By Donna Furey | LB Indy
While a 100 million fans perched on bar stools or slouched across couches will watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 20,000 runners will set out the same day from Huntington Beach for the Surf City Marathon,a qualifying run for the Boston Marathon.
It doesn’t hurt that the course is flat, the scenery is beautiful and the temperature averages 65 degrees. Race director Amy Tomchak said everyone who pins on a number has a story. “One team from Yucaipa has four generations of runners ranging in age from 13 to 88 years,” she said.
Among the runners with a story are Laguna Beach locals Kasey Konkel and her adopted daughter Hannah, now 13, and a student at Thurston Middle School.
The seed of Hannah’s transformation into a distance runner was planted at age 5, when she would see her mother go out for a short runs as a stress reliever. Konkel had suspended dog agility competitions and fitness training when she and her husband, Ken, took custody of two foster children, Hannah and her 6-year-old brother Ian. Hannah wanted to join her mom on her runs, but Konkel wouldn’t let her starting running until she was 9. First Hannah ran one-mile jaunts in the soft dirt and then worked her way up to three miles. “It was a bonding experience for us,” said Konkel.
An employee of the Laguna Beach Unified School District, Konkel works with children in behavioral training. In 2010, with guidance from elite fitness trainer and fellow LBHS cheerleader alum Doris Harrtigan Dodge, Konkel began to train for distance running. She has completed two full marathons at Surf City since then. However she quickly realized that the training was time-consuming and took her away from her family.
After living in their home for just a week, the children were already calling the Konkels mom and dad. When other relatives could not be located for placement, the children became wards of the state. “Ken and I fell in love with them and, after fostering them for several years, we decided to adopt them,” Konkel said.
These days Hannah and her mom run in five or six races every year. Like the up-coming 10K Race for the Rescues, a benefit for animal rescue where their dogs will join them.
In addition to running, Konkel guides her daughter’s training, which includes strength training and yoga. Now, in training for Surf City, they run five or six miles three or four times each week. Some of their favorite runs take place in Big Bear where the 6,700-foot elevation pushes their bodies to step up red blood cell production, which allows more oxygen to be delivered to their muscles and lessens fatigue, explained Konkel.
High elevation training yields a non-athletic benefit, too, for Hannah, who is a clarinet player.
At home in Laguna Beach, Hannah and her mom often take their three dogs, Toby, Hunter and Gracie, on trail runs near Thurston. On a particularly memorable outing, the three dogs required rescuing from a steep, poison-oak covered slope, which resulted in a trip to urgent care and two weeks “of the worst kind of torture” for the runners.
The experience did not persuade them to hang up their shoes. Konkel refers to the experience as their “best and worst summer run.”