Beth Bridges – the two-time Valley Runner of the Year female masters champion – is hanging up the running shoes that helped her win 11 of the series races the last two running seasons.
You can say the 49-year-old Clovis resident is short-circuiting a running career that began in earnest in 2014.
The business networking expert (she has written a book about the subject, and is finishing up a second book, ‘Rapid Results Networking,’ due out next month) isn’t retiring completely from running. Instead, she is taking a shorter approach to the sport by focusing on competing in her age group at the 800-meter and 1,600-meter distances in track and field.
Her running shoes will be traded in for track shoes with spikes. Wearing heels will be a rarity.
“We love Valley Runner of the Year series, we completely support it,” said Bridges, who includes her coach Wayne Morris of Red Line Running. “It is a fantastic idea, it supports local organizations, supports local running.
“I love how it is a lot of camaraderie. It’s a wonderful asset to the running community.”
Bridges believes her strength is in shorter distances. She has just one half-marathon on her resumé.
“I really enjoy the challenge of pushing myself this hard,” said Bridges, who is training for the July 26-28 U.S. Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Wash.
“I’m excited about turning 50,” said Bridges, who will soon compete in the 50-54 age group.
Before that, there is the Visalia Senior Games in March.
Bridges said training for the 5- and 10-k races in the Valley series was difficult, “but I could only get 10 miles” of training a week.
The shorter distances allow her to wrap up her training in about half an hour.
“I have no interest in marathoning at all,” she said.
Bridges stumbled onto Redline Running by accident when she took part in the Turkey Trot and discovered a male friend, who would normally finish a couple of minutes behind her, finished about 3½ minutes ahead of her.
She discovered he had been training with Red Line Running. Bridges was accepted into the group.
Redline Running – which includes Valley series male seniors champion Daniel Meyer and third-place winner Marvin Ashcroft – meets twice a week, but participants have two or three individual workouts.
Bridges praises Morris, her coach, who has coached at the elementary, middle school and high school level (Central High). He was a Western Region 800-meter champion.
“We are very fortunate to be training with someone like that, with the breadth and experience and knowledge,” said Bridges.
Her fastest 800-meters is 2 minutes, 58 seconds. Her best mile is 6:27.
“To compete nationally at 800 meters, I need to take 12-14 seconds off of that,” said Bridges, who will take part in the 13th annual Miracle Mile of Quarters race in June.
Bridges, who has a bachelor’s in agricultural economics with a marketing emphasis, actually ran track and cross country in as far back as elementary school and at Sierra High School but didn’t consider herself “a spectacular runner.”
After high school, she put running aside and later took up walking. However, walking a distance took too long so she started jogging and then running. She was averaging 2.7 miles a week in 2013.
Last year, she totaled 1,043 miles, or about 20 miles a week.
Coaching, said Bridges, is valuable.
“I’m an advocate for coaching, mentoring, masterminding any project. It’s a huge secret to success,” she said.
The only drawback to concentrating on shorter running distances is that there are few opportunities to do so in the area.
Honors for McFarland
The Bakersfield Californian has honored McFarland High School freshman Hilda González as its girl cross country runner of the year. González won five cross country meets, and finished fifth at the section Division I championships.
González finished in the top five in every meet but the state meet, where she was 62nd.
The newspaper also chose her coach, Amador Ayón, as its cross country coach of the year. The two are neighbors.
If you’re wondering, the boys award went to Highland High senior Moises Medrano, who has family in Mendota and Fresno.
Fresno marathoner Molly Friel was featured this week by runnersworld.com after she became the second-oldest woman to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:43.57 time at the California International Marathon in Sacramento.
The 50-year-old Friel, who trains up to 100 miles a week, is a legal secretary.
My favorite quote from Molly in the article: “I eat a lot of crap. I like junk food. I like candy. I like cookies.”
You might want to check out the third annual Hanford Cow Run Half Marathon on Feb. 4. The event includes a 5-kilometer race. Former radio disc jockey Eunice Rosas started the event to raise funds for Valley Children’s Hospital.
Rosas said the course will take runners “through the dairies where you’re cheered on by our much-loved milk cows!” Plus, you will get a traditional cow bell.
Cash awards of $250, $150 and $100 will go to the top three male and female finishers of the half marathon.
Online registration deadline is Feb. 2.
The guest speaker is Fresno’s John Volkman, who has run 152 marathons, including the Boston Marathon 18 times.