Horst gets good breaks running

Sunday, December 14, 2008

By PAUL GATTIS

Times Sports Staff paul.gattis@htimes.com

Jill Horst got tired of breaking bones and decided to become a long-distance runner instead of playing soccer. It's a lot safer.

"I haven't broken anything running," Horst joked Saturday morning.

Well, that's not entirely true.

She's run in five marathons and improved her time in each race. And she was the the top female finisher in the Rocket City Marathon.

It's the first marathon win for Horst, a 30-year-old teacher from Rome, Ga.

"I just took off and ran what felt comfortable," Horst said. "I didn't see any other females the entire race."

Other females were on the course. It's just that Horst quickly ran away from them. Caitlin Heider of Huntsville finished second, almost six minutes behind Horst's winning time of 2 hours, 48 minutes.

Though the race appeared easy for Horst, it really wasn't. Horst was the favorite to win as the top female seed.

"I felt good through 18 (miles) and then I started hurting and 20 through 26 was just like, 'Get to the next mile,' " Horst said. "My legs were giving out on me very badly."

But it still felt better than breaking bones. Horst began playing soccer when she was 4 years old. She eventually went to Furman University in Greenville, S.C., to play soccer in college.

Along the way, Horst said she sustained five broken bones from playing soccer. And given her size - about 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds - Horst decided she could keep running but without the soccer ball and the other 21 players on the field.

"I broke my nose my freshman year in college and said, 'That's enough. I'm done,' " Horst said. "Having surgery on a broken nose is terrible."

Horst also pointed to her dad's influence and his enthusiasm for running marathons. She often ran with her dad even while playing soccer, and Horst set a personal goal to complete her first marathon before she turned 20, which she accomplished at 19.

"I was really better at running than I was at soccer," Horst said. "I was getting beat up pretty badly in soccer."

For now, Horst plans to continue teaching fitness classes at Berry College in Rome and hopes to start a long-distance training class at the school next fall.

And, of course, Horst will keep running. She's bettered her personal record in all five marathons she's run. "I just worry about it when I don't," Horst said of setting personal bests. "I know I'll be let down when I don't PR."

But that's still better than breaking bones.