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Personal trainer Frieden credited with igniting Baby Boomers' passion

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When it comes to imagining a marathon runner, most people would picture a lithe, tan, former high school track star with their bare arms pumping as they speed down the street. Susan Bearden and Gary Korsgaden, with all due respect, are not what most people would imagine.

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Susan Bearden is 61 years old, a retired schoolteacher, and has absolutely no previous running experience. Yet on May 19, she joined almost 1,830 other runners in Fargo for the annual Marathon Weekend.

"It's all thanks to Sarah," she said. "She's the most phenomenal trainer. She made a total difference in my life."

Sarah Frieden is Susan Bearden's personal trainer and good friend.

"She only had me on a treadmill because I didn't want to get cold running in the winter, but that was enough, I guess!" she said.

It was with Sarah's help that Susan found the drive to push herself beyond what was expected of her.

"People were telling me 'You're too old', but I didn't listen," Susan said. "I kept going. You're never too old to do something healthy."

And keep going she did. What started out as training for a local bike race developed over the course of a year into the conquering of a half-marathon in Fargo with over a thousand people.

"It was a wonderful experience!" Susan raved. "People were cheering, bands were playing...it was a lot of fun."

When asked if she still uses Sarah's guidance, Susan had this to say: "Yes. I will use her [training] until I die."

Gary Korsgaden is a 58-year-old salesman. While he did have running experience in his younger years, he recently had a slight setback.

Five years ago, in 2007, Gary had a heart attack.

"It happened about 1:30 in the morning on a Saturday and I had a tightness on the left side of my chest and I was choking," he said.

Gary was airlifted to Fargo within a few hours. After he received treatment, he would hear the news that 38 percent of his heart had been damaged.

"[Mostly it was] hereditary. My dad had a heart attack at the same age as me in March, and he didn't survive ... but prior to my heart attack, in the eighties - early eighties - I did some running," he said. "So I think that attributed to a stronger heart. Also, I never smoked. But I was overweight by about 50 to 55 pounds."

He was released five days later and began cardiac rehab at St. Joseph's Area Health Services.

"When I got to the end [of rehab], I decided, because of my work schedule, it was time to join a gym," Gary said. "So I went and exercised on my own at the gym - at Anytime Fitness - because then I can exercise at anytime that's convenient for me."

Gary regularly utilized the gym's facilities, and his health steadily improved over time. But for all of the work he put in at the gym, he felt he was falling short.

"...I realized that I started to reach a plateau on my weight," he said. "I was hanging at right about 220 [lbs]. And I was frustrated, [thinking] 'What could I do to bring that weight down?' That's when I decided 'I need to take another step.'... That's when I hired a personal trainer."

That personal trainer turned out to be none other than Sarah Frieden, Susan Bearden's personal trainer as well.

"I had so much support from the people at the gym," Gary said. "People like Rita Anderson, Sue [Susan] Bearden, and, of course, Sarah, my trainer ... she said to me, 'Have you thought about running?' and I said, 'Well, I love to run.' And she said, 'Try running.'

He did more than just try. He committed almost all of his individual attention to his good health, not just in exercise, but in healthy eating as well.

"At first I thought, 'Ya know Sarah, this is way overwhelming to do.' But ya know, pretty soon you become a creature of habit. And I've gotten to the point that if I don't exercise ... within a day or two, I get very irritable," he explained. "And then your food choices change. All of a sudden it's easy to shove off the [fattening] Mexican food and eat healthy."

Before he knew it, he was registering for and competing in the half-marathon.

"When they interviewed me at the finish line in Fargo, [I told them] I never envisioned when I was on that airplane from Park Rapids to Fargo-Sanford that I would ever run a marathon," he said. "But it's through encouragement of a number of people at the gym."

When asked if they would be competing again next year, both Susan and Gary were firm in their answers:

"Yes. Definitely," said Susan Bearden

"There's no question," said Gary Korsgaden.

Keep an eye out for them next year. This was their first half-marathon, and they plan on improving their times next year.

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