Guilderland women named Freihofer’s ambassadors

Bethany Mazura

— Photo from Bethany Mazura
Bethany Mazura of Guilderland calls herself a “back-of-the-pack runner.” But, speed aside, after starting with the Freihofer’s couch-to-5K training, she has become an avid runner who has completed ultramarathons. “My 9-year-old can’t take a picture without making a face,” she noted.

GUILDERLAND — Lisa Ciancetta, 59, of Guilderland chose to become a Freihofer’s Run for Women Ambassador this year because she has been taking part in the race for almost a decade — this year’s race will be her 10th — and she loves the atmosphere, she said, of “women coming together, empowering each other, encouraging each other.” 

The Freihofer’s Run for Women, now in its forty-second year, is open only to women. It has grown over the years and now attracts thousands of athletes, including elite runners from around the world as well as local recreational runners.

This is the second year of the Ambassadors program. Ambassadors receive free entry for themselves and two friends to the race as well as racing apparel and other perks in exchange for publicizing the race on social media and encouraging other women to take part. 

The Freihofer’s Run for Women is held in Albany in late May or early June. It begins and ends near the state museum on Madison Avenue and includes a loop through Albany’s Washington Park.

Ciancetta’s first time running the race, she was having trouble with seasonal allergies, Ciancetta told The Enterprise, and “it was tough breathing.” A woman she didn’t know slowed down and told her, “You can do it,” and proceeded to stick by her for the rest of the race, across the finish line. 

“Personally, I like it,” Ciancetta said of the Freihofer’s, “because it’s not like we’re competing against each other; we’re just competing against ourselves.” 

Ciancetta started running 11 years ago at age 48. She was going through a divorce and, with her daughter off at college, she said, “I needed something to release my energy.” 

The Freihofer’s Run for Women also hosts a number of 11-week training challenge groups that can help anyone learn to start running and that culminate in the race, she said. These couch-to-5K programs are offered at a number of times and locations throughout the Capital District. At each location, runners divide themselves into beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups, and do different workouts geared to their current ability. 

When Ciancetta first started participating in the couch-to-5K program, she said, she started at the beginner level, and the practices alternated between running and walking. The first week, she said, “We ran a whole minute … It felt great to run for a whole minute. The following week, we ran 90 seconds.” 

Now Ciancetta is planning to lead one of the 11-week training programs, to be held at the Guilderland YMCA, starting March 16 and leading up to the race, which is scheduled this year for May 30. Ciancetta estimates that she now runs between12 and 16 miles a week. 

The race launched its Ambassador program last year, with 12 ambassadors, said Ed Parham of Rueckert Advertising and Public Relations, who announced the selection of ambassadors in a press release. Last year’s program was “such a success” that race organizers decided to expand it this year to 20, Parham said. Seventy-six women applied this year, and it was hard to whittle them down so 26 were named ambassadors instead of 20, Parham said.

Participation in the race stood at 3,445 last year, said Parham, who added that it usually hovers around 3,500. Freihofer’s Baking Company founded the race in 1979 and remains its title sponsor, he said.

Other local ambassadors this year include Raechel Fraterrigo of Altamont and Bethany Mazura of Guilderland. 

Mazura, 42, an attorney who works for the state, said that what she loves about this race is that it is for “all women, all ages, all abilities.” She described herself as a “back-of-the-pack runner” and said she belongs to an online group called “The Slow AF Run Club.” 

“We even have shirts,” she said.

Speed aside, Mazura has run in a variety of races, all the way up to ultramarathons, which is any race longer than a traditional marathon of 26.219 miles. “I have two 50Ks under my belt,” she said. 

She also loves the amount of support shown by the community. There are many people — including fathers, brothers, and husbands of runners — standing all along the race course, cheering runners on as they go by, Mazura said. “You feel like a rock star when you come down that hill at the end. Everyone is cheering for you, even if you’re the last one.” 

When Freihofer’s started the run, event co-director Patrick Lynskey told The Enterprise, there was just one race in the country — in New York City — that was open exclusively to women.

It was a different time, he said, not long after the passage of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibited sex discrimination in sports in schools. It was before a women’s 5K, 10K, or marathon were included in the Olympics, all of which happened in the 1980s, he pointed out. 

“In the late 1970s, there weren’t many opportunities for women to race head-to-head against one another without competing against men,” Lynskey said. 

The intent of the race, he said, is to allow women to experience the sport and “hopefully an appreciation for an active and healthy lifestyle.” 


More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.