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She’s going the distance

Starting in high school as a quarter-miler, local teacher and runner Judy Sinclair has now graduated to the big time, fully prepared to run her first 26.2-miler on March 7 in the Los Angeles Marathon.

Sinclair is one of three local women who will be competing in the L.A. Marathon, joined by her training partner Maxine Tomisser (who will be running her 14th marathon!) and Bell Hill School Principal Carol Judd, who is also running her first marathon that day (See The Union, Feb. 19).

After high school, Sinclair stopped competing but kept running, since, as she puts it, running “would mentally keep me alert and focused.”



With a twist on the typical “soccer mom” scenario, Sinclair, when her two sons played football at Nevada Union, would show up early to pick them up after practice and get some running in on the track or on the trails behind the high school.

Although she ran regularly for almost three decades after high school, Sinclair, by her own admission, didn’t get serious about it until she joined the Sierra Trailblazers running club four years ago.




She found out about the existence of the local running club by reading about group runs, open to anyone, in The Union. Sinclair committed to running the longer club runs on Sunday mornings, which led to her increasing her training mileage.

“It was easy to do it because the people are so positive,” she said. “It was the shot of positive energy I needed in my life.”

Sinclair had been unaware of local 5K, 10K and half-marathon races, open to all-comers, until she joined the Trailblazers.

The first race she went to, the Memorial Day race in Grass Valley, was not as a participant, but as a volunteer at registration, which gave her the opportunity to meet other local runners.

After that, Sinclair started attending club meetings and was inspired and influenced by Penn Valley Daffodil Run Race Director Joan Bumpus, Maxine Tomisser and ultra-runner and former Club President Peggy Davidson, who taught her a lot about nutrition.

The next year, Sinclair ran the Memorial Day 5-mile race, and was beaten by Lynne Hurrell, twenty years her senior, a pattern that would continue for several years.

“That race was when I got to know Lynne Hurrell,” she remembers. “She would beat me! She would always be right in front of me and I could never catch her. Mentally I kept thinking, ‘One of these days I’m going to beat her. I am!’ I did finally beat her recently at one of Bill Hunter’s Trailblazers Members Only club races.

“I’m not that competitive, so it was really surprising that it meant something to me, I think because she is so fit and strong as a horse. It was in my mind to catch her, but yet it wasn’t. She and I laugh about it. I guess I must have a little bit of competitiveness in me!”

The motivation to run her first marathon came after being part of a Sierra Trailblazers relay team in a race around Lake Tahoe. Sinclair ran the first leg, 10 miles, and felt awful, in part because of the altitude. The experience left her feeling she had let her team down, something that she didn’t want to do again.

And as any racer knows, disappointment in a performance can be a major motivational factor to work harder to improve and do better the next time.

Despite the magnitude of her undertaking, Sinclair is approaching her first marathon calmly and with confidence, convinced her training with mentor Tomisser has gone perfectly as planned, following former Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway’s training advice.

“I don’t have any time expectations for my first marathon,” she said. “I’m easy on myself this first go-round because I want to be successful. I’m very safe and very conservative. I don’t want any injuries because I always want to be running. I have to run for mental health.”

Four months ago, Sinclair began her marathon training, telling people that she would run one in ’04. By her own philosophy, going public with her plans made it all real. She was then fully committed.

Sinclair maintains a full cross-training schedule in addition to running, spinning for an hour twice a week, weight-lifting in a Body Pump class at least once a week at the South Yuba Club, with intervals and stair work on the track on Wednesdays, which she looks forward to so she can check her progress.

Even though Sinclair’s marathon goal for 2004 is to qualify for the 2005 Boston Marathon, which is a mecca for many marathoners, she didn’t want to look at what time she would need to attain to qualify in her 50-54 age group during the early stages of her training.

After completing a 24-mile run three weeks ago, Sinclair finally felt comfortable that she could run a good marathon. Checking it out on the Web, she found that the time she will need to beat is four hours and five minutes, which, based on her training (including a 26-mile run last weekend), she will likely be able to do, although she’s not concerned about having to meet her goal in her first attempt.

Sinclair’s confidence got a big boost when she won the women’s Sierra Trailblazers Members Only 3.4 Mile Race in December at Memorial Gateway Park in Penn Valley by one second.

“I was impressed because I’m not a short distance speed runner,” she said. “I went all out and felt really good, so I just went for it. I didn’t know that was going to happen. That was a real confidence builder for me.”

Beyond qualifying for the Boston Marathon and running for the rest of her life, Sinclair has another goal.

“I get so much from running and am in contact with so many kids every day that I would like to get as many interested in running as I can,” she said. “The kind of energy that you put out is the kind of energy that comes back to you. I’ve found that there’s not a bad runner out there.

“They all have such positive attitudes.”


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