A local husband and wife discover that their health and togetherness grows stronger with every step they sprint. – By Somer Flaherty | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Laguna Beach resident Tom Neill started running because his wife Mary would leave early each morning and then come back from a run refreshed and energized, “just as I was finishing my second cup of coffee,” he says. Five years later, Tom is keeping up with Mary, who has been at the sport for more than 18 years, now with more than 15 marathons behind her. As Mary trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the two share their thoughts on the sport.
Laguna Beach Magazine: How much time do you spend running and training?
Tom: I was running 30 miles a week, but now about 15 miles as I mix in up to 12.5 miles of rowing. Mary: I run or work out an hour to two hours almost every day. When I am training for a marathon, my long weekend run is usually between two and three hours.
LBM: That’s a pretty intense workout. What would you suggest for someone who is new to the sport?
Mary: I believe in splitting up workouts with walk/run intervals. Don’t become discouraged if you have to walk, just keep moving. Your goal is to reduce walking time while increasing running time. Go to a high school track, and run the straights and walk the curves. It’s also a good way to monitor your progress.
LBM: Any gear you’d recommend?
Tom: Get a good pair of shoes at a fit-ready store like Road Runners. Mary: You must wear the right pair of running shoes and comfortable clothing. I love Lululemon and Nike running attire.
LBM: Favorite places to run in Laguna?
Tom: From our home in Laguna Canyon, down the canyon and then through the neighborhoods via Catalina and Glenneyre to the Montage. Looping around the Montage is exhilarating and coming through the neighborhoods, we always see people we know. For a short run, Main Beach through Heisler Park and back, ending with coffee at Starbucks. Mary: Top of the World trail—it’s beautiful, serene and not too challenging.
LBM: Any great running stories?
Tom: A few years back, Mary and I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon. The race was almost cancelled due to the humidity and heat. We wore regular, light-colored gear; however, many people thought it would be a great idea to dress up as Disney characters, like Snow White, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck. At mile five, most of these people melted into the course—makeup running down their faces, costumes drooping, hats askew. It was quite a sight!
LBM: What is the best thing about running?
Tom: Over time, it becomes effortless. The sites you see are fantastic and the end result of tired satisfaction is unbeatable!
LBM: Favorite local races you like to compete in?
Mary: Surf City is my favorite local race and it’s where I’ve run my fastest half and full marathon. The Long Beach Marathon is also another favorite. I’ll be running it again this year, hoping to qualify for Boston. I miss running in the Laguna Beach 10k and 10k trail races. Would love to see them come back to our city—it was a great community event.
Ready, Set, Run
The sport’s newest gear combines both form and function. Running is an activity you can do almost anywhere, but in Laguna Beach the canyon vistas and ocean views make the sport even more alluring. As if you needed another reason to join in, besides improving your overall cardiovascular fitness and physique, running may actually make you smarter by triggering physiological and structural changes in the brain that are beneficial to cognitive function, according to scientists reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.