They call themselves the "Crazies."
It's a group of four area runners, whose average age is 62, who have gotten together in recent years and competed in both half-marathons and full marathons. All four picked up running not too long ago, and some of them don't run nowadays, preferring to walk instead.
But their common goal is to have fun wherever they go, whether it's in Fort Smith, in nearby marathons like Little Rock and Oklahoma City, or even overseas to pound the pavement. The four "Crazies" — consisting of Fort Smith residents Joe Graham, Shirley Bearden, and Cyndi Glidewell along with Lavaca resident Julie Anderson — recently traveled to England to participate in the London Marathon.
"We're not your typical runners, we're kind of atypical runners," Bearden said. "None of us have ever broken any speed records, and our goal isn't to win anything; it might to be to break our own personal best. ... We are there just to have a good time and to finish safe."
They have also embraced the group's nickname, which they have had for more than two years.
"People will see us and (they are saying), 'Oh yeah, wonder what the 'Crazies' are doing now,'" Graham said. "And all four of us are Fanatics and Maniacs, which means we have run three (half-marathons) or three marathons within 90 days to be able to qualify to be a Half-Fanatic or a Marathon Maniac."
Of the four, Bearden (age 62) has the longest current tenure of the four who have run, picking up that hobby for five years now. It was a result of having come off weight loss surgery, and needing something to do to be active.
After starting out walking, she tried running.
Graham (72) had been a runner in his 20s before stopping. He picked up running again four years ago.
Anderson (53) and Glidewell (61) have also run for nearly four years. Due to a hip injury, Anderson shifted to speed walking, and along with Graham, primarily walks during their events while Glidewell and Bearden generally stick to running.
However, the "Crazies" make it a point to finish each race together, as was the case in London, where they caught up around the 22-mile mark and crossed the finish line as one happy group.
"It was probably one of the coolest things that we all finished together," Glidewell said. "And we also did that in London, which is really unusual, but it happened and it was really cool. In the end, we all met up together and we had our hands in the air; it was really cool."
Another reason the "Crazies" enjoy the time they spend together is that they really don't have much time to meet up away from running.
"We don't see each other; we all have lives that are very separate," Glidewell said. "We have families and different interests. ... We have very diverse lives outside of what we do running, and sometimes, those lives get in the way where we don't see a lot of each other, but I think we all know if we ever needed anything, whether we had seen each other recently or not, without question we rally (for one another)."
The four runners are part of the Western Arkansas Runners group. They also ran together in a group called the Solemates, which was organized by fellow runner Melissa Vitale, the owner of True Grit Running Company in Fort Smith, and the Solemates still meet up and run on a regular basis.
"We were all running together, Joe, myself and Melissa," Bearden said. "We were the Solemates, and we all ran together.
"Then we kind of branched off because we were doing some other things, so we would meet up together and train what we needed to do for running a full. The first training I did was with someone else who wanted to run a full, but I got injured and wasn't able to run it. But Joe ran a full and he kind of encouraged us, so we all just got together and started training with him to do another."
That's when the "Crazies" began to take root. In March 2016, the four decided to run the Little Rock Marathon.
One reason was the incentive of getting that marathon's traditionally large post-race medal awarded to each finisher. Another reason, Graham offered, was that they were literally just crazy to run it.
"We signed up for Little Rock, and the first time we had signed up for Little Rock, I thought, we're crazy," Graham said. "And the name just sort of stuck, and they started calling us that."
There was still a bit of apprehension from the others when they met in a hotel room the night before running the marathon.
"I was thinking, I must be crazy, why am I doing this, and I don't know what made me think I could do this," Anderson said.
Anderson was later asked what actually made her think she could pull it off.
"Because I know I can walk all day long," she said.
The "Crazies" did finish that race and they haven't looked back. They've continued to run subsequent marathons.
Then, they started dreaming big. Last year, they applied to run in the London Marathon, which uses a lottery system to determine the participants, but none of them was chosen.
So, they instead set their sights on Hawaii, planning to run the Honolulu Marathon this December. But they decided to try their hand at getting entry into London one more time for this year's race.
This time, all four got picked.
"We all decided we were going to do Hawaii this year; we would do Hawaii in December and do the Honolulu Marathon," Bearden said. "But then it came time to put in for the London Marathon and I was like, what the heck, we don't have anything to lose.
"So we put in (our names) and we got in, all four of us."
The "Crazies" took full advantage of the opportunity, arriving early to take in the sights. It was just as scenic during the actual event, as the four passed by several landmarks in the city, even running on the fabled London Bridge.
They also stood out because of their clothing, matching outfits with a plaid motif, which reminded some of the kilts worn in nearby Scotland.
"We had no clue that our plaid would be so popular," Anderson said.
The "Crazies," who were part of approximately 41,000 participants, also enjoyed the support of the spectators and others who were there to cheer on the participants.
"The crowd was the most amazing, they were cheering for us the entire way," Graham said.
Several even provided water, as the race was the warmest London Marathon ever, coming in at 73 degrees.
"This was a continuous crowd the entire race," Bearden said. "There was no time where there wasn't someone yelling and cheering you on, so I couldn't hear what my pace was, I couldn't hear my music (on her earphones). There was no time where I didn't have the ability to zone out; you were in the moment the whole time."
The "Crazies," who each prefer running half-marathon than fulls because of the intense and time-consuming training needed to run a full marathon, are now planning to do another international race in the future, perhaps Greece or even run The Great Wall in China.
They will also be running several races in the area the remainder of the year.
Oh, and that proposed trip to Hawaii before they got the call to go to London? That's still on, by the way.
"We're going to focus on Hawaii," Glidewell said. "We're going to do a lot more races between now and then."
And the group once again stressed that they're not running or walking to place high, but to finish and have fun. Not to mention being able to stay active.
"We're proof that you can be active, you can be healthy, you can get out here and have a good time," Bearden said. "And you don't have to (heavily exert) yourself to do it, but you're being healthy and it's an experience.
"The thing about the running community is they're supportive no matter what. They're supportive if you're a walker, they're supportive if you're a runner, they don't care how fast you run, they are supportive and you couldn't ask for a better community of activity."