Linda Word is our race co-director and has an incredible story to tell
How many ex-smokers run the Boston Marathon? Probably quite a few. But how many of them also spent precious time training and coaching others and leading a pacing team through other races while training
That would be the one and only Linda Word.
Word, who serves as co-race director of the KY History Half Marathon, owner of ForWord Pacing and co-owner of 3 Sport Endurance has been running for 11 years. She says she prefers the half marathon distance since “it takes a while to do it – you have to train, but it doesn’t kill you for months like a full. I can enjoy it.”
Enjoying a healthy lifestyle is a huge deal for someone in Word’s shoes. She stubbed out her last cigarette in January 2008 after smoking for 25 years. A few months later she took up running in an effort to live a healthier life and to distract her from those tobacco cravings that plague almost every former smoker.
“When I finally was able to dump cigarettes, my coworkers were already running,” Word recalls. “It took me like an hour and a half to do 5 miles the first time. I thought I was going to die. It just gradually got easier and easier.”
Roughly 11 years after kicking the habit for good, Word completed the 2019 Boston Marathon. It was her eighth full marathon. (She’s up to almost 40 halfs.)
“Boston was an experience,” she reflects, adding, “I won’t do it again. It was a homecoming for me, because that’s where I’m from. I always knew about the marathon, but to be there and be a part of it was pretty cool.”
Still, she says, when people ask her if she had fun she responds, “I wouldn’t call it that. It was one of the harder marathons I’ve ever done. It was grueling.”
With Boston now on her resumé, Word is devoting the rest of the year to staying in shape and helping others. Coaching and pacing factor heavily into that. Adding pacing to her business lineup came about naturally, mostly as due to the 2015 RunTheBluegrass half marathon held each spring at Keeneland.
“I was an ambassador for them and they saw that I was bringing groups of people to the training runs,” she recalls. “They knew I led running groups and that I coached, so they asked if I’d be interested in coordinating the pacers for the race. So that’s how that started.
Pacing through history
The KY History Half soon joined her lineup. “In its first year the KY History Half used Beast Pacing, and I was one of their pacers. Then I decided to start my own pacing team and it just sort of melded together.”
Today her pacers help runners at not only RunTheBluegrass and the KY History Half, but at other races hosted by RaceRise.
While running might have evolved into her business, it’s still her passion, too. Word says that she’s made some of her best friends that way.
“For the most part runners are just extremely good people,” she notes. “They don’t care what your political views are and what you do for a job. I’ve met so many people I wouldn’t have met under any other circumstances. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life while running.”
As for running in Frankfort? “Everywhere you go it’s beautiful,” she says. “It’s a very warm community. I also like running here because there are a lot of different options: We have the trail runs, you can run downtown, you can run everywhere.”
Being surrounded by history doesn’t hurt, either.
“I like weird facts and weird, quirky history,” she says, going on to explain that, being from Boston, it was natural that she knew all about the Revolutionary War. When she moved south, she soon learned tons about the Civil War, too.
Her favorite Kentucky history factoid, however, isn’t centered on the Civil War or even one of the commonwealth’s numerous colorful characters. Instead, it involves an Indian Ridge Farm-bred racehorse named Brass Hat.
“He is a little gelding who would start way in the back and then just zoom up to the front,” Word says. “He raced from 2004 to 2010 and in the middle of that time had what should have been a career-ending injury. But he came back and went on to win over $2 million in his career.
“Now he’s a family pet and babysitter for the younger horses. He’s a history maker. He’s the little horse that could.”
As for her own place in Kentucky’s history books? “I hope it’s not that ‘she died a dramatic death,’ ” she jokes. Then, growing serious, she responds, “I probably would like to be remembered as a runner and a good coach – someone who inspired other people to run and encouraged others.”