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Running ahead of Father Time

Dad, daughter team enjoy half marathons
By: Amanda Calzada Placer Herald Correspondent
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A visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth” in Anaheim, Calif., reunited Lon Wallington with a happiness he stepped away from 15 years ago. “One of my goals is to run the Disneyland half-marathon when I’m 80,” said Wallington, now 68, who was inspired to get back into running when he watched his daughter, Melanie Patterson, compete in Disneyland’s half-marathon in 2008. The father-daughter team now runs and trains together for two half-marathons each year. Wallington and Patterson have completed eight of these 13.1-mile half marathons. For a time, the runners would run opposite directions on the same loop so they would pass each other at some points. During the summer training months, the two begin running at 4 in the morning, although both agreed the mileage did not count until the sun came out. Patterson remembers running on a treadmill after she had her second child. Now, however, she prefers the scenic aspect of long-distance running. As for her father, he would rather run in the rain than inside on a treadmill, he said with a smile. Because of a herniated disc in his neck, Wallington had run just one half-marathon prior to his daughter’s half-marathon in Disneyland. “He has been lucky to be strong,” said Patterson, whose father does not let the disc impact his running regime. Both runners are accustomed to running without music and enjoy carrying a conversation during their workouts. Patterson likes her sons to see her and her father run together and enjoy the “physical, mental, and emotional benefits” of the sport. Outside of running, the athletes bond together by spending time with family and attending church services. Wallington also volunteers at Bayside Church. The Disneyland half-marathon begins in the park, extends through the Angels’ stadium, and finishes back in the park. Approximately 14,000 individuals participate in the event, although not all cross the finish line, said Wallington. Those pacing over 16-minute miles are transported to the finish-line by buses. Wallington finished roughly in the top third of those participating. Outside of the humidity, Patterson said the Disney event is the most exciting half-marathon she has run, as it is “quite entertaining.” She has run at Disneyland three times, including twice with her father. Her favorite half-marathon event is Fleet Feet’s Shamrock’n event in March, a course that extends through Old Sacramento’s Capital Mall. Last March, Patterson clocked a personal record in the half-marathon (1:57). Since then, her focus has shifted from a competitive focus to a more relaxed one. Patterson said running the 13.1 distance is more fun at a pace of a little over two hours. As a health teacher at Whitney High, and past basketball coach, she relishes how running strengthens her lungs and heart. Although medals initially motivated Wallington, he is mainly driven by the confidence and strength he derives from running. Patterson and Wallington also participate in Run Rocklin in April.