HARTVILLE  Eliz Slabaugh has a long way to go this summer.

Both literally and figuratively, the Lake Center Christian School senior cross country runner is just getting started on an interesting summer that will see her both crossing borders and crossing items off her running bucket list.

Through the first few weeks of the summer, she’s been logging more miles than ever in preparation for her first half-marathon and also preparing for a missions trip to Costa Rica with her youth group from Bethany Mennonite Church.

"I’ve just been following a plan I found online, so I’m running every day but Mondays and Wednesdays and those days I’m going to CrossFit, at a place called the Warehouse," Slabaugh said of her half-marathon prep work. "Someone from my school, their mom told me she went there and she’s a marathoner, so she mentioned it was good for running."

She’s logging about 20 miles a week to train for the Akron Children’s Marathon Race Series Half Marathon and 10K, which will take place Aug. 11 as part of a series that also includes the Akron Marathon in September. Slabaugh, who has achieved quite a bit of success running both cross country and track for LCC, has been running in road races the past few years. She’s done 5K and 10K races and has won her age group in several such races, but running 13.1 miles is a much different - and larger - challenge for her.

In approaching the half-marathon, she’s trying to make sure she doesn’t overload herself and run or train so much that it leads to an injury.

"I am thinking about that a little bit … I’m doing one long training run a week and the other ones are medium runs," Slabaugh said. "I run with friends sometimes, but mostly on my own. Probably I run close to 18 or 20 miles a week … probably the most I’ve run, yeah. I listen to music when I run, but not with ear buds because I need to hear the traffic around me."

Along with running, there is also the missions trip in early July that will see her fly with her church youth group to Central America and spend a week working to serve people in need in Costa Rica. She and her fellow youth group members and leaders did plenty of fundraising work earlier this year and last year to make sure that everyone had enough money to pay for the trip and with all of that taken care of, all that’s left is to make the trip and get their hands dirty doing various projects in Costa Rica.

Of course, going out of the country just over a month out from the half-marathon isn’t ideal when it comes to training, but Slabaugh has already looked ahead and tried to find a solution to make it work.

"I’ve talked with my youth leader and he said he’d try to find a good place for me to run there (in Costa Rica)," she said of the trip.

That actually fits well with her stated strategy of mixing it up when it comes to where she runs. Like many runners, the idea of going on the same route all the time can get to be mundane and monotonous, so Slabaugh tries to inject variety into her running by going different places and not having a consistent route. Of course, running in a foreign country where she doesn’t know the terrain at all will be another experience all together, but it should be another fun aspect of a memorable trip built around serving, volunteering and showing love to people in another part of the world.

When she comes back from the trip, there will be only a month left until the start of the half-marathon and assuming the race goes well, Slabaugh would like do do more half-marathons in the future. As for the idea of taking it one step further and doing a full marathon in the near future - she’s still mulling that one over.

"I definitely want to do other half marathons, but I’m still thinking about doing a full one because I don’t want to hurt myself (by running too long of a race) when I’m this young," she said.

All of the above will also serve as solid preparation for her senior season of cross country as she seeks to better the impressive results she’s already tallied in her high school career. Whether it’s the thousands of miles flown to and from Costa Rica or the hundreds of miles she’ll log in training and races this summer, Slabaugh plans to go as far as she possibly can this summer.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com
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