Pell City trio travels cross country to participate in half marathons
by Heather Baggett
Aug 04, 2010 | 3560 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pell City residents Cindy Rich, Jim Curtis and Valerie Curtis show off their finisher's medals from the three half marathons they've run this year.
Pell City residents Cindy Rich, Jim Curtis and Valerie Curtis show off their finisher's medals from the three half marathons they've run this year.
PELL CITY – “Most people are going to think we’re crazy.”

Those words, spoken by Pell City firefighter Jim Curtis, echo what many people think when they hear that Curtis, his wife Valerie and her mother Cindy Rich have run three half-marathons in 2010. And they think the activity is one everyone should try. Maybe not 13.1 miles, but running for health benefits is something the Curtises and Rich believe anyone can accomplish.

“It’s addictive,” Rich said. “Once you start reaping the benefits of running, you feel better, you want to eat better and you start losing weight and feeling fit, it’s just addictive.”

The trio started running in February 2009 and have since done a lot of 5K and 10K races before attempting their first half-marathon in February 2010.

“The original goal was to just do a 5K together,” said Valerie, who teaches second grade at Coosa Valley Elementary School. “And then we kind of tossed around the idea of ‘Oh, what if one day we could do Mercedes (in Birmingham) just the half?’”

After tossing around the idea, the three signed up for the race in November 2009.

“We saw that Mercedes was coming up in February and we thought OK, we’re going to do that,” Valerie said. “We signed up and we trained and then we did it. And it wasn’t so bad. We thought if we can do this, we can do another one and we can keep on going because that first run, especially with the 5Ks gives you that motivation.”

Two weeks after running the Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham, the Curtises and Rich were on the run again, this time in New Orleans.

“We actually planned the first two half (marathons) in November 2009,” said Rich, who works at UAB. “That’s when we booked everything. We decided we’d do Mercedes in February. That’ll be our first half marathon. I was on the Internet looking at other races and I saw the Rock N Roll series and I saw New Orleans.

“It kept saying flat and fast and I thought flat’s good, fast is better. So I signed us up for New Orleans. It was the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras half marathon. So we ran Mercedes in February and then two weeks later we did the Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans. It was great. It was so much fun.”

After finishing two half marathons, Valerie, Jim and Rich decided to try their luck at entering the New York City Marathon. While the trio was pretty sure they wouldn’t qualify for the race based on time, so they put their names in the running for the lottery, where a small number of entrants are picked at random by the computer.

“Our dream is to run a full marathon in New York and that’s in November every year,” Rich said. “It’s very hard to get in. The qualifying times are unbelievable. So if you can’t get in by qualifying times you are chosen by lottery.

“Basically they put hundreds of thousands of names in a hat and draw out a few. It’s done by computer. The day of the lottery draw, our goal was if one of us gets picked or all of us, or two of us, we’re all going. If Valerie gets picked, Jim and I are going to root her on. Well, none of us got picked.”

While disappointed about missing out on running the NYC Marathon in 2010, Rich pressed on in a search for another race.

“We were all just so devastated,” Rich said of missing out on NYC. “I started looking around and I have a doctor friend that trained at UAB where I work and he lives in Santa Cruz and we kind of keep in touch.

“He said well y’all should think about running the San Francisco Half Marathon. I was thinking, gosh the only thing I know about San Francisco is hills. So we tossed the idea around for about five minutes and decided to do it. That’s when we started booking reservations and plane tickets and decided we’re going for it.”

After they were registered for the race, the three started hearing just how tough their next 13.1 miles were going to be.

“After we booked plane tickets, registered for the race and booked a hotel and everything, we started reading more about it and found out it’s one of the toughest races in the nation because of the hills,” Valerie said.

The difficulty of the race made the organizers actually draw up a second half marathon course and so now there are two half marathon options in San Francisco.

“They made the second half because people didn’t want to run the first half,” Valerie said. “That’s how difficult it is. It’s the most breathtaking race you can ever imagine. You run by the ocean, you run across the (Golden Gate) Bridge.”

Now that they’re back from their cross-country trip, Jim, Valerie and Rich want to invite others to join them in the joy of running. The trio would like to start a runners club for the Pell City area.

“If they run a race they would know how rewarding it is,” Valerie said when asked why a non-runner might want to pick up the activity.

She also offered up a few words of advice to those who are new to the sport.

“Don’t start in the middle of summer in the heat of the day because that’s very discouraging,” she said.

Anyone interested in joining or helping to start Logan Martin Runners can contact Jim, Valerie and Rich at

“We want people to realize this is not a big monster out there,” Jim said. “Just get out there and do it.”