Running is a lifetime sport.
At least that’s what my old high school coach told me many years ago.
He spends most of his exercise time pedaling a bike these days.
Running is something you either love or hate and, if done right, can be a lifetime activity, if not a sport.
Mount Mercy junior Andrea Ertz is in the “love” category.
The former Marion prep has spent most of her career running middle distance events, focusing on the 800 and 1,500. She also runs cross country.
“I’ve always been a distance runner,” she said. “I love long runs. I love 10-plus mile runs.”
That may come in handy Saturday.
Ertz is one of eight Mount Mercy athletes competing in the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala. But she’s not running the 800, or even the 1,500.
She’s running the marathon.
Yes, the NAIA offers the full 26.2-mile event as one of its national championship races.
“I’m actually usually not a marathoner,” said Ertz, who will be joined in the race by teammates Vanessa Cortes and Alexa Zamora.
“It’ll be new to Annie,” Tad Hultz, who coaches middle- and long-distance runners at Mount Mercy, wrote in an email. “She was training more for the 1,500/800 ... (but) she’s got extremely good range.”
Ertz qualified for the marathon in December, running a half-marathon while easing her way back into shape for the shorter races after an injury. She never thought she would actually run it, though. She hoped to qualify in one of her other events, you know, on an actual track. Like the 800.
That didn’t happen, so she’s running the marathon.
“It definitely was not on my radar,” Ertz said.
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She’s not too worried even though she’s been training for the longer race only “about the last week, maybe.”
“I tend to run longer miles anyway ... I think I’ll be OK,” she said.
She’s also not concerned with her time or where she places. The weather, though, could be an issue.
“It’s tough to transition from our weather to a humid mid-80s down there for three-plus hours of running,” Hulst wrote.
Ertz is taking a relaxed approach, a “nothing-to-lose” attitude into the race.
“What’s kind of nice at this point is there’s no pressure,” Ertz said. “I don’t necessarily have a goal time. I know I want to start off really slow ... I just really want to finish strong.”
The NAIA meet started Thursday, along with the NCAA III Championships in Geneva, Ohio, and the NCAA I West Preliminary in Sacramento, Calif.
This is a good weekend to be a track and field fan or simply a fan of athletes who once shined on Eastern Iowa’s tracks and fields as preps.
Mount Mercy’s Colton Forster, a senior from Marion, competed Thursday in the 10,000. Rachel Gadient, a junior from Monticello, is in the hepthalon and high jump, and John Andersen, a senior from Cedar Rapids Kennedy, is in the 5,000 race walk on Friday.
Cornell will have two runners in Ohio, including former Mount Vernon prep Emma Cochrane in the 400 hurdles. The prelims were Thursday.
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Iowa will have 33 competing in Sacramento for berths in the NCAA championships, Iowa State 18 and UNI 13.
Iowa’s contingent includes four 800 runners, three of whom went to area high schools — Matt Manternach of Monticello, Tysen VanDraska of Swisher (Prairie) and Nolan Teubel of Lisbon (Mount Vernon). Women’s qualifiers include former Linn-Mar prep Payton Wensel in the 1,600 relay.
UNI also has a lot of former Eastern Iowans among its qualifiers — Isaac Holtz of Monticello in the discus, Keegan Tritle of Lisbon in the shot put, Connor Ham of Solon in the 110 high hurdles and Alanna Nietert of Springville (Linn-Mar) in the hammer throw.
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