May 8, 2010

Doug Hawley: Young shrugs off surgeries to run

When talking about tough athletes, you do not get much tougher than veteran runner Belinda Young of Chatsworth.

Between March 31 and April 15, Young, a math teacher at Nothwest Whitfield High School, underwent two surgeries for kidney stones, which meant wearing a stint for more than a month.

“I was hurting so badly at home,” she said. “At one time, I lost 12 pounds in four days. I had to wear a catheter for six days. I had a lot of tubes after the second surgery.”

Staying positive was quite a challenge.

“I got out to Edwards Park about three times to walk,” the 41-year-old Young said. “My running was almost non-existent.”

Then, the 30th Healthcare Classic rolled around on the calendar last week for the runners. Young’s competitiveness would not allow her to stay away.

“I had registered for the race a long time ago,” she said, referring to the feature 5-kilometer run. “On the Monday before the race, I was hurting so badly. On race day, I had planned to just jog and not run. I was just aiming for 25 minutes.”

However, that competitiveness quickly kicked into the equation.

“I started picking it up at the hill toward the end of the first mile (Trammell Street just before reaching Westwood School),” Young said. “By that time, I felt just elated to run and had a surprisingly good run.”

All she did was win her 40-44 age division in 23 minutes and 27 seconds while finishing among the top females overall.

“I usually run in the 21s,” she said. “Everything considered, I’ll take what I did.”

The 5-foot, 7-inch Young admittedly favors longer races.

“The marathon (standard 26.2 miles) is my favorite racing distance,” she said. “I’m not fast. I do have endurance. I prefer the trail marathons over the road marathons.”

Her credentials show 60 marathons completed among 840 races in 27 years. The highlight was the NewYork Marathon female junior championship (18-and-under) in 1988 where she clocked 3 hours and 13 minutes.

“I had my picture taken with Grete Waitz (legendary Norway runner) who was the overall winner that year,” Young said. “That was quite a thrill.”

Her personal-best time of 3:12 came one year later at Huntsville, Ala. She also has competed in the Pike’s Peak Marathon in Colorado.

Although the previously mentioned surgeries have limited the long training runs needed before longer races, Young will participate May 16 in a trail marathon in York, Pa.

“I had developed a good training base before all of this happened to me,” she said. “I’m not going up there expecting to win or place.

“I’m just going to relax and have a good time. I registered for this race back in December.”

As Young said, she does feel a special affinity for marathons.

“This will be my 21st marathon,” she said. “My goal is to run a marathon in every state.”

Running a marathon was the farthest thing from her mind as a freshman at Murray County High.

“Tony Plavich, the (physical education) teacher (and former Murray football coach), made us run a mile,” she said. “I finished last. I was overweight. . .about 160 pounds. Then I got addicted to it.”

By the time (her maiden name was Belinda Turner) graduated from Murray in 1987, she set the still-existing 3,200-meter record of 11 minutes and 42 seconds while claiming region honors and qualifying for the state meet.

Nevertheless, she might best be remembered for her participation in the Boston Marathon while a high school senior.

“I was two days short (of her 18th birthday) of being eligible for Boston,” she said. “I went anyway and ran as a bandit which a lot of people do (no official number). My long run had only been 14 miles, but I still ran 3:33.”

She ran competitively at Berry College and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before graduating from Lee College.

Along the way, she coached cross country and track at Murray County and LaFayette high schools. Her last 10 years have been spent teaching at Northwest.

Her running prowess also has included 10 ultra-marathons of 50-K distance (31 miles).

Never sell Belinda Young short on anything when it comes to running. She is a proven athlete. And tough. Not even a skilled surgeon’s scalpel can slow her down. Not much, anyway.

Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, can be contacted at

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