Running club strides through city with weekly jaunts
Run and fun don't always find each other in the same sentence, but for a Tonganoxie group, that's the objective.
The Tonganoxie Striders Running Club was created last October. The group, part of the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission, has 20 members, including TRC director Mark Zerrer, and his wife, Debbie, who was a driving force in getting the club on its feet.
¢ Membership with the Tonganoxie Striders is $25 per year, which includes a club T-shirt.
¢ For more information, call (913) 845-3502.
¢ These members are part of the running club: Ronda Andrews, Biff Blankenship, Toni Blankenship, LeAnn Bond, Chuck Clark, Erica Clark, Shanon Downing, Andy Kolman, Kim Kolman, Bill Mages, Pam Mooberry, Kent Needham, Catherine Patrick, Jill Rogers, Justin Smith, Elaine Standish, David Wahlgren, Debbie Zerrer, Mark Zerrer and Sandi Weide.
"Mark and I like to run and a lot of other communities have running clubs, so we thought we'd try it," Debbie Zerrer said. "We knew a lot of people who ran around here."
According to Mark Zerrer, runners usually participate in shifts. With the group meeting every Monday, about half the members will be in attendance. Workouts range from 20-minute walk-jogs to 5.5-mile runs, Debbie said.
Although the club has 20 members, it's not an exclusive group. Anyone can join, and one doesn't have to be a gung-ho runner to be a member.
"I've been trying to recruit people left and right at the gym," member Jill Rogers said. "Everyone's under the impression that you have to be a runner, and that's not true."
In fact, the club so far has attracted mothers and sons, husbands and wives and individuals trying to get fit.
Another group of runners always has a running partner -- even when they're alone.
Rogers, along with Shanon Downing and LeAnn Bond, are pregnant.
Rogers started running when the club began in October. Already an avid runner before joining, she found out three weeks after becoming a member that she was pregnant. Rogers is about six months along, as is Bond. Downing, who is from Eudora, works with Rogers in Lawrence and joined because of her. She is about four-and-a-half months pregnant.
"I'm still running slowly," Rogers said. "I've been tapering off a little bit."
The Tonganoxie woman cut back to the tune of a 5K run/walk at Lawrence's Shamrock Shuffle on March 8. Downing, Pam Mooberry, Erica and Chuck Clark, Justin Smith and Ronda Andrews also participated.
"We cheered each other on because we all run at different paces," said Rogers, who plans to run in a 10K after she has her baby.
A year has made a difference for the group's third pregnant member. Bond participated in a marathon about a year ago in New Orleans, but her pace is a bit altered these days.
"Life has changed," Bond said. "When I go, I walk."
That route has suited some members in the group just fine.
Kim Kolman joined the club to get more exercise and loosen up a back that has bothered her in the past.
"Even if I didn't run, I could at least walk," Kolman said.
After joining, Kim urged her son, Andy, to enter the club as off-season training. Andy runs cross country and track at Tonganoxie High.
"She told me about it and I thought it would be a good idea, so I went willingly," Andy said.
The club has attracted family involvement. Along with the Kolmans, Biff and Toni Blankenship, the Clarks and the Zerrers all run together with the Striders.
For the Clarks, this form of exercise has been a different path.
Erica has never considered herself an outstanding athlete, while Chuck was accustomed to short-distance bursts on the football field at Butler County Community College and then at Baker University in Baldwin.
After joining Midwest Health Center to stay fit, Erica found running to be addictive.
"If you ask him, he will say that I drag him along, that I made him do it," Erica said.
That was true for Chuck initially.
But that's changed since being in the club, although he still feels a little out of place.
"At 6-2, 240, I don't look like most runners I see out running," Chuck said.
Club runners have various weekly training workouts they can follow. The Clarks, for instance, ran eight miles on Sunday -- the couples' wedding anniversary.
"We joked about how far we've come by running eight miles on our 12th anniversary," Erica said.
Another member, Kent Needham, has dusted off his running shoes since joining the club. After a long hiatus from running, Needham is getting back in a groove.
"I used to run several years ago and I knew it would be good exercise and something I would enjoy doing," Needham said. "The camaraderie of the other runners was a good thing."
Along with the weekly group runs on Mondays, the club also has prediction runs. On New Year's Day, the runners had their first, a 5K run in which runners predict their times. Whoever comes closest to the time without exceeding it wins. Bill Mages came the closest, finishing 38 seconds under his predicted time.
Debbie Zerrer said the group probably would do three or four prediction runs per year.
The running club has attracted walkers, runners and various paces in between, but a few members are preparing for a big run come May.
The 26th annual Lincoln All-Sport Marathon and Half-Marathon will start at 7 a.m. May 4 in Lincoln, Neb.
The marathon will begin on the University of Nebraska campus and the Zerrers, Clarks, Pam Mooberry and Ronda Andrews all will compete in the half-marathon, which will be a 13.1-mile course.
Erica Clark said that she's shooting for a 10-minute-per-mile pace when the Tonganoxie runners head to Lincoln.
If that experience goes well, she would like to someday run in a marathon.
Until then, she will keep training in her new-found sport.
"You can be fit and not necessarily be Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Mike Piazza," Clark said. "It's good for your mental health and your physical health."
As for her husband, Chuck is getting more comfortable with the idea of running in the half-marathon. And no matter what, he thinks he'll keep up with Erica.
"My wife was the one I used to tease," Chuck said. "She wasn't going to outrun me because she was going to carry my oxygen bottle."
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