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Local runners on course to reach their goals

Sherry Leguria completed a 20-mile training run three weeks ago, but it wasn't pretty.

With four miles left, she stumbled and fell, leaving bloodied road rash on her knees and elbows, and it wasn't until three days later that Leguria realized she had cracked a rib.

But the 45-year-old Davis High grad got up and finished the run — her last long-distance challenge before tapering off in preparation for Sunday's Modesto Marathon, her first crack at the 26-mile, 385-yard distance.

"I can do 20 miles, with a broken rib for the last four, what's six more?" Leguria said. "It's only another hour and a half of running. You know, I'm trying to convince myself I can do this as I talk."

Yes, completing a marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, and hitting the wall is a very real condition.

But Leguria, a secretary in the principal's office at Beard Elementary, has ample inspiration to complete the route in her household. It's her husband, Frank Leguria, a process technician in the cellars at Gallo Winery, who will be competing in Sunday's 13.1-mile half marathon.

Two years ago, he woke up and stepped on the bathroom scale, which creaked beneath the 300 pounds he was carrying on his 5-feet, 6-inch frame.

Through a twin devotion to Weight Watchers and running, the 47-year-old Central Catholic graduate will start Sunday's race — his third half-marathon since October — at 184 pounds.

"If it wasn't for her being by my side at the Weight Watchers meetings on Sundays I never would have gotten through it," he said.

There will be elite distance runners in Sunday's inaugural Modesto Marathon — athletes who have their sights set on clocking a time that would qualify them for a spot in the Boston Marathon.

But the majority of the entries in the full marathon, half marathon and 5-kilometer runs are weekend warriors whose goal is just as admirable — to finish the race before the course is closed at 2 p.m.

"I'm no speed demon, Sherry Leguria said. "I'm doing it to try to finish it.

"There better be people out there cheering us on. I know that in the half-marathons, every water stop and aid stop during the race is like a milestone, and people don't realize how much it helps when they stand there and cheer for us. It's a mental game."

Sherry Leguria, who was an age-group swimmer through high school, is an avid walker. As part of the Weight Watchers program her husband began joining her on walks.

They decided to start running about two years ago after reading a Modesto Bee article about the Team Challenge training club set up through Memorial Hospital. It's a group training philosophy that belies the image of the lonely long distance runner.

"Our first goal was to complete a 5K, then we did the Modesto Midnight Marathon half-marathon," Sherry Leguria said. "When this event was announced I started training for another half-marathon and they convinced me I could do the full."

But you don't just go out and decide to run 26.2 miles.

"We've trained five days a week," she said. "We run for 60 minutes on Tuesdays, 45 minutes on Wednesdays and then we go on the track on Thursdays for speed work. I don't like the track. I'm not fast.

"On every other Saturday we go on long runs. We started at four miles and worked our way to 10 miles every other week, and on the Saturdays between we did 14, then 16, 18 and then our 20-miler was last month."

Sherry Leguria remembers that 20-miler every time she takes a deep breath. Her ribs remain sore, but they won't stop her from reaching the finish line on Sunday in what she hopes will be less than six hours.

"I'm very excited about this," she said, "but terrified is the better word."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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