Running on love

by • February 12, 2014 • Running wildComments (0)1099

When it comes to romance, there is no finish line

Running can set one’s heart racing on both physical and emotional levels.  Every time you lace up your shoes to hit the trails for a workout or race, numerous opportunities present themselves to meet people. Those potential people could become training partners, coaches, friends, or even a romantic interest. The person you meet may be a volunteer, spectator, or fellow runner who is drawn to our sport.

Last month my wife and I experienced firsthand how running, friendship, and love can intersect. We traveled to the Hawaiian Islands for the Maui Oceanfront Marathon to witness the nuptials of Shane Garling and Julia Khvasecho. Les Wright, the race director, could double as a wedding planner since nothing is left amiss at this community-based event now in its’ sixth year.

Participants can manage their running courtship in one of five events ranging from a 5K to a full marathon each traversing the scenic coastline of Maui.  Just like a wedding reception, music, food, and good cheer are in abundance along the course that finishes at the historic whaling town of Lahiana. Les also keeps his guests up to date with frequent emails labeled as MOM’S Nags to ensure that everyone’s experiences the aloha of Hawaii.

Shane Gharling proposes to Julia Khvasecho at the Louisiana Marathon in January, 2012. By Mike Halko

Shane Gharling proposes to Julia Khvasecho at the Louisiana Marathon in January, 2012. By Mike Halko

Shane and Julia took running to the altar, literally, as the wedding party escorted them along the coast for 16 miles before exchanging vows. The last 10 miles were completed as husband and wife,  giving a new meaning to the expression “second wind.”

Just five years earlier Shane told me of his quest to run a marathon in every state, finishing with Hawaii. I told him to count me in to celebrate the achievement when the day came. It was an easy decision; after all we were talking Hawaii. Besides, Shane was always Mr. Reliable helping this old race director set up the Start/Finish Line for the Anchorage Running Club’s signature event, the Big Wild Life Runs at 5:30 in the morning for five years.  During Shane’s journey he met a group of like-minded runners who called themselves Marathon Maniacs.

It was from the ranks of that tribe he met Julia, a native of New York who embraces running as a celebration of life having survived a battle with brain cancer. After an adventure date, the Delaware Rohoboth Beach Marathon in December of 2010 they never looked back. Alaska to New York qualifies as an ultra marathon for long-distance relationships, easily mirroring the miles they run like the Quadzilla, (four marathons in four days).  Even Shane’s calf emblazed with a tattoo, “26.2”, has to be screaming after covering that distance but wait, Julia is also a licensed massage therapist. They have this running program mapped out with their eyes focused on the prize and each other.  Julia’s business background tracks their process with meticulous spreadsheets, and Shane’s military training covers the logistics of getting to their races.  A veteran of four tours in Afghanistan with the Alaska Air Guard, Capt. Garling knows how to plan in detail to accomplish a mission.

A visit to Julia’s Facebook page chronicles their running romance across the United States,  complete with motivational thoughts on health and fitness.  They also use their passion as a tool to help others: Julia recently raised funds at her 100th marathon, the Marine Corps, to raise funds for “The Friends 4 Michael Foundation” to help children with brain tumors. Shane uses running to boost the morale of soldiers deployed overseas by staging full-service running events with shirts and medals.

So, the next time you lace up your shoes remember your heart may be racing for more than one reason. It could be the fast pace, the steep hill or the person next to you. Chasing your personal best may lead to other dreams and adventures that have “No Finish Line.”

Keep Striding and Smiling,  

Coach Mike



Susitna 50K and 100-Miler
Feb. 15-17
Be a spectator/volunteer this year
and race next year.
Frostbite Foot Race,
2.5 K or 5K
Feb. 22
Downtown Anchorage

Outhouse Race:
Sprint 10-person team
Feb. 22

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