Donna Cameron recently completed a mini marathon in Myrtle Beach and came in first place for her age group. She completed the 13.1-mile run on Oct. 24.
An academic coach and exception educational department chairman at Hartsville High School, Cameron, a Hartsville native and teacher for 22 years, Cameron has been running since 1996.
“At that time in my life a friend said I needed to find my niche,” Cameron said. “I started running one day. I ran a fourth a mile, then a half a mile and kept on going.”
Cameron said back then she would see Gail Wingard, an avid runner and teacher, run by her classroom, and she was inspired. One day she stopped to chat with Wingard and Travis Walters who were running at the YMCA, and they told her about the Cooper River Run and suggested she might want to participate. Cameron entered the run and finished it.
“I ran it and was hooked,” Cameron said.
In the same year, Cameron said she ran her first marathon.
“If you stay with it, it is almost like an obsession,” Cameron said.
Cameron quickly points out that there lots of people who run faster and longer distances than she does and some of them are in Hartsville. She said there is a group of women who run ever Saturday morning who are amazing and who are beginning to push themselves by entering marathons.
Cameron said for awhile she was running on the circuit but had to give it up due to injuries. She said she thrived on the challenge, pushing herself to run just a little faster and longer each time. That is until she discovered she has a herniated disk. And for Cameron, that is why not only finishing the mini marathon, but winning for her age division, was an accomplishment she is proud of.
“I don’t think I’m a great runner. There are so many people out there who are much older and much faster than I am,” Cameron said. “God has truly blessed me to be able to go work out every day.”
Cameron said she is able to continue to run because she does everything in moderation. That includes diet, rest and exercise.
“Because of my injuries, I can’t go out and train for runs,” Cameron said.
She said she also has something wrong with her hip. Still she manages to run three to five miles four days a week. Before the injury, Cameron said she was running six to 10 miles a day
When she feels her injury, Cameron can’t run, so she has compensated with lifting free weights five or six days a week. Once she started lifting weights, Cameron discovered pleasure in training others. Now she only trains friends.
Getting up and being at the YMCA at 5 a.m. is part of Cameron’s everyday routine.
“When I’m not able to exercise, I’m depressed,” Cameron said. “It is therapy for me. I enjoy helping others and turning them on to it.”
Cameron said she would like to try a half marathon in Myrtle Beach next.
“It is according to how my back is doing,” she said.
Cameron said she works out now more than she runs. With free weights, she said it is not about how much you can lift but about the form.
She said she would like to encourage other women to start an exercise routine or train for a run.
“Start out slow,” Cameron said. “It is not about speed. Build up the endurance, and the speed will eventually come.”
Cameron said it takes dedication and training to participate in a marathon, but you get out of it what you put in it.