BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When it comes to their marriage, Derek and Danielle Dowell have found a common bond that goes beyond the typical limits of a relationship.
Derek, an ultramarathon runner, inspired Danielle to pick up the hobby of running. When the couple connected in 2016, Derek was already an avid runner and bodybuilder.
As an active Marine, personal trainer and certified running coach, Derek enjoys staying in shape by participating in ultramarathons and 100-mile races across the country. An ultramarathon is any race that surpasses the traditional 26.2-mile marathon distance.
As Danielle traveled with Derek to races across the country at the beginning of their relationship, she was motivated to pursue running herself.
“I knew how much he loved it,” Danielle said in an interview with Liz Koh for WAFB’s Get Fit Red Stick. “Instead of just me going to his races every weekend, I wanted to, you know, do it also.”
Throughout their marriage, fitness has become a focus the couple is able to share and enjoy together.
“It just gives us a common bond. It’s something that we share every day,” Derek said. “I think it’s just great for our relationship.”
Danielle agrees, saying the challenges of running have helped their relationship grow stronger.
“It kind of tears you down,” Danielle said. “It’s just nice because you just share that bond together and you’re able to break down, mentally, and all the barriers, and just reconnect on different levels.”
Danielle has improved her running to keep up with Derek on their weekly runs throughout Baton Rouge and in races together, starting with 5k and 10k races and working her way up to marathons.
“When we first started, if he ran a marathon and I ran a half, he would lap me, but now he can’t,” Danielle said. “I’m just naturally getting faster just because I’m adding more miles each week, and that’s why I know anyone can do it.”
The couple hopes to encourage others to pick up running, saying the best way to start is to do just that.
“Just get out there and do it,” Derek said. “Start small and just hold yourself accountable, get out there and run miles.”
With that mentality, Derek has been able to accomplish many firsts as a runner, including being the first runner from Louisiana to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. The challenge consists of running five 100-mile races in a 15-week summer season.
Derek is also currently training for what is known as “the world’s toughest foot race,” -- the Badwater 135 in July. The race covers 135 miles, three mountain ranges and begins at Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation in North America, with temperatures reaching over 130 degrees. It is a nonstop race from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, Calif.
“We did it in 2016 and he did it and finished it, but we’re going to try to go back and beat our time from that year,” Danielle said.
The couple knows running in extreme conditions is not for everyone, but they recommend running not only for the health aspect, but for the personal feeling of accomplishment as well.
“I’m getting better just for myself,” Danielle said. “It’s not about who’s winning, it’s about doing better for yourself. Don’t be intimidated by all of these fast runners.”
“Don’t care or worry about what other people are going to think about your time,” Derek said. “Just do it for you.”
The couple’s next goal is to complete a 100-mile race together, running side-by-side for the entirety of the race. They joked that completing the race will be the true test of marriage.
“Hopefully we’ll still be married by the end of it,” Derek said.
You can keep up with the couple’s fitness endeavors through their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as the WAFB Get Fit Red Stick Facebook page.