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Toledo half marathon special for Swanton couple

04/20/2017, 12:13am EDT

Trot, part of Glass City Marathon on Sunday, marks successful return to health

Sarah Speer and her husband, Jim Speer, will run side by side in the Owens Corning Half Marathon on Sunday morning.

Running in the Glass City Marathon can mean a lot of different things to different people.

It can be about overcoming personal struggle. It can be about pushing the body to the limit. It can be one more 26.2-mile run to add to a personal checklist of races.

When Sarah Speer joins her husband, Jim Speer, on Sunday in running the Owens Corning Half Marathon it will be special for the Swanton couple. 

Sarah, 48, who normally runs the full marathon, will run the shorter race to be alongside Jim.

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Jim, 53, an accomplished power lifter, was diagnosed with pancreatitis and in September of 2015 was in a coma. The way Sarah described it was that his pancreas was in essence digesting him from the inside out.

After going in and out of the hospital for several months, Jim was finally released in April of 2016.

His illness had caused him to lose more than 100 pounds. 

The 230-pound power lifter weighed 127 pounds when he finally left the hospital.

He was bed-ridden for a while after being released and slowly eased himself into walking during the summer. He eventually began to jog, then progressed to longer training runs.

Jim will run his first ever half marathon, something he never did before his bout with pancreatitis. He is now back to 172 pounds and is able to do training runs with Sarah building up to the 13.1-mile run on Sunday.

Sarah points out that from April-to-April, the span of just one year, Jim will go from completely bed-ridden and weak to running his first half marathon.

“I didn’t want to miss his first half marathon,” Sarah said. “We are going to be running it together. I have no time goal for it. I’m just going along for the ride to be with him. We’ve done training runs all winter long, so it’s not like we haven’t already run together.

“That’s the way we are going into this. This is just a long training run, nothing different than we’ve ever done before. For him, it will be something he didn’t even do when he was fully healthy. I am so happy for him. Running definitely changes people and he is so optimistic.”

For Lois Berkowitz,68, of Riverview, Mich., the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon is one more in an unbelievably long list of marathons.

Berkowitz is a member of the 50 States Marathon Club, which includes people who have run a marathon in all 50 states. She serves as the editor of the club’s newsletter.

Berkowitz, who says she has run 430 marathons in all, is working on her fifth time running in each of the 50 states — including Alaska and Hawaii — and says she should be done with that feat by the end of this year.

“How many people can say they know somebody in all 50 states?” Berkowitz said. “How cool is that?”

Running has taken Berkowitz all over the world. She has literally run on top of the Great Wall of China and has raced through historic Jerusalem.

“That was just remarkable, whether you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim,” Berkowitz said of running in Jerusalem in 2013. “You are running past holy sites, which are sacred to a large percentage of the world. As a runner, let me tell you, those people know hills. In northwest Ohio, we would call those mountains. It was very, very cool.”

Berkowitz, who grew up in Sylvania, says the first marathon she ran was the Glass City Marathon in April of 1990, and she has run in about 15 Glass City Marathons.

Festivities begin Saturday, with the Findley Davis Kids Marathon consisting of a quarter-mile run, a half-mile run, and a mile run beginning at noon. Children will be able to meet University of Toledo football players before the race at 11:30 a.m.

The Mercy Health Glass City Marathon will begin at 7:02 a.m. Sunday. The Owens Corning Half Marathon will begin at 7:02 a.m. as well, with the Medical Mutual Glass City 5K beginning at 7:15 a.m. The Yark Subaru 5-Person Marathon Relay will feature teams of five runners with each completing a leg of the marathon and will also start at 7:02 a.m.

Robert Easter, Jr., the IBF lightweight world champion, will be one of the people holding the starting flag to kick off the races on Sunday.

Contact Brian Buckey at: or 419-724-6110.

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Contests & Promotions

Mercy Health Glass City Marathon


■ Registration/​packet pick-up & expo: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

■ Meet the UT football players, kids marathon & Agility Angels dog show: 11:30 a.m.

■ Registration & expo closes: 5 p.m.


■ Wheelers start: 7 a.m.

■ Marathon, half marathon, & relay start: 7:02 a.m.

■ 5k start: 7:15 a.m.

■ Postrace party in UT parking lot No. 10

The Field

■ The overall field is capped at 8,250 participants:

Marathon: 1,500 Runners

5-Person Marathon Relay: 350 teams/​1,750 runners

Half Marathon: 3,250 runners

Glass City 5K: 1,750 runners and walkers

Watch It

■ Ideal locations for spectator viewing:

Bancroft and Secor

Indian and Evergreen

Indian and Talmadge

King and Sylvania

Tam-O-Shanter, Sylvania

Olander Park, Sylvania

McCord and Holland-Sylvania

Richards and University Parks Trail

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