Toepfer recently signed up for the Nike Women’s Marathon, a 26-mile race in San Francisco, from Union Square along the waterfront to the Presidio and through Golden Gate Park. It’s an event she’s been working up to for several years, and she gets her chance to fulfill her goal this year because of her involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training.
Toepfer has been a P.E. teacher for 13 years, including six years as a full-time teacher with Tracy Unified School District. She teaches kids in kindergarten through fifth grade at Villalovoz, Bohn and Central schools. She wants them to know that that physical fitness can be fun, but also that hard work and determination can lead them to even more success in athletics.
“I want to set a good example for them,” she said, “and show them that I don’t just tell them about exercise and staying healthy and nutrition, but they actually see that I’m doing something to back that up.”
Toepfer, 43, said her love for running inevitably led her to sign up for distance races.
“A friend asked me if I wanted to do a 5k about five years ago, so that was my first plunge into running,” she said. “That was pretty grueling, because I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
That introduction led her to pursue new goals. The 10k’s were next, followed by a half-marathon, and four years ago, she ran the Silicon Valley Marathon to meet her goal to complete a marathon before her 40th birthday.
“The Nike Marathon has been in the back of my mind. That sells out quick, and the only way you can get into it is through a lottery or, like I’m doing with Team in Training, which is a good cause,” she said.
She said that Team in Training gives her the camaraderie that encourages her to pursue bigger accomplishments.
“You have somebody to push you, because when I’m running on my own, I might think that I’m improving on my time or my speed, but if there’s somebody that’s next to you, … that forces you to run a little faster to keep up with them.”
She’s on the path to making better times. Her finish of 46:58 in the 10-kilometer race at the July 16 Escalon Park Fete Walk/Run was her best yet and good enough to put her in first place in the women’s 40-49 age group.
Groups like Team in Training can enter runners who might not have as much experience, but are running the race as a benefit. In this case, Toepfer, running her second marathon, will raise at least $2,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
A benefit for cancer research is close to her heart, because her father, Bill Toepfer, was diagnosed with brain cancer in September and died in February. Oct. 16, the day of the marathon, is also her father’s birthday.
“Just what he had to endure in those six months he had the disease, and what he had to go through, I feel like I can push my body beyond the limits and do the marathon to help raise money for a good cause,” she said.
She goes into it knowing some of the things that only experience can teach about marathon racing, having completed the Silicon Valley race four years ago.
“I thought I was prepared, but when it came to actually running it, I was good for about the first 20 miles and then I hit the wall,” she said. “I finished, but I feel like if I train like I’m doing with Team in Training, I’m going to better prepare myself for this.”
How to help
• Donations to support Jill Toepfer’s entry in the Nike Women’s Marathon can be made through http://pages.teamintraining.org/sac/nikesf11/jtoepfer