Galloway among competitors at BR Marathon

More than 1,000 runners are expected to hit the pavement this morning, including former Olympian Jeff Galloway, when the 19th annual Baton Rouge Beach Marathon gets under way.

An automatic qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, the race features a 13.1-mile course and begins at 7 a.m. at Milford Wampold Memorial Park on Stanford Avenue. Half- marathoners are required to complete one trek around the course while full marathon competitors will go around twice.

In 2011, Kenya native Samson Kipchurcher set the event record with a winning time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 57 seconds. Traci Falbo of Charlestown, Ind., set a personal record winning the women’s competition with a time of 3:14.20.

This year’s event includes the first appearance by Atlanta native Galloway, a renowned marathon author, speaker and trainer who developed the Run-Walk method of training and competing in long distance running events.

Galloway’s training methods are a featured part of the website runDisney.com, which promotes Walt Disney World’s January marathon, as well as a half dozen other Disney half marathon races. Generic programs for beginning and advanced runners are available at no charge on the site.

“I became aware of this event because I have a number of friends and coaching clients who have run here,” Galloway said. “(My wife and I) particularly enjoy events that are well-conducted such as the Disney event and this event.”

A self-described average runner who credits his success to hard work, Galloway began running as an overweight teenager mainly because it was a school requirement. Unexpectedly, Galloway found that he liked running, and has been going ever since.

A high point for Galloway was qualifying for the 10,000 meter run at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich. Galloway trained with Frank Shorter, who went on to win the Olympic marathon, a victory that helped ignite the running craze of the 1970s.

“I showed no talent for making great performances for about 10 years, but I stuck with it because I loved it,” said Galloway, who stepped up his training after getting out of the Navy in 1970.

“I decided I would just see what I could do. I improved significantly over the next two years and made the U.S. Olympic team, totally unexpectedly.”

A year after the Olympics, Galloway opened Phidippides, an Atlanta business that bills itself as the longest-standing specialty running store in the world. Named for the ancient Greek hero who ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce a battlefield victory, the store was on the cutting edge of the recreational running boom of the ’70s.

Galloway has written 23 books, and coaches thousands of runners to their goals in various distances every year.

“The most popular distance today is the half marathon, and it’s overwhelmed all of us,” Galloway said. “It’s amazing. I hear from an average of about 100 people a day, and they tell me how training for and finishing one of these events changes their life for the better.”

Finishing the Baton Rouge Marathon will be a milestone for Monty Steffens of Sartell, Minn. Steffens traveled to Baton Rouge with a group of 10 runners, and will have completed marathons in all 50 states, an exclusive achievement for marathon runners. A runner since the early ’80s, Steffens has run 113 races in his career.