The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 7 - November 17, 2010


A marathon runner's diary

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ellen Jaffe Jones runs on the beach in Anna Maria to train for
the Palm Beach marathon, which will take place Dec. 5.

Editors note: Ellen Jaffe Jones is an Anna Maria resident and 5K runner, as well as an in-home personal trainer, who is training for her first marathon race. Over the next several weeks, she will chronicle her run-up to the Dec. 5 race for The Sun. She also can be reached for questions or comments at or

On Dec. 5, I will compete in my first full marathon in Palm Beach, Fla. A marathon has been on my bucket list forever. I’ve always admired those who can run that 26.2-mile legendary race. The modern marathon began in 490 B.C. with the run of the soldier Pheidippides from the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens. The soldier was charged with bringing news of a Greek victory. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the message, "Niki!" (Victory! – also a shoe company by the same name), then collapsed and died. Wonderful.

Collapsing and dying … am I nuts? A running movie called “Spirit of the Marathon,” has spectators holding up signs that say, “You’re all crazy!” That is the only time during the movie that my poor, subjected-to-watch-it husband laughed. He’s been to almost every race I’ve ever done. And though running was never on his bucket list, he’s there with a camera at the finish line.

I wanted to run a marathon last year, but my coach didn’t think I was ready. I could have walked it, but doing anything halfway, for me, has never been my style. Anytime you get off the couch, it is a marvelous thing. My couch has lots of indentations. I’ve gained and lost the same 25 to 40 pounds several times over until I really figured out that whole “it’s a lifestyle change, not a diet” thing.

I’d love to inspire anyone off the couch or to stay fit. I see so much disease on our beaches and children heading the same way. As the military has stated, it is a matter of national security. I may have the worst genes in the U.S. So no excuses.

Runners are evangelists when they try to put into words how they feel about their sport. As one of my favorite local sports store shirts says, “Running is cheaper than therapy.” But it is also really, really fun! Little races are fun; bigger races can be more fun, and certainly more of a challenge.

So come with me down the road to a first marathon. Join the runner’s high and you. Imagine what it is like. Each of the three weeks before the race, I’ll give you the best songs of my playlist that can make you fly, even on a gentle walk. If you can’t get out there and just do it, live vicariously, as I did for so many decades until this moment. The full log can be found online at

Runner’s log, Nov. 8

Beach running conditions – As good as it gets! Not much wind. Extreme low and high tides created by the new moon carve out a gently sloping and flat beach. Flat surfaces are so important. Even a gently sloping beach or roads can cause ankles, knees and hips to get favored, stressed or injured.

Music on Ipod: Sledgehammer, by Peter Gabriel; Higher Love, by Steve Winwood, Owner of a Lonely Heart, by Yes

Mantra: I run because I can. Run like the wind, fly like a bird.

Runner’s High (or random, glorious thoughts while running):

My last two runs have been completely exhilarating. The cold (or so the natives describe it, but after working in Des Moines and St. Louis, their cold is still my warm) kept many away. Those that ventured out were bundled up for the upcoming blizzard and a few looked at me like I had truly landed from Mars. I wasn’t cold once I started running, as the pictures show. When you run, your body temperature climbs a few degrees. So if you see a runner in shorts and a tank top on a day when it is 50 degrees, know that this is the best weather possible for them to reach a personal best time in terms of speed. And mostly likely, they are feeling just fine.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper