PITTSBURG — It began at midnight in 15 miles per hour winds at around 28 degrees.

On Feb. 3 full of energy and a good playlist, Andy White, a Kansas Farm Bureau insurance agent in Pittsburg, and Kelli Gaddy, a registered nurse at Via Christi began their 52.4 mile marathon — a run which nearly equalled the distance of two back-to-back marathons.
Five to six hours in and their muscles were aching and their minds were wandering, but they kept on going.  

“The last six to seven hours your mind starts to wander a little bit — I think delirious would be good word to use,” Andy said.

Kelli agreed.
“The emotions while going on a run like that are up and down … emotions were all over the place,” she said.

At 26 miles the sun began to come up, giving them both a second wind and extra support as a few more runners joined in to push them on.

“We were joined by fellow run club buddy Ryan Schwatken … and we were later joined by Janelle Wade and Joanna Rhodes,” Andy said.

The encouragement, helped them finish the run at 11 and a half hours — a half hour earlier than planned, they said.
“You could easily quit if you didn’t have somebody giving you encouragement to keep going,” Andy said.
The idea of running the marathon started when Andy was reaching his 50th birthday.  

He set a goal to run 50 kilometers, which equals 31.2 miles. Kelli decided to take on the challenge as well and ran 36 kilometers (22 miles) for her birthday with him.

If you add up all the miles they both have run in the past year, it would equal over 2,000 miles. They each have a monthly goal of 100 miles.

“We both started out slow and out of shape, we ran about two to three times a week on average,” Andy said.

To prepare, both runners did strength training at the gym and kept up with their monthly mileage goal.

“That was absolutely critical during the run,” Andy said.

Kelli agreed, she said a strong core is important for running long distances.

Andy and Kelli ate during the run to keep their calorie intake high.

It “shocks” the body’s systems when the calories are depleted, Kelli said.

Kelli drank pickle juice and ate bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Andy also drank pickle juice — including soda, donuts, candy bars.

The runners said finishing the marathon would have been nearly impossible without the help of their run club, Pinamonti Run, and the gym which they train at.

“We could not do it without the others,” Andy said. “The trainers helped us physically and mentally do it.”

Being fit was more than just going out for a run for Andy and Kelli, it’s a lifestyle choice, they said.

“Some golf, or bowl,” Andy said. “Exercise makes me feel good mentally and physically.
“As I got stronger, I lost weight over time.”

Five years ago and 55 pounds heavier, Andy said he was tired of having to hold his breath just to tie his shoes.

Kelli — who has never really been a morning person — wakes up early in the morning to drive from her home in Carl Junction, Missouri, to exercise. The history of heart disease in her family keeps her motivated to keep in shape, she said.

Most importantly, Kelli said, another motivator of hers is her mother. Her mother has rheumatoid arthritis which has prevented her from doing what she was passionate about — running. Kelli runs for her mother now, she said.

They both gave thanks to their gym, Pinamonti Physical Therapy and Wellness Center and the running group for helping them reach their goal and fueling their passion to run.

“Our main goal is to support each other, be there for each other to get better, faster and healthier,” Andy said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.