By Emily Williams
Sidelined from the race course to recover from heel surgery in December 2015, Pat Dell’Italia of Homewood is get- ting back into the routine of running.
She had the same heel surgery on her left foot three years ago, but Dell’Italia said her right foot took a bit longer to get back into the swing of things. To mark her comeback and two heels as fit as fiddles, she has set a goal to finish the Mercedes Half Marathon on Feb. 12, her first half marathon in more than a year.
Dell’Italia said she didn’t get serious about running until her kids fled the nest.
“I started running about 10 years ago, when I was 50 years old,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home- mom, so once my kids left I needed to find something to do.”
Her solution was to start a Couch to 5K Program, which introduced her to other runners. Saturday mornings in front of the Trak Shak in Homewood became a stand- ing date, of sorts, to meet with friends for some healthy exercise.
“Running is a great way to meet people, especially for me because I’m not originally from Birmingham,” she said. “And you meet all types of people.”
Though Dell’Italia didn’t start running for the health benefits as much as the social aspect, she has found that it has influenced her habits.
“I have a schedule that I keep,” she said. “We pair up with partners to go on runs and support each other.”
Especially in her recovery from surgery, having a running plan keeps her trucking along. Every day of the calendar is filled with something, even if it is a rest day, which earns a sigh of relief at times.
“I just feel healthier,” she said. “I’ve also seen a change in how we eat. I eat better and am careful about what I am eat- ing.”
An exercise wardrobe can also be added to the list of changes that running has brought Dell’Italia, but her dog is probably her favorite addition at home.
Her kids aren’t too interested in being running buddies when they come home to visit, but her furry friend is always game.
“She just loves it,” she said. “I never have to worry about her keeping up with me because half the time she’s trying to get my pace up.”
As she works back toward her former mileage, Dell’Italia has kept herself as conditioned as possible in her running gym of choice, Resolute Running. She knew owner Alex Morrow from the running community even before the gym opened.
“(Morrow) has really done a great job of working with me to get back on the right path,” she said. “He’s started me out slowly and it helps me stick to the plan. I’m doing everything slowly – probably slower than I would like – but I can tell I’m almost there.”
The surgery may have taken her off the track, but she found a way to fit in exercise that kept weight off her heel.
“When I couldn’t run, I started taking some of (Morrow’s) TRX classes,” she said. “You use these TRX straps that hang from the ceiling. So you are suspending and using your body weight against itself.”
In the TRX classes and the Resolute Running community were people who had gone through recovery similar to Travis’, which she said is always helpful.
As she works toward Feb. 12, Dell’Italia isn’t venturing into the unknown. She has run the Mercedes Half Marathon more than once, but this will be the first time she has participated in about five years.
“I’m just hoping the weather holds up,” she said. “I’ve been lucky when I’ve run it before that it wasn’t ever very cold.”
Since this will be the first race she has run in a year and a half, Dell’Italia’s only goal for herself is to finish and get her medal.
“As a runner, you always want to get better and grow from your last race,” she said. “If I get a PR, or personal best, that would be great. But being my first race in a while, I’m just looking forward to doing the best that I can.”
The Mercedes Marathon Weekend is Feb. 10-12. Events will begin with the St. Vincent’s Health and Fitness Expo in Boutwell Auditorium on Feb. 10 and 11. The 11th will include the Superhero 5K, the Bell Center Children’s Run and the Kids Mercedes Marathon. The half marathon, marathon and marathon relay will be run Feb. 12.
For more information and registration, visit mercedesmarathon.com.