Fitness a way of life for Suffolk native, husband

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Whether on foot or on bike, Lori Bender and her husband Bill have seen it all – or at least most of it. They’ve jogged up and down the Las Vegas strip, biked 12,000 feet up the San Juan mountains in Colorado, and outrun rattlesnakes in the Kanawha State Forest of West Virginia. But for two weeks a year, the pair returns to where it all began for Lori – the back roads of Suffolk.

&uot;We run or bike up and down the back roads near Lake Kilby, Lake Cohoon, Lake Prince, and Pitchkettle Road,&uot; Lori said this past weekend, relaxing in her mother’s Meade Drive home. &uot;It’s so nice to have long, connecting and scenic roads that can carry you for quite a way. Traveling the roads around Suffolk, Windsor and Chuckatuck are always a highlight when we come home for a visit.&uot;

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Until she met Bill as a student at Virginia Tech, Lori herself didn’t get into running much, except on the softball basepaths of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, from which she graduated in 1986. But when she headed to Hokieland, she happened to run into one of the school’s premier cyclists.

One of the first members of the Tech Cycling Club, Bill was biking between 300 and 400 miles a week (he notes, not completely jokingly, that he’s probably covered every inch of Blacksburg a few times over!). He won the 20-24 age group in the 1990 Bud Light Triathlon in Norfolk, one of 12 career tri titles (perhaps making up for falling just short against future Tour De France biking legend Lance Armstrong in the 1989 U.S. National Sprint Championship triathlon!). In 1991, the pair took their first joint recreational venture through Peanutville.

&uot;It was flat, compared to Blacksburg,&uot; Bill said. &uot;I could just take off without a route, and just go and go, as long as I remembered where I’d started. The cornfields and cows I saw were the same as in Lancaster (his Pennsylvania hometown).

The Benders ran and biked in their new homes of Baton Rouge, La. from 1992 to 1995, and Charleston, S.C. from 1995 to 2001. Bill competed in the 2000 World Championships in Perth, Australia, and soon after ran in an Ultra (31 mile) Marathon in Charleston. Lori has also competed in a triathlon and half-marathon. The couple has showed their fitness in Mexico, Canada, the Carribbean, Japan, Singapore, and everywhere in the United States except the New England area. They now reside in Houston, where Bill works in management for Dow Chemical, while Lori is a stay-at-home mom for their son and daughter.

&uot;We’ve made fitness our lifestyle,&uot; Lori said. &uot;It helps stress relief, and it’s fun. You get to see things that most people don’t see. If you’re in a car or a plane, you don’t get to hear the sounds of crickets or birds, and you don’t get to feel the beach beneath your feet. Every time I come back (to Suffolk), I always see someone I know from childhood, and I just throw my hand up and smile. I’m home!&uot;

Here are some tips for potential runners and bikers:

Set a realistic goal. Don’t start out and say, ‘I’m going to run five miles a day from now on.&uot; Start slow and move up slowly – the results will be there.

Pick a particular time of day to run – before or after work, for example – and stick to it.

Run in new and interesting place. Don’t jog on a track all the time or run up and down the same street. New scenery and sounds will give runners more incentive.

Pick a goal to shoot for – running three miles a day or losing 10 pounds – and work toward it. You might not feel well the first few weeks, but, again, the results will come.