When I wrote a piece last month about the rising popularity of the half- marathon, I looked for people training for their first half.

One e-mail stuck out. Subject line: "Running my first half marathon this fall!" The e-mail was full of exclamation points and excitement and ended with "Woot!"

The writer was Megan Ritter. While she didn't quite fit the piece I was writing then, her e-mail and her enthusiasm stuck in my mind, especially as I made my first slow, painful, curse-filled, hot runs after being injured for three months.

So I checked back in with Ritter last week. Turns out that she and her husband, Matt, are running this weekend's Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. It's a first for them both.

They didn't consider themselves runners before they started training for a half. They did their first 10K in 2001, a few 5Ks along the way, and then, after moving to Haddonfield from Denver, three Philadelphia Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Runs starting in 2010.

"We decided we were done getting dirty," said Ritter, 39, who is a stay-at-home mother to the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Finnley. "We just wanted to run and be on the road."

This spring, they did the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5K run. Megan Ritter said she loved it, and continued to run. She started following Scootadoot, a group of women runners that raises money for Alex's Lemonade Stand, and because of them in July did the Jog & Hog 5K in New Hope, where runners do two miles before eating a quart of vanilla ice cream, then run the rest of the race.

"It was brutal, but I got the bug," she said.

She suggested to Matt, 43, director of the Philadelphia zone office for Subaru of America, that he might want to consider a half-marathon since he continued to mix runs into his regular workout routine.

"So I went out and ran a good long run and finished about nine miles," he said. "I thought if I can do that, I can get out four more."

He signed up for the September race.

"I thought that I was going to have a cheering section with my wife and daughter, and two weeks later she said, 'I'm going to run it too,' " he said. "It's great. We're in this together."

They do not train together. Their paces are too different, they said, as are their schedules. Megan runs when Finnley is in school; Matt, around his work days. Even though they're not running side by side, they feed off each other: talk about their schedules, match mileage, and use each other for inspiration.

"When I see my wife go out regardless of weather - it might be a hot and muggy morning or raining - but to see her go out and still do her run would motivate me. No excuses. Let's go get in a run," Matt Ritter said.

The same enthusiasm that filled Megan Ritter's first e-mail is being carried into the race by both. Neither one really has a time goal, just to finish.

"We have no idea what to expect," said Matt Ritter. "We're looking forward to the element of surprise and seeing how we react to whatever the environment serves up."


Racing Schedule


Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run. Registration and information: RunRocknRoll.com/Philadelphia

Battle the Beach 5K, Wildwood, 8 a.m. start, $20, but runners must fund-raise $75. Obstacles on beach, get splattered with dye, etc.


RSDSA 3.65-mile Fun Run/Walk, Cooper River Park Stadium, Pennsauken, 9 a.m. start, $25 preregistration, $35 race day, SJTiming.com, crpsrsdwalk@gmail.com.

Cape May Beach Front Run 5M, 2M, Cape May, 8:30 a.m. Mile start, 9:15 a.m. 5-mile start. $20 pre, $25 post. Start/finish at the Cape May Convention Center on the beachfront.

Virtua Health/Fitness 5K, Mount Holly, 8:30 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. 5-year age groups. Starts at 520 Jacksonville Rd.

Deborah Hospital Foundation 5K, Medford, 9 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. Starts at Freedom Park

RBG Rotary 5K, Runnemede, 8:30 a.m., $20 pre, $25 post. Starts at Triton High School

Next Sunday

New Britain Twp. Business Alliance 5K, North Branch Park, 207 Park Ave., Chalfont. Contact Cathy Scanlon at cathy_scanlon@comcast.net. Registration: pretzelcitysports.com

Sept. 28

Beat the Clock Against Breast Cancer 5K, Stone Harbor, 9 a.m. start.

$15 pre, $18 post. 96th & First Avenue start.

Book it 5K, Vineland, N.J., 9 a.m. start. $20 pre, $25 post. South Vineland Park

Tea Burner 5K, Greenwich, N.J. 9 a.m. start $20 pre, $25 post. "Cannon start" on

Ye Olde Greate Street.

E-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information, to sports editor John Quinn at jquinn@phillynews.com.