- Associated Press - Saturday, April 4, 2020

PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) - Kristin Parmenter was gearing up for her fifth marathon when she got word that the race had been canceled.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon, scheduled for March 28, was supposed to be a solo trip to Washington, D.C., and another step in reaching a later-life goal to run a marathon in every state.

But then came the coronavirus.

Parmenter, who teaches fourth grade at Chasco Elementary School in Port Richey, had finished marathons in Georgia and Louisiana, along with two in Florida. And while D.C. isn’t really a state, she was planning to include that in the tally.

“I was really, really disappointed at first,” she said. “I was all the way trained. Ran 20 miles the day before the race was canceled.”

But then she got to thinking, why not run it anyway, solo, in New Port Richey?

She named her faux marathon: “The Coronavirus Social Distance Classic.”

Her family started helping with the planning.

Her husband, Allan, a running coach at Mitchell High School, mapped a 26.2-mile route that started and ended at their New Port Richey driveway. It wound through Jay B. Starkey Park and past her parents’ and brother’s houses, which would be convenient for bathroom breaks. Her husband planned to accompany her for the first 7 miles. Then her dad, Matt Van Stratt, would ride alongside on his bicycle the rest of the way. Her daughter, Delia, 14, worked on a special medal with her grandfather.

And daughter Ella, 10, offered to hold one side of the finish line ribbon, Parmenter said, “since I plan on taking first place.”

And she did.

On March 28, Parmenter busted through a toilet paper finish line at 10:43 a.m. to claim victory as a passel of spectators cheered and rang cowbells handed out by her mother, Sandy Van Stratt.

Despite having to stop for traffic lights and bathroom breaks, it was Parmenter’s best finish yet - 4 hours, 55 minutes and 36 seconds.

“That was amazing,” she said, before chiding friends and family gathered at the finish line to keep their social distance.

After the brief medal ceremony, fellow teacher Kristi Theurrer gifted her colleague with a swag bag filled with hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels and toilet paper.

“She inspires us in everything she does,” Theurrer said.

Parmenter drew on inspiration from spectators along the way.

Fellow teacher Allison Osteen showed up throughout the route, holding signs telling Parmenter how many miles she had to go.

Running buddy Paula Mizeski positioned herself in front of the Dollar General Store at mile 17, carrying a sign that said, “I got out of my PJ’s for this.”

“I think it’s amazing - so inspiring to see her follow through with her goals and to never give up,” she said.

Barbara, Jim and Gregory Konrad held signs and cheered her on Trouble Creek Road.

“I’m just really proud of her for making a bad situation good,” said Barbara Konrad, an instructional assistant at Chasco Elementary.

And when she rounded the corner of Plathe Road and Echo Lake Drive, she was greeted by nieces and a nephew who cooled her down with a gentle spray of lawn sprinklers to the song, “Eye of the Tiger.”

Her niece, Lillian Van Stratt, 4, ran a short stretch alongside her aunt, barefoot.

“It all worked out good, and I got more exercise than I’ve had in years,” said her dad. “It was just a really good feeling for me individually and I think, for everybody involved in general. It was a fun thing to do. And I was just amazed at all the people we saw along the way.”

As marathons go, this was the best one yet, Parmenter said, despite COVID-19.

“I can’t tell you how significant that medal is to me because it is such a symbol of overcoming and perseverance in a situation that we are all in this world,” she said. “It’s a reminder that we will get through this. That we will overcome this.”

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