Half marathon a DeGraef family affair
PARKERSBURG — As Erwin DeGraef and his daughter, Demi, prepare to run their third Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon together this August, they looked back at the first time they ran it together a few years ago.
Demi, a standout sprinter in high school at Parkersburg South and college at Alderson Broaddus University, was transitioning into long distance running. Erwin, current Belpre track coach and former South head man, was the perfect person to guide Demi through her first half marathon.
“He ran with me for my first one,” recalled Demi, who mostly ran the 200 and 400 during her career. “I wouldn’t have finished it without him.
“He’s very motivational. He was my track coach in high school and when I ran track in college, he was at every meet.”
Erwin, who resides in Washington, W.Va., was impressed with how naturally his daughter picked it up.
“The first one we ran stride-by-stride together,” he said. “It was her first experience, so I didn’t want to leave her hanging.
“Her transition to the half has been phenomenal. It’s hard in the beginning.”
Added Demi, “It a completely-different running style.”
When Erwin and Demi line up together for the 2017 Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon on Aug. 19, it will be the fifth and third time they’ve participated in the race, respectively.
“We look forward to it every year,” Demi said.
Having taken part in several half marathons throughout West Virginia and Ohio, Erwin said the Parkersburg race stacks up well with any he’s seen.
“Columbus is one of the greater ones we’ve ran,” he said. “(Parkersburg) is the hardest one and most challenging one, but it’s very well organized. The city itself takes a lot of pride in it.”
Erwin said he had taken notice of the local race years ago, but was unable to run.
“We had seen the half for many years and always wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “Had some back issues or I would have probably ran it earlier. I’ll probably be a part of this half for as long as I can run it.”
Demi, who recently graduated from college, also has no intention of missing a race anytime soon. It’s a way to stick with running following the conclusion of her college career.
“I want to definitely keep running,” she explained. “Sprinting is not really an option … so this is just another way to keep running. It’s not as competitive, so it’s definitely more enjoyable.”
Being a local track coach, the elder DeGraef has been an asset not only to his daughter, but to other area runners looking for some tips and tricks.
“Still have kids from school or co-workers who might ask for advice,” he said. “Whatever I can help them out with, even as small as supplements to eating habits to the actually training, the to-do’s and not-to-do’s, even as simple as footwear.”
In the future, Erwin may even have music recommendations for runners-in-training.
“In Columbus, they had some AC/DC playing and that was getting me pretty hyped up,” Demi said.
Added Erwin, “They blasted AC/DC. It will get you going.”
Between work and other day-to-day activities, Erwin and Demi make time to train together throughout the year. Whether it’s running, working out in the gym or coming up with meal plans, they operate in unison.
“We’re a little dynamic duo,” said Demi, although the duo may become a trio before long.
“Now my wife is starting to run it,” Erwin said. “This will be her first one. So it’s become a little bit more of a family tradition.”
Erwin said he typically crosses the finish line around the one-hour, 40-minute mark, while Demi is aiming to finish in less than two hours this year.
“She’ll be beating me before she knows it,” remarked Erwin.
To be fair, though, technically Demi already has one win over her father. It was the first half marathon they ran together.
“We crossed at the same time,” Demi recalled, before Erwin corrected her with, “she beat me by a second.”
Demi laughed, adding, “He let me, but…”