Twenty-six point two miles. That is the distance from the CCE Admin building to the entrance of Lake Thunderbird and back, just a short drive down Highway 9. But that distance doesn’t feel so short when you are traveling it by foot. But one Outreach staffer would rather make that trip one step at a time instead of behind the wheel of a car. Ruthie Betts, director of Business and Accounting Operations, is a full-time financial director and a part-time runner, having completed two full marathons, roughly 20 half marathons, and more 10 and 5k races than she can count…and she isn’t done yet.
Betts grew up in the small town of Vinita, OK, and always participated in school athletics, noting that because the school was so small, every student had to play each sport to make a full team. She played basketball and tried out cheerleading for a while but neither one really felt right. Track and field, however, seemed to be a perfect fit. She initially enjoyed short races, but Betts really found her passion in longer runs after college and having a growing family.
“I found it very refreshing to go out and run; it relieved my stress,” said Betts. “Exercise in general is fun and I enjoy it, but running is something that Bob (her husband) and I have been able to do together and with the kids. We all love it.”
While many kids would rather do anything but go for a run, Betts’ children, Molly and Mikey, both enjoy exercise and running just as much as their parents. The family dynamic in their running has just always been a part of their routine. Molly, 14, has been an athlete since age 3, participating in basketball, t-ball, and ultimately sticking with soccer as a passion, but running comes awfully close in competition. Betts says one of her most proud moments was when Molly did her first half marathon at only 10 years old. She was the youngest participant that year at the Jalapeno Half in Fort Worth, TX.
“It’s one of my favorite races, but I got to watch her train, do the race, finish it, and get her first medal,” said Betts. “I was proud of her, of course, but to see your kid be that proud of themselves is just the best. And to know that she beat both me and her Dad, that’s amazing.”
Betts says that while Mikey is too young to participate in half marathons, he does enjoy going to 5k and 10ks, especially to earn medals. To date, his longest run is 10 miles, which the family often does together at Lake Hefner. Mikey enjoys the runs and stays casual and easy going until it is time for an actual race—then Betts says his demeanor changes and he gets into the zone.
Betts credits not only her and her husband’s support making their kids great athletes, but also the support of friends, community members, and family. Betts’ parents are strong supporters of the family’s running activities and were a key factor in Betts’ success in her own training. Betts’ mom has cheered from the sidelines of numerous track and field, cross country, and road races, but sometimes even she finds herself crossing finish lines.
“My mom also does a lot of the 5ks with us,” said Betts. “She doesn’t run, she walks and for being 65 years old, she is probably one of the fittest people on the planet. She walks several miles a day and likes to participate.”
Betts’ mom will find herself cheering from the sidelines again this year as Betts, Bob, and Molly all participate in the Glass Slipper Challenge at Disney World in February. The challenge consists of a total of 19.3 miles in two days’ time, with the Disney Enchanted 10k on Saturday, followed up by the Disney Princess Half Marathon on Sunday. And just to make sure they get the most out of their time and money, the Betts family will also be participating in the Princess 5k on Friday morning before they do their bigger races.
The Betts have a long history of loving anything Disney and luckily, Disney has caught on to people’s love for running and fitness. In 2014, Betts and her husband did the inaugural race, the Dopey Challenge. Despite being a grueling 48.6 miles total (a 5k, 10k, half, and full marathon in 4 days), Betts loved every minute.
“My best experience personally was finishing the Dopey Challenge. As you initially register for it, you wondered what the heck you were thinking,” Betts said. “But hands down, that was by far the easiest race we’ve ever run. You have intense training but it really prepares you and you are so distracted. But to be able to cross that finish line, knowing you just killed that race, not just that day but that whole experience, and also showed your kids that if you work hard, there is a sweet reward at the end. And that isn’t just with running, that is a life lesson.”
That same year, the Betts traveled to California and participated in the Avengers Challenge, which is a 10k and a half marathon. By participating in both a half or full marathon at Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year, the couple earned their Coast to Coast medal that year. That is also the plan for this year, as the family will travel to California in November for another set of races.
In between the Disney races, the Betts have a lot of fun doing local races too. They are fans of both the Oklahoma Memorial and the Route 66 Marathons, as well as smaller races like the local Brookhaven Run. They have also participated in races in Texas, but the races that are closer to home are just a bit closer to Betts’ heart.
“We have done some races in Dallas and they are big names and they are great races with good sponsors, but they don’t have the support of the community,” Betts said. “Those are a little harder on your body and mind because you don’t have all those people out there to cheer you on, like you do at the Brookhaven 5k, the Memorial, and the Route 66. There are all these people on the path, setting up their own aid stations, giving out whatever…gummy bears, chocolate bars, shots of whiskey, can of beer, bacon…we have seen it all.”
While getting free food and drinks and winning medals is nice, Betts acknowledges that running has other benefits that make it well worth her time. Training for races gives her something to look forward to, relieves stress, and provides a quiet outlet to think about things happening in her life. She finds that running also gives her more energy, as well as more drive to get tasks done quickly so she can work her training schedule into her already busy days. Her love of fitness is a little contagious, as many members of the BAO staff like to focus on health and wellness too.
“It is a good outlet for all of us,” Betts said. “We all like to work out together, whether it’s at the pool or the Huff. We all do our own thing but we go together and I think that is a good thing for us as a team.”
While Betts is a team player, both at work and in her family, she does have her own personal goals she would like to work on. Aside from getting in another full marathon in 2017, she would like to start training for her first triathlon. After watching her husband take on several, including an Ironman, she is ready for the challenge and looking forward to trying something new. Her plan is to start with an indoor triathlon, with the swimming portion taking place in a pool, then transitioning over to a stationary bike, and finishing on a treadmill or track. If that goes well, her plan is to try El Reno’s sprint-distance Route 66 Triathlon in June.
“It’s a 750-meter swim, 13-mile bike ride, and a 5k, so it’s not crazy; it’s doable”, Betts said. “It’s something I at least want to try to say I’ve done it. I don’t know that I will ever go up to a half-Ironman or the full one, but if I do, I would shoot for the Ironman Arizona because it’s the most weather-friendly environment and a flatter course than most. But I don’t know that I am cut out for that!”
Whether or not Betts is cut out for an Ironman is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: she is cut out for anything she sets her mind to. She says that there are always good training days and bad ones too, but she takes them in stride and knows that she just has to keep moving. And that is the key thing she encourages others to remember if they want to try running but aren’t sure where to start.
“People say to me, ‘I could never do that.’ And I always tell them, it is literally one step at a time,” Betts said. “That’s all it is, one step. If you go one step further on Wednesday than you did on Tuesday, then training is going well.”
Betts acknowledges that one thing that keeps her going during those tough moments is the encouragement from others, even complete strangers, which is why she is so encouraging in turn. She and her husband both know people who have overcome a lot to just be out running, and she says her family feels fortunate to be able to do the same alongside them.
“We are lucky. We get to do this, we get to finish,” Betts said. “We are moving forward, and unfortunately, some people aren’t able to. It is something we can do as a family, every run we get to go on is a blessing. We sometimes don’t appreciate those blessings because they are hard! But even on those hardest runs, it is still a blessing.”