Marathon goal unites family
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Saturday, November 19, 2011
11/12/12 at 1:35 PM
When Charles Letcher's doctor told him he was prediabetic earlier this year, he didn't take the news lying down.
He wanted to run a marathon, and his family decided to join him - even though none of them had run one before.
The Letchers will be among the 10,000-plus runners at the annual Route 66 Marathon, which winds its way through downtown and midtown Tulsa on Sunday.
"My dad's kind of funny," Stefani Letcher, 23, said. "He gets really excited about things sometimes."
But the family didn't argue with him.
"It just seemed like the natural thing to do," she said.
The beneficial mental training and regular exercise is a great way to fight depression, she added. That made the marathon a perfect exercise for the entire family, each of whom was dealing with the loss of their home to a fire.
On Sept. 16, 2010, Charles and Betsy Letcher were at work when their house outside of town burned down.
"It was terrible. I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through that," Betsy Letcher said. "Talk about being homesick. There's no home to go back to. The sense of disorientation is overwhelming."
It was hard, Stefani Letcher admitted, adding, "It was just stuff, but it was our lives. It made me re-examine what I thought was important in my life."
The Letchers moved to midtown and began putting their lives back on track. One way Charles Letcher did that was with the wellness program through the city of Tulsa, for which he's a webmaster.
Charles Letcher said he had been exercising a little bit, so when the program offered wellness screenings, he went to one. It was there that he found out he was prediabetic. In June, he decided to run the Route 66 Marathon.
"He seems to thrive in situations where there needs to be a pillar of strength that everyone can turn to," Stefani Letcher said. "He's a really good leader."
Not that it's been easy; running a marathon is a huge goal, she said.
"But once you get into it," she said, "it's just putting one foot in front of the other."
Beyond striving for a healthier lifestyle, "We thought this is a great lesson because life, if you're lucky, is like a marathon, not a sprint," Betsy Letcher said. "Too many people try to sprint their way to success."
Charles Letcher bought a book, a guide for nonrunners wanting to complete their first marathon. The family started following the training program this summer and, as of a couple of weekends ago, were running 18 miles.
"The human body's not really made to run that far - at least mine isn't," Betsy Letcher said.
But she said she learned that if you manage your injuries, you can do it.
Wes Letcher, 22, said he has exercised regularly and been involved in martial arts. He even went hiking in Aspen a couple of summers back. But this is his first long-distance run.
"I'm a little nervous," he said, "but I'm confident I'm going to finish it."
That's the family's sole goal - to finish. They have been trying not to pile on other goals, such as losing weight, Stefani Letcher said.
"You can take a win and turn it into a loss," said Betsy Letcher. "We do that too much to ourselves."
After they've recovered, the family might decide on a more high-profile marathon - "but don't hold me to that," she said.
Right now, the goal is just to finish. The Letchers aren't even planning a big party afterward.
"The special thing for us," Wes Letcher said, "is going home and sleeping."
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
The Letchers - Wes, Charles, Betsy and Stefani - have been training for this weekend's Route 66 Marathon. No one in the family has ever run a marathon before, and their goal is simply to finish. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World