Marauders' 'All-Star Among Us' Reed goes the distance for youngsters

rdymond@bradenton.comJune 9, 2014 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Second in a series.

BRADENTON -- The distance from the ancient Greek city of Marathon to Athens was 26.2 miles.

Less than 1 percent of the world's population has run 26.2 miles at one time, a feat now called a marathon, named for the city in Greece.

One Bradenton woman, Rae Ann Darling Reed, has run 22 marathons. Her personal best is three hours and 18 minutes in 1998.

Reed, 40, recently ran the 2014 Boston Marathon in 3:53. To qualify to compete in the Olympic Trials marathon, a runner must run a 2:49 marathon.

Running marathons is not all that Rae Ann Darling Reed is about.

Since 2003, she has been the head cross country coach and assistant track coach at Manatee High School and has set records in terms of lives touched, according to her students.

"She is one of those people who truly wants everyone to do the best they can do and be the best they can be," said Lauren Wickman, 23, a fellow member of the Suncoast Striders Walking and Running Club who works out with Reed at 6 p.m. every Tuesday. "Coach Reed is very nice all the time and genuine. She's just a positive person who cares. She is that one consistent person in your life who is always on time and highly responsible. You don't find a lot of people like her."

The Bradenton Marauders showed appreciation for Reeds' contributions by naming her a community "Al-Star Among Us" in the category of youth education and athletics.

Reed receives $500 for herself and $500 for the charity of her choice, the Suncoast Striders. She will join seven others to be recognized as All-Stars Among Us at the Florida State League All-Star game June 14.

Reed recently said she is most proud of ­ not running those 22 marathons --­ but working with youth.

"I'm most proud of the impact that running has had on the girls I have coached," Reed said. "It helps them build self-confidence. It makes them proud of their bodies."

Reed doesn't care what a girl looks like if she wants to be part of her team. That, alone, makes Reed different. She recruits anyone she thinks she can improve as a person, not just those who can help her win trophies.

"I literally welcome all shapes and sizes," Reed said. "Even if they are walking to begin with, that's OK. The way I look at it, they don't have to be a state qualifier to be on my team. I tell them as long as they put out effort and improve they have had a successful season in my eyes."

Reed loves to see a competitor evolve from just walking a few steps to running.

"It's amazing to see," Reed said. "I have watched girls over the years develop self-confidence and continue running for fitness and stress relief. I have seen girls who are heavier able to maintain weight loss. Of course, I love to win and sometimes ask myself if I am stressing winning enough, but then I step back and realize what I am doing for these girls will help them later in life."

The very first girls cross country team that Reed coached at Manatee High did win county, district and region and placed seventh in the state meet.

"I went to Jennifer Schwan's wedding," Reed said, mentioning one of the girls on the team, who is now Jennifer Titus. "I will never forget Jennifer and Emile Roff, Hannah Brickse and the others. They were a dozen amazing competitors. I think getting to coach them is one of the things I am proudest of in my life."

Reed is training for the Tower of Terror 10-mile race at Disney World on the first Saturday in October. Her personal best for 10 miles is one hour, 10 minutes. She has run Disney in 1:13.

To those who wonder how she can even run one marathon, Reed explains it: "The key is really the months of training that get you ready," Reed said. "If you are properly trained, race day is just the icing on the cake. You body is used to fatigue. You don't always have a perfect race, but you can finish."

Reed is married to Philip Reed and they have one furry child, Peppermint, a west highland white terrier.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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