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Local runners find fulfillment in crossing the finish line

Local runners find fulfillment in crossing the finish line

Dave and Karen Williams and Shelley Francesconi run along Daubenberger Road early Thursday morning. The three get together two days a week to run five mile jaunts around Turlock.

POSTED April 13, 2012 10:01 p.m.

Shelley Francesconi has been a runner most of her adult life. The Turlock resident put on a pair of running shoes at the age of 21 as a way to tone her body and build muscle. Thirty-five years later, she's still hitting the pavement three days a week.
Francesconi took up running because she said her lack of hand-eye coordination made other forms of exercise difficult.
"I didn't consider myself an athlete but I thought, I can run," she said. "I've ran through two pregnancies and pharmacy school. I run; I run; I run."
Francesconi has run six marathons over the years, something she said takes a lot of time and commitment to training. Now, she only runs half marathons and only the events that have meaning to her or are held at places she wants to visit.
Despite her decision to only participate in "fun" events, Francesconi still enjoys the challenge found in organized runs.
"It's just a high; it's thrilling," she said. "You're way more motivated and it's an accomplishment at the end of six to nine months of training.
"Just to cross that finish line, every time I cross I'm in tears."
Even when she's not competing in marathons, Francesconi finds running a rewarding activity, and one that she has been able to adapt to meet her changing needs.
"I used to (run) for the solitude. With the kids and a public profession, it was peaceful, a way to relax. My mind can run free. That's how I ran for 25 years," she said. "Now, over the years, I like having company."
Francesconi regularly meets up with two other runners twice a week for a five to seven mile jaunt down the canal banks in Turlock. She also enjoys running with her daughter, Turlock High alumna and current graduate student Katie Francesconi. The two recently ran together in the Pasadena half marathon in February.
"It's good to have that to do together," she said.
Running is also an easy exercise routine to start and maintain, said Francesconi.
"It doesn't require any effort, I can roll out of bed and out the front door," she said.
To supplement her running, however, Francesconi works with personal trainer Bruce Foumai twice a week, solely on weights. Despite her time spent in the weight room with Foumai, running is her first love.
"I'm like Forrest Gump, I started running and never stopped," she said.

‘Great way to start the day'
Unlike Francesconi, Karen Williams only recently started running. She trained for her first half marathon two and half years ago and found that running was a good way to lose weight and stay fit.
Right now Williams is training for the DIVAS half marathon in San Francisco on May 6. She runs four days a week - alternating three mile and two mile jaunts - with her husband, Dave Williams. She also runs with Francesconi two days a week.
Williams said she tried yoga and aerobics in the past, but now prefers running as her main fitness routine.
"It keeps my heart healthy and I know it's good exercise," she said. "It's also a great way to start the day."
One thing that keeps Williams motivated to put on those running shoes and hit the road is the feeling of accomplishment.
"It's kind of cool when you get back from a nine mile run and think, I could keep running. It feels good," she said.
The DIVA half marathon will be the first event Williams will run with her daughter-in-law who lives in Sacramento, something that is a motivation she said to keep on training. Personal fulfillment is Williams' goal with running.
"I don't care about times, I just do it for the fun," she said.
Both Francesconi and Williams will be running in the 3rd annual 5k fun run to benefit the Turlock Police Department Chaplaincy program starting at 9 a.m. today at Crane Park. Fees are $25 per runner and every participant receives a medal.



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