ADA — There's a reason East Central University President Richard Rafes has been taking daily walks around the track at Norris Field since coming to ECU this summer. It's not just a way to stay physically fit or give anyone from ECU a chance to walk and talk with him.

He's actually been training for his first marathon.

Rafes and his wife, Tommye, will participate in the Portland Marathon in Oregon on today. Participants can either run or walk the 26.2 miles beginning at 7 a.m. Portland time.

"Probably walk," Rafes said.

Tommye Rafes walked the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., last year as part of Team Prevention, a group organized by Prevention magazine, a healthy lifestyle magazine that promotes walking as an excellent form of exercise.

In fact, she was one of four Team Prevention marathoners featured in the magazine's October 2005 issue with their photos and reasons for deciding to take on the challenge.

As a middle school science teacher, the magazine wrote, Tommy Rafes had written grants for exercise equipment, pedometers and heart rate monitors to help students and staff get healthier. But, she noted, each year their students "tend to have rounder middle sections, lower test scores and less self-esteem."

So, she tried a different approach by being a role model and walking a marathon.

“I told her, ‘If you do it again, I’ll do it with you,’” Rafes said. “I wanted to endorse individuals working toward physical fitness.”

They have made many a trip around ECU's track and are ready for a slightly longer walk than usual. They will arrive in Portland after 11 p.m. Saturday, or 1 a.m. Sunday, Oklahoma time, and be at the starting point between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

"I hope to complete the marathon the same day I start it," Rafes said.

Before leaving Oregon they also will visit Hallie Brown Ford, ECU's greatest benefactor who has given $6.5 million to ECU toward the construction of ECU's new fine arts center.

Prevention magazine and the Portland Marathon agreed to join forces this year, which is the marathon's 35th anniversary. Marathon officials said one-fourth of the participants the past two years have been walkers. Also, 58 percent of the participants are first-time marathoners and more than half of the participants are women.

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