When Dr. Sean Coleman was a starting offensive lineman for the Dalton High football team in 1986, his senior year, he had a disdain for running.
“Running was what you did when you were being punished,” Coleman said. “If you had not performed, you ran laps. I had no interest in running.”
Today, Coleman provides an example of somebody taking a 180-degree turn from those prep days as a 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound football player. Runners training for the Dalton Half Marathon, scheduled for Oct. 16, can use his story as an inspirational reversal.
During the past three years, Coleman, who still lives in Dalton, has completed five marathons and he has also participated at the half marathon distance.
His personal best for the 26.2-mile distance is a solid three hours and 50 minutes in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in 2007. He clocked a personal best of one hour, 45 minutes in a half marathon that same year at the Silver Comet in Atlanta.
“I run a good bit now,” the 41-year-old Coleman said. “My thought process certainly changed.
“It’s a big part of my life. Right now, I might run 40 to 50 miles a week. If I let more than several days go without running, my wife will kick me out of the house. She knows that I will feel better.”
Tipping the scales in the 180-pound range now, Coleman hardly carries a prep football offensive lineman’s weight anymore. He acknowledged that the running and an improved diet have made the difference.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky, where he did a little running to get in shape, Coleman completed his residency at Emory University. His time in Atlanta gave him the opportunity to participate in the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10K, which is held annually there on July 4.
“That’s about the time, 2001, that I got serious about running,” he said. “The Peachtree is the first race that I ever ran. That was in 2002.”
As a physician at Dalton Ear, Nose and Throat Association, the husband of Kathryn — an Oak Ridge, La., native — and the father of four children, Coleman has to skillfully budget his time and begin his day early.
“I’m usually up at 5 and running with some guys at 5:30,” he said. “It gets my day off to a good start.”
His two oldest daughters, 11-year-old Sarah Kate and 9-year-old Caroline, are also runners. Meg, 7, is a soccer player. The lone son, 4-year-old Conrad, figures soon to join the formal athletic participation. The girls also dance.
“All of the girls are in ballet and tap and jazz,” Coleman said. “We stay busy as a family.”
Coleman’s next race is Oct. 9 on Signal Mountain in the 50K Stump Jump, a rugged 31-mile run completed mostly on trails.
“Originally I had planned to run the Dalton Half Marathon, but it is only a week later,” Coleman said. “It might be wise to not run that race with such little recovery time. However, I hope to be there cheering on the runners.”
Since alleged experts encourage runners to allow one day of easy running for each racing mile, that seems like a logical choice on his part.
With Coleman setting the example from his Catamounts football days, are there any current prep grid linemen who might do the same thing down the road?
This is the 14th in a 16-part series of instructional columns preceding the first national Dalton Half Marathon on Oct. 16. Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, finished in the top 10 percent of five Boston Marathons between 1976 and 1981. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.