Pat Terry
Team Test Subjects before the start of the Ragnar Relay's Sunset Experiment. From left: Lachelle Boden, Tamra Hinman, Amy Donaldson, and Steve Terry.

SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Terry, Tamra Hinman and Lachelle Bodine never aspired to be runners.

In fact, Hinman still laughs when she describes herself as such, while Bodine admits she still feels a significant amount of fear about the sport’s toughest challenges.

But one by one they found their way into a sport that doesn’t care about past athletic achievements — or the lack thereof. Running was a path to better health, a chance for a few minutes away from a demanding life and a necessary part of reaching a career goal. It helped them through loss and life changes and it gave them relationships they didn’t expect.

Somewhere in those early mornings and hours on a treadmill, each of them found beauty in a sport they’d never considered their own. And on a beautiful but cloudy Saturday afternoon, they gathered at This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City to do what none of them had managed on their own — run 26.2 miles.

Steve Terry

Terry’s first experience with training came on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“When I was on a mission in Little Rock, Arkansas, I had a companion who was a football player from Dixie State College,” Terry said. “He had me out the door and running every morning. That guy could run me to death.” He returned to Utah and let the everyday demands steal his morning miles. “I got married, working, life,” he said. “I just lost it.”

That began to change when a doctor delivered some grim news.

“He had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, basically the doctor said, ‘You’re not going to live if you keep going like this,’” said his wife, Patty. “He was not in good shape.”

The doctor offered him medication for his blood pressure, but he never took it. Instead, he changed his diet (drinking green smoothies twice daily since 2011) and exercising.

“I lost 44 pounds, and I’ve kept it off ever since,” he said. “I started running — kind of for fun. I just enjoyed it.”

Four years ago, he lost his father, and running offered him solace he couldn’t find anywhere else.

“Running was the only thing that kept me focused,” he said. “I was grieving, and my brothers and sisters went through heck. Running and biking, it got me through the grief. So I know it’s kept me away from depression. I struggle a lot with my hearing (loss). I plug in these headphones and just go.”

A few years ago, Hinman, who is his stepdaughter, began to join him on some of those races. Suddenly the physical challenge wasn’t the most appealing aspect of the sport.

“For the first five years, I did everything by myself,” Terry said. “I was fast; I took a lot of trophies, and I was excited about it. When Tamra took an interest, I backed off, worked with her until we got faster. Now we just look for new challenges. It’s been a lot more fun running with someone.”

He’s lured some of their other children into a race here and there, but only Hinman races with him consistently.

“She’s been a lifesaver to me,” he said. “We’re always looking for something new, something crazy.”

Tamra Hinman

Hinman laughs as she talks about how unathletic she was as a child.

“I hated running when I was younger,” she said. “I detested it. And I was terrible at it.” It wasn’t until she and her husband decided to join the Air Force that she began to run — and then it was simply to pass the physical requirements for the job. As she became a mom married to an active-duty airman, she found herself turning to the sport she hated for a reprieve from the demands of daily life.

“I was at home with the kids and not doing much, and I put on a little bit of weight,” she said. “We got a treadmill and I stared running. I was like, ‘Hey, I can do this!’ I actually started to enjoy it and then it became something just for me.”

As her children got older and they moved around the country, she found new freedom and deeper confidence with each run. She admits she noticed physical benefits of the sport first.

“Then it didn’t take too long until it was the mental clearing of my mind and having some time for myself,” she said.

Hinman said running became more than a way to better health for her when she moved back to Utah in 2016 and started running with Terry.

“I love spending time with my dad,” she said. “That’s the thing I love the most.”

Hinman knows she’s lucky. While some people never know the love of a good father, she’s experienced it twice. She was close with her biological father, who passed away in 2014 after battling bladder cancer. Then she started running with Terry, who married her mother nearly 15 years ago, and built the kind of father-daughter relationship every girl should experience.

“Running with him,” she said trying to find the right way to describe the experience. “He is the most optimistic, most caring person. He’ll do anything for anybody. He cheers you on, I mean, he keeps me going. But he also cheers on other people, strangers, talking to them and encouraging them. He is just very upbeat and excited about running.”

She said they talk about anything and everything when they run, and he’s always challenging her to beat previous times or extend her top distances.

“We’ve always had a good relationship,” she said. “But then once we started having this time together, it just brought our relationship to a whole new level. It’s something we share. … We have a very strong bond.”

Lachelle Bodine

For most of Lachelle Bodine’s life, she experienced running through sports — most often as a soccer player.

It wasn’t until she lost her mother in 2004 to cancer that her father began running in earnest, and she followed him into the sport. When he started pacing races, helping other runners reach their goals, she began doing the same.

“There is just something about it,” she said of pacing. “That’s kind of where I’ve gotten to, at this point. I am not going to be an elite runner, as much as I would love to be.”

She pauses for a minute.

“I only do half marathons,” she said. “It kind of scares me. … I think because I want to be good.”

But then she adds that her father hopes someday she and her brothers will take up his offer of trying to qualify for Boston and possibly running it together.

Bodine had a rough relationship with running until she and her family moved to Colorado. She was now a young mother, and she started running again, finding friends who also ran.

When she moved to Utah, she began looking for new running friends.

“I joined this group, the northern Utah chapter of Moms Run this Town,” she said. “It’s this chapter of women who are all moms, so they’re very similar to me. We’re varied in our pace and our times, but it’s been the very best thing for me because we have cheerleaders cheering you on.”

She said every Saturday or Sunday there are groups that runners can join.

“It’s now fun for me again,” she said. “Every weekend, pretty much, I’m running with people.”

For Bodine, joining Moms Run This Town gave her what she values most about the sport.

“For me, it goes with what I think running is all about,” she said. “It’s kind of like my therapy. I don’t know these people necessarily when I start to run, but by the end of a run, you feel like you know them pretty well. When you’re talking and running there are no boundaries. We can talk about anything, and you know it’s safe there.”

Bodine said that living without her mom’s advice has forced her to ask her friends “to fill that role” for her.

“And now I have running friends who are not only there if I need them, but we hang out outside of running, and I know that I can count on them,” she said. “I don’t know if you find that in other sports, maybe you do. But there is just something about the group that is truly special, supportive.”

Test subjects

It was their desire for new challenges that prompted them to answer a Facebook message I posted about joining my team for the Ragnar Relay Sunset Experiment last weekend. I thought it would be interesting to bring a group of strangers together to run a distance none of them had covered alone.

The 6.2 mile loop was a mixture of road and trail, but it was a bit more difficult than many expected. For Bodine, it was her first trail race.

1 comment on this story

In their stories I found pieces of my own journey and insight into experiences I’ve never had. Ragnar officials hoped to offer a taste of the other relay races — the 200-ish mile road relays or the various trail versions.

I’ve run them all, and as I talked with my new teammates after they finished their section of our marathon I was reminded of the reason running brings such clarity and transformation.

The sport challenges you wherever you’re at and whether you’re prepared or not. It doesn’t care if you are a great athlete or a reforming couch potato.

The only things that change the experience are whether you accept the challenge and who you meet along the way.