DeGraef determined to set a new PR
By Ron Johnston
PARKERSBURG — Demi DeGraef is determined to run this month’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon in under 2 hours.
“I don’t care if it’s 1:59.99,” said the 2013 Parkersburg South grad, laughing. “That’s my goal.”
Last year, the 24-year-old DeGraef — who currently resides in Coolville, Ohio, and works at the Bureau of Fiscal Services in Parkersburg — covered the 13.1-mile distance in 2 hours, 2.53 minutes.
“That’s my best time, my PR (personal record),” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a new PR this year.”
DeGraef ran her first Half in 2015 in 2:14.51. The following year, she did it in 2:15.04; and in 2017, 2:06.58.
In all four of those runs, DeGraef was accompanied by her father Erwin DeGraef, the Parkersburg South track and field coach.
Not this year, though.
“This will be my first year without my dad running the Half with me,” the younger DeGraef said. “We’ll see how that goes. I’ll probably just do it by myself. This is a nice Half Marathon. A lot of people come out to it.”
“My dad motivated me to run a half marathon,” she said. “He got me started and it was a big difference. He knows his stuff. That’s for sure. He kept me going the whole time. I’m not a sprinter any more.”
After graduating from South, DeGraef, a sprinter and high jumper, excelled in track at Alderson Broaddus, where she set nine school records. (DeGraef owns both a bachelors degree in psychology and an associate degree in education, and is working on a masters in human resources at the University of Scranton.)
“My goal for the 400 was always to be under a minute,” she recalled, smiling. “And in one my last meets, I ran a 59 and some change.”
“Back in college after running the 800, I was on the floor,” she said. “I was dying.”
Since transitioning to long distance running, DeGraef said she’s “used to it, now.”
“This, I believe will be my seventh half marathon,” she added. “I also do the Columbus Half Marathon. I rotate between the Parkersburg Half and Columbus Half.
“Columbus is flat, and Parkersburg is a challenge and one of the hardest routes I’ve ever run. The heat is awful, but that’s where the water stops come in. It’s a good challenge. It’s rewarding. There’s not a better feeling going across that finish line.”
In preparing for the Half, DeGraef gave a lot of credit to the River City Runners and Walkers Club and its Monday summer training sessions at City Park.
“I’ve been here every Monday, and I definitely recommend it,” she said. “I enjoy the people. It’s easier. It’s motivating.to run with other people, and you make friends running.
“The hardest part of it is the mentality of running. I think the River City Runners help with it, because they keep you going. It’s motivating. The water stops are motivating. It gives you a kind of a break to talk to people. And I think it’s really personally helped me.”
When race day rolls around Aug. 17, DeGraef is expecting to be very focused from start to finish on the 13.1-mile course.
“I’m going for it,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll reach my goal this year.”
And if mission is accomplished….
“If I break 2 hours this year then hopefully I’ll run a full marathon next year in Columbus,” said DeGraef, smiling. “I’ve got to break my goal first.”
Ron Johnston can be reached at email@example.com