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Runner in the City

Here we highlight local runners, customers and coaches. We'll learn how and why they started running, get their advice for runners, and share some secrets to running along the way. We look forward to featuring a new runner each month. If you have a suggestion, email us at info@rockcityrunning.com and your nominee may hold this spot next month!

All in the family (from left): Grandmother Margret Schafer, aunt Lisa Pierce, Ginea Hildebrand Qualls, daughter Savannah, and mom Barbie Hildebrand after the 2011 Duck Race in Stuttgart

September's Runner in the City shares our kind of family tradition. Little Rock Roadrunner Ginea Hildebrand Qualls and her mom Barbie Hildebrand have been a fixture at races and track workouts for decades. They made it truly a family sport racing together later in life.

Barbie began running in high school and started road racing in the 1980s. She ran when she was pregnant with Ginea in the mid-1970s, almost unheard of in those days. So even before she can remember, running has always been in Ginea's life. "When I was in high school mom ran the Memphis Marathon," Ginea says. "I remember finding her on the course, checking on her, cheering her on. I also vividly remember how exhausted she was after the race. Her arms hurt so badly. She couldn't get undressed to take a shower, so I helped her. I thought she was crazy to do something that caused so much pain. Little did I know I too would become a runner."

Ginea started running herself in 2002, recruited for a relay leg at the Little Rock Marathon. "The wife of a guy I worked with thought since my mom ran, I must run too," she recalls. Ginea naturally moved on to longer distances including the marathon. Perhaps she still finds those long ones a little crazy: One of her favorite races is the more modest Duck Race 10K in her hometown of Stuttgart.

Both Ginea and Barbie have run and medaled at multiple Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix races over the years, but it's the companionship, not the competition, that drives Ginea to run: "It's something I could do with my mom. Even though she was faster than me, traveling with her to races and waiting on her to run back and get me are some of my fondest running memories." She reinforces the family tradition, now setting the running example with her own daughter, Savannah.

Of course, Ginea has gotten a lot of great running advice, but not all of it has come from her mom. She recalls that when she wanted to run a better 5K time, "Jim Barton asked if I was making it hurt. I said no. He told me, 'If you want to run a fast 5k you have to make it hurt.'" She listened and broke 23 minutes at the next 5K! Still, Mother knows best: "Mom also told me to alternate water and Gatorade at each water stop (in long races). To this day I alternate my fluids."

Barbie Hildebrand out front at the 2006 Race For The Cure

Ginea likes to brag on her mom for the big day when at age 51, Barbie won Race for the Cure. At the finish, a shocked Barbie shouted, "I won!" She outran a large field, beating women 15, 20, and even 30 years her junior.

Family life has its peaks and valleys, though, and in 2013, Barbie made perhaps her most difficult decision: To retire. Ginea had mixed emotions. "When mom retired her running shoes, you would've thought someone had passed away. It crushed me," she says. "I'm extremely proud of her for having the courage to quit, ultimately stopping to prolong the life of her knees."

Ginea runs the half at the Little Rock Marathon about 16 weeks pregnant with Savannah

Now, Ginea appreciates the strength of character that is her family legacy: "I've seen so many runners run through pain and injury. Mom opted not to take that path. I respect her so much for making that tough decision. Very rarely do I go to a race and someone doesn't ask me about her. That speaks volumes about her and her running career."