A Charleston conservationist is taking on the New York City Marathon to raise money for protecting land and water in West Virginia.
The Nov. 7 race through the boroughs of America’s largest city will be the first ever marathon for Beth Wheatley, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. But when she was given the opportunity to join Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek and a small group of employees running to raise money for the Conservancy, she didn’t hesitate.
“I love running,” said Wheatley. "And I love working for The Nature Conservancy. I could not pass up a chance to run the New York City Marathon – one of the most exciting races in the country – to raise money for an organization doing some of the most amazing conservation projects in West Virginia and throughout the world."
Rodney Bartgis, The Nature Conservancy’s state director in West Virginia, asked Wheatley to join the small team of runners who will compete in the marathon to raise money for the private conservation organization.
“Beth has shown determination and persistence in both her work to conserve West Virginia’s wild places and her personal athletic pursuits, including other races, triathlons, and hiking West Virginia’s Mountains,” Bartgis said.
Wheatley, 39, is indeed an experienced distance-running athlete. She ran track and cross-country as a student at George Washington High School in Charleston and regularly runs distance races in and around West Virginia. Most recently, she has participated in the Great Greenbrier River Race (a triathlon), the Gristmill Grinder half marathon at Babcock State Park and a half marathon in Huntington. But this will be her first full marathon, and Wheatley acknowledges she got a late start in training, because she didn’t know she’d be entering the race until mid-September. Still, she said, she thought the eight weeks of intense training would be worth it, on behalf of her many co-workers at The Nature Conservancy.
“Though I have been working for this organization for more than six years, I am still in awe of my colleague’s successes,” she said, in her own account posted to her marathon web page. “Their work is conserving places for families to enjoy for generations and protecting habitat for plants and wildlife seen and unseen, like rare and delicate orchids, black bear, Indiana bats, and beautiful Cerulean warblers.”
So now she is working hard to catch up, with a training routine that includes yoga for flexibility, some bicycling for cross-training and long runs through the mountains surrounding Charleston and along the Kanawha River.
“The New York City marathon is not completely flat. You cross four bridges, and follow an incline into Central Park as you approach the 26th mile,” she said. “I am hoping that training in the mountains of West Virginia will help.”
Wheatley is working to raise $15,000 for the Conservancy’s work in West Virginia and has raised more than $6,000 so far. Supporters can help sponsor her run by visiting her marathon web page.
Bartgis urged West Virginians to help sponsor Wheatley’s run.
“In the last 12 months, the West Virginia chapter has protected over 3,000 acres of land stretching from the Potomac Highlands to the New River Gorge, helped restore hundreds of acres of forests and other habitats, provided educational opportunities for inner city youth, sponsored a variety of ecological research projects on our preserves, and provided technical expertise to other organizations in support of their conservation work,” Bartgis said.
“Supporting Beth’s run will help The Nature Conservancy continue its conservation work across the Mountain State.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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