By Martha Nodar

Faithful to an Atlanta tradition that spans over three decades, an estimated 9,000 registered runners are expected to participate in the Atlanta Half-Marathon race on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. The race starts at 7 a.m., in Brookhaven, at the intersection of Clairmont Road and Peachtree Boulevard, then travels south on Peachtree and ends at Turner Field, for a total of 13.1 miles.

Brookhaven resident and first-time competitor Natalie Cheney is one of almost 170 runners who signed up for the Half-Marathon Training Program at Oglethorpe University on Saturday mornings, coached by Atlanta Track Club volunteers.

“The facilities at Oglethorpe are nice, and I enjoy the seminars included as part of the program,” Cheney said. “I also train on my own several times a week.”

Equally committed to a rigorous training routine are two Oglethorpe seniors and experienced marathon runners Avery Livingston and Enrique Sanchez, both members of the track and field and cross country teams at Oglethorpe.

Livingston said she had always been interested in athletics since middle school and added, “It is very exciting to go under the Olympic Rings to get to the finish line.”

Sanchez said he typically runs an average of about 75 miles a week, and this is his fifth time running what he calls, “the Thanksgiving race.”

“You have to pace yourself,” Sanchez said. “Some people make the mistake of either running too slow or too fast from the start. Running the course is not as challenging as knowing how to run the course.”

Atlanta native and long-distance running champion Anna Henderson agrees with Sanchez. Henderson is a clinical exercise physiologist certified with the American College of Sports Medicine and founder of FITT Solutions in Sandy Springs.

“Preparing to run a race such as the Atlanta Half-Marathon involves a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks of regular workouts,” Henderson said. “Resting is also important. It is best not to run 24 to 48 hours before the race to give the legs a chance to relax. If one must run, the intensity must be kept low and the distance to no more than three to six miles.”

Henderson emphasizes, the training period, not the day of the race, is the time to try new things, such as new clothing or new fuel agents, such as energy bars, in order to avoid problems.

“One of the biggest mistakes recreational athletes make is to experiment with new sneakers on race day,” she said.

Coaching Georgia athletes on the necessary precautions for successful long-distance running remains part of the Atlanta Track Club’s mission. Peter Rooney, Oglethorpe’s V.P. of Development and Alumni Relations said the university has been a long-time supporter of the track club’s mission.

“We were happy to have the track club use our facilities for training,” he said. “We always welcome the opportunity to share our campus with others in the community.”

Cheney said the convenience of training at Oglethorpe made a difference in her decision to participate in this year’s race. She is making the race a family event and running with her husband, her brother and her sister-in-law.

Henderson said the Atlanta Half-Marathon is popular among the locals because it is close by, and also because of the relatively mild Atlanta’s weather in November.

“The race also offers a chance to burn off some calories before digging into the awaiting Thanksgiving feast,” Henderson said. “With a little preparation in advance, one can enjoy both — the race and the turkey.”