out, Lewis could barely run one and a half miles. She hadn’t run since she was very young, and found it tough. She was not discouraged by her early difficulty, and continued to push herself.
As she progressed, Lewis became more confident in her running ability. She entered her first competitive 5-kilometer run in 1991, which took place in her home town of Lexington, Ky.
“I didn’t place, but I had fun,” Lewis said.
Running continues to be an important part of her life, despite becoming a mother, a student and a teacher in addition to being the wife of a Marine.
“Even though I’m very busy, I always try to get out and run,” Lewis said. “Running time is my time. It’s very relaxing, and allows me to organize my thoughts about the day and what I have to do.”
Lewis’ coworkers and students at the Laurel Bay Schools have noticed the effort she puts into her hobby, according to James Middleton, special needs assistant, Laurel Bay School 1.
“I usually see her running at the gym, and I know that she’s really busy,” Middleton said. “ She’s a student, a mother, a teacher, and yet she’s also training for this marathon. I think that’s great, and she’s an inspiration to others.”
After the birth of her first son, rather than take a break, Lewis set her sights on running a marathon.
“My son was born in 1995,” Lewis said. “After he was born, it just became my goal to do a marathon. I ran my first one in 1996, and actually placed third place, completing it in four hours and ten minutes.”
Since then, Lewis has entered in one marathon every year, and has continued to enter smaller, 5-K runs.
“I try to enter all the 5Ks in the area,” Lewis said. “My kids come to cheer me on, and it’s great. I entered the Savannah Bridge Run two years ago and came in fifth place, and won $100. That was the first time I ever won money running, which I thought was really cool.”
Lewis’ training has not been a solitary experience. Since the beginning, she has run with her friend, Lisa Conklin.
“She’s great,” Lewis said. “We always trained together, and entered as many marathons as we could together. Now we try to plan things so we can get together. She didn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon, but she will be heading out there to cheer me on.”
Other people have supported Lewis’ running efforts, including her husband.
“He loves it,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t run with me, but he loves going into work, and telling the Marines he works with how I placed. He’ll bring the kids out to watch me run.”
Lewis’ biggest fan is her mother, who encouraged her to run when she was young. Though she had fun, Lewis never had any desire to run during high school. Now that Lewis is an avid runner, her mother supports her with love and roadside cheers.
Lewis says that part of her love of running is that it fits her schedule.
“For a mom, that’s the fastest kind of workout,” Lewis said. “I can just go out and run a few quick miles and keep in shape.”
For her more serious runs, Lewis heads to the gym, often bringing her children, Zackery and Breana, with her.
“When they were younger, I used to keep them in the stroller,” Lewis said. “But now that they’re older, they exercise with me, usually on the bikes. They’re very active in sports, and it’s important to me to keep them happy.”
Lewis’ exercises on the weekend increase as she works up to a marathon. She often starts out at seven miles right after completing a marathon, then increases that length to thirteen miles. The next week she does less than that, perhaps ten miles, but then she increases her mileage to a new high the following week. The alternating schedule allows her to increase miles regularly, without putting too much strain on her body, according to Lewis.
“People will come in, do their whole workout, and leave,” Lewis said. “And I’m still running on the treadmill.”
After the Boston Marathon, Lewis does not intended to slow down. Next year, she plans on heading to Boulder, Colorado, to enter a back-roads marathon with her training partner, Conklin.
For sone running a marathon is no easy task, and it has taken 13 years for Lewis to reach her goal of running in the Boston Marathon, but she has never let the difficulty of her goal daunt her efforts.
“Just start off slow, build up, and don’t get discouraged,” Lewis said. “You’ll have good days and bad days, but keep going.”