As rain spattered umbrellas of bystanders, several Gateway Middle School staff members ignored the weather and steeled themselves for another practice session, just ahead of the Big Day.
"We have only a week to go. We're hitting crunch time. Sort of panic mode," said Mike Dick, a team leader in a group that includes 13 teachers and a retired administrator from Gateway in Maumee.
On Sunday, the school's three five-member relay teams will participate in the 35th annual Glass City Marathon, running together more for the camaraderie than the quest for a first-place finish.
"We run for fun," Mr. Dick said, and several teachers agreed. But there's much more here than a fun run.
After all, these are teachers who spend their days with oh-so-observant middle school students.
"Actions speak louder than words. Kids see us being active. Teachers are role models all the time. As runners, we model behavior that is really positive," said Joel Hefner, a sixth-grade teacher who is making his first appearance in the Glass City Marathon.
Others in the Gateway runners' circle are veterans of the local marathon, including Chris Conroy who was instrumental in organizing staff from Maumee schools into relay teams to compete in the marathon.
Mr. Conroy, retired Gateway principal, put together a team in 1992 when he was a social studies teacher at Maumee High School, and he kept the tradition running when he became dean of students, and then later at Gateway where he was assistant principal and principal.
"I have been recruiting all these young Olympians," he said. "It's good for the camaraderie of the staff."
Carol Montz, intervention specialist at Gateway, will be running her first ever race on Sunday. "Our principal asked if I wanted to do a relay, and I said 'Sure.' We have some good runners. It's been a really good experience for me to run with them," she said.
She and a few others will run shorter legs of the route; she will run four miles, and more experienced runners will tackle 6.2 miles.
"We have moms with young kids running with us this year, and for them to train through the winter when they have young kids at home, that is really inspiring to me," said Dave Schetzsle, a U.S. history teacher at Gateway who will be competing Sunday in his 13th relay.
He and other competitors from Gateway sometimes run with the track or cross country teams; faster runners in the staff group keep up with the pack. "I chase the kids," said Mr. Schetzsle with a laugh.
But that's OK. He's out there, moving and staying fit, and at the same time, he's strengthening the bond with other staff members. "We have a really good staff at Gateway," he said, and good students, too, including football players who would break briefly from practice last fall to cheer on the staff members as they set off on a run after school.
To enhance the experience of competing in a marathon, runners cheer each other on, and travel together in minivans from spot to spot, stopping long enough near the relay exchange zones to "throw a guy out and pick a guy up," said Mr. Dick. "It's more about the fun we have than it is about winning," he said, noting that he likely wouldn't make the pick if the Gateway teams decided to run competitively. "I'm slow."
Team members get together on Saturdays to run or work out at a YMCA. Then there is fellowship time and breakfast. "We've been doing that on Saturdays for a number of years," Mr. Conroy said.
This is the first time that the school has had so many people involved in this race, said Mr. Dick.
Competitors' ages range from the 30s to over 60.
"We try to set a good example for the kids and show them it is fun to go out and be fit," he said.
Admittedly, there is some dash-to-the-finish-line drama as the Gateway runners stretch their necks to see who will complete the marathon ahead of others in the group.
This year, with more teams, the excitement level will be pumped up a notch or two.
In the long run, it's exciting, too, to be part of something like this, a healthy addiction, a positive behavior, several said.
"We're going to ride this wave as long as we can," Mr. Schetzsle said.
The teams are:
"Me and My Gang" comprised of Trinity Gawron, seventh-grade reading/language arts; Joel Hefner, sixth-grade computer technology; Carol Montz, seventh-grade intervention specialist; Mike Dick, seventh-grade science; and Marcia Wolford, seventh-grade reading.
"Team Cortizone" with Chris Conroy, retired principal of Gateway Middle School; Keith Slembarski, sixth-grade social studies; Angie Sugg, assistant principal at Gateway; Rachel Hostetler, physical education; and her husband, Dave Hostetler
"The Thundering Herd" includes Laura Martin, eighth-grade language arts/reading; Dave Schetzsle, eighth-grade social studies; Annie Akenberger, in-school reassignment supervisor; Brian Zattau, eighth-grade math; and Dwight Fertig, principal.