When conventional running is just too dull

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 7:45pm

For the second year in a row, the anti-running Leah Todd will hula hoop the 13.1-mile course of this weekend's Country Music 1/2 Marathon.

As Leah Todd trained for the Country Music Half Marathon the last several weeks at Shelby Bottoms Park, she garnered two distinctly different looks from passers-by.

The gawking has come thanks to the fact that Todd will not simply be running the half marathon. She’ll be hula-hooping the 13.1 miles at the exact same time. And she’ll be doing it at a clip of 14:30 minutes per mile. (For an extensive look at the Country Music Marathon, it's music, changes and competitions plus additional runner profiles, see our spread in Thursday's edition of The City Paper.)

“I always get that crazy stare of, ‘What is wrong with this girl?’” Todd said. “I always try to say hello to break that kind of awkwardness. A lot of people are really encouraging, though, and say, ‘That’s amazing I could never do that.’”

This will be Todd’s second foray into hula-hooping the marathon. Last year she finished the course with an average of about 16 minutes per mile. Not bad for a 28-year-old art teacher who just began hula-hooping in the fall of 2007.

“Running, I hate running,” Todd said, letting out a frustrated grunt at the thought of the conventional way people navigate a marathon course. “I wish that I could, but I guess I get really bored. Hooping it is completely different. It’s easier for me, I’m in the zone. I’m focused on keeping my hoop up.”

Todd said she only drops her hoop a few times over the course of the 13.1 miles.

“When I started hooping, it definitely did not come naturally,” Todd said. “It took me a while to learn how to keep it up. Once I kept it up, it was like running a bike.”

She encourages doubters to give hooping a try, and points out it’s an aerobic exercise for people all shapes and sizes.

“That is what I think is pretty cool about the whole process,” Todd said. “I never thought I could hula-hoop at all. I thought it had to do with really, really small people and it has nothing to do with that.”

Entering her second half marathon, Todd has grown accustomed to the prying glares from spectators.

“It’s encouraging to have people cheering you on, but then I get those crazy stares of people who think I’m weird… which is all the more reason to keep on hooping.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: pinkrazors on 4/22/09 at 2:27

While it's commendable for anyone to challenge themselves by doing a half marathon, it needs to be known that Ms. Todd should've mentioned that she got her inspiration from last year's Hooprama Hooping For Hope campaign which she isn't a part of this year.

Hooping For Hope is a non-profit organization that provides Hooprama hoop fitness programs in Nashville, Tennessee to breast cancer survivors free of charge.
Hooping for Hopeā„¢ enhances the lives of breast cancer survivors by offering no-cost hoop fitness classes and hoops to promote and support healing and to encourage hope and laughter while reclaiming the body, mind and spirit.

I wish her the best of luck, but next time, City Paper, please focus on the REAL reason the team of dedicated hoopers is doing this.

By: hoopingFORhope on 4/22/09 at 3:19

Ok, wow- thank you to whomever just posted giving a shout out to the inspiration behind hooping a half-marathon to begin with! This year we have a team of almost 50 hoopers "Hooping the Half for Hope", who have logged over 2,000 hoop miles, who will hit the pavement this Saturday at the Country Music Marathon with matching pink hoops ALL on behalf of hoopingFORhope.org!

Which by the way, we are kicking off the program this weekend and giving away fitness packets to breast cancer survivors on a monthly basis free of charge. The packets include classes for hooping, cardioFlex, zumba & yoga... again, all at no charge to the survivor! Our goal is to touch the spirit of the survivor personally!

So, PLEASE don't keep us a secret- Hooping FOR Hope.org!

By: slzy on 4/22/09 at 5:05

there are records for hand weihts,juggling and carrying champagne glasses on a tray at various distances. whatever,do it for fun!

By: HoopGalHails on 4/23/09 at 6:16

While one lone hooper is a sight to see, it's hard to even imagine what it will look like when 50 Ladies, sporting HoopForHope's signature pink hoops, cross the finish line of the Country Music Marathon TOGETHER! I am saddened by this article and it's implication that what we're doing is only about a 14:30 mile. It's about so much more than that. It's about an incredible journey 50 gals, ranging in age from 20 to 52, have taken to get to that finish line. We've been told time and time again how inspiring and empowering our group is, but that all pales in comparison to our real mission. We are Hooping The Half for Hope. We are out there in honor of every woman who has battled Breast Cancer. And for any woman who is reading this article and these posts, I want to tell you that YOU can do this too. If you yourself have beat breast cancer or you have someone close to your heart who has battled breast cancer, we want you on our team! I don't think there's a woman out there who doesn't fall into one of those two categories. Check out the website posted above and join us next year! We've already set a goal of 100 hoopers for next years race, and I know we can pull it off! And in the mean time, look for us on Saturday April 25, and cheer loudly as we pass....I don't think you'll be able to miss us!

By: RunningWild on 4/26/09 at 3:04

Gee, I keep thinking how, even among 35,000 people, how lonely and isolated this poor thing must have felt. To know that there were 50 women hooping the race together, as a team, and FOR A CAUSE, while she was just rolling along so she could get a little attention. Pretty sad, actually. Makes me feel really sorry for her. Someone should contact her and see if she would be interested in joining the bigger group and making it a worthwhile experience.

By: beyourself on 4/29/09 at 11:07

Thank you Leah! Your willingness to be your own person and understand what you can and cannot do is impressive. You don't have to hoop for any cause but yourself. Lets be realistic. Most people run or walk the half marathon for their own personal needs. You should be able to hoop it! Thank you for putting the "lone hooper" out there for everyone to see. She is like the rest of us..just trying to get through her own personal hoops.