Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Born to Run, You Might Say; 9-Year-Old's a River Run Record-Holder

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Born to Run, You Might Say; 9-Year-Old's a River Run Record-Holder

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, Shorelines staff writer

She's only 9 years old, but Nancy Harms will be among the 7,000 runners competing in today's Gate River Run in Jacksonville.

The Neptune Beach third-grader will take off at the 8:30 a.m. Duval Street shotgun start, dash over the Main Street bridge, scurry down San Marco Boulevard, race through Jacksonville streets toward the Hart Bridge, hotfoot it over the soaring span and sprint toward the finish line of the U.S. 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) national championship course.

Even at her age, Nancy is serious about running. She set the River Run female record for her age group when she was 7. She bested her personal record by a half hour last year, setting the record for 8-year-old girls at 1 hour, 25 minutes.

And she expects to do well this year, too. She's been practicing. Three days a week after school, she runs about 2 miles through her Indian Woods neighborhood with her dad, Craig Harms.

Sometimes Nancy practices with her mom, Susan Harms. The sport runs in the Harms family. Craig and Susan have been serious competitors for years. The entire family will be seeded in the River Run, allowing them to start the race up front with the best 1,000 runners.

"I think I was born with the talent," Nancy said Monday during an interview in the family home.

She's the fastest kid in her Beaches Episcopal School class. She can

even beat all the boys. But the "neatest" thing about running is that it allows her to become "famous," she said. She's been on TV twice, featured on Jacksonville news broadcasts after her 7- and 8-year-old efforts.

"My dad used to be famous. They're all his trophies," Nancy said as she hopped up and down on the sofa and pointed to a living room wall filled with awards.

Craig Harms has run in races all over the country. He's won seven marathons, including the National Track and Field Hall of Fame Marathon, where he finished in 2 hours, 23 minutes. He's the second person in the world to run 100 marathons in under three hours.

Susan Harms has a lot of trophies too. While "not as competitive" as she used to be, she still places in the top tier of women in her age group.

Nancy, an only child, has trophies and medals of her own. She started running competitively at age 4 in fun runs -- 1-mile races for young children that are usually associated with adult competitions. Now she runs with adults, accompanying her parents to area races. Her favorites are the cross-country races, where runners race over fields and through wooded areas.

Cross-country races are the easiest, Nancy said. She likes to run on dirt.

Most people don't think that way, Susan Harms said. "Dirt slows them down."

Not much seems to slow Nancy down. Wiry and energetic, she whirled about the house during her interview, showing off her room, her cats, her trophies and her minerals. …

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