Running Club Provides Fun, Competition

Running Club Provides Fun, Competition

Running with club members can help with motivation.

Samantha Kirby Cole moved to Arlington in 1997 and it didn’t take long for her to find a sense of "community."

Cole, 42, competed in cross country and track while at Muskingum University in Ohio and wanted to get back into running after relocating to Arlington. She joined the Northern Virginia Running Club in 1998 after meeting a club member during her first race in the area.

Thirteen years later, Cole is co-president of the Nova Running Club and has worked her way from the club’s level three, geared toward less experienced runners, to level one.

"I do it for fun and I do it stay in shape," she said. "… We’re very community oriented. … We offer a community kind of feel, not just running. We back each other up and step in and do what we can."

The group meets at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria on Tuesdays. Members are trying to bring back a Thursday meeting in Arlington.

The three different group levels allow runners of all ability levels to join.

"I think of myself as being more competitive," Cole said. "I started off in group three and I moved up to group one. I try to compete, at least for my age. … I think it’s like a stress thing. I get to beat myself up for awhile and then I get to feel good about beating myself up. …

"[I would tell beginners] just to show up. We’ve got a coach to at least get them started. Showing up is the first step to getting something started. … You have people consistently there every week and they push" you.

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<b>Getting Back in Shape</b>

Kevin Shaw didn’t recognize the person in the photograph.

He did recognize it was time for a change.

Shaw was in his mid-40s when he saw a picture of himself painting a deck in Deep Creek, Md. At 5 feet 10, he weighed more than 250 pounds. The image proved to be a life-changer.

"It was almost like I didn’t recognize that person," he said. "… I was in an oversized XXXL T-shirt and I said, ‘That can’t be me,’ and I realized it was."

Shaw and his wife, Suzanne, contacted a nutritionist. He also started walking. With time and effort, Shaw’s walking turned to running. Within a year, he went from sitting on the couch to competing in a half marathon (13.1 miles). Within 18 months, he competed in a full marathon.

While working to shed pounds, Shaw joined the DC Road Runners running club in 2006 before joining the Reston Runners for two years. Now 51, the Kingstowne resident is president of the Kingstowne Striders, a group he helped launch in January of 2009. He weighs 168 pounds and has participated in three Iron Man triathlons and a pair of JFK 50-milers.

"I was really overweight," said Shaw, an information systems engineer with MITRE. "I lost 90 pounds during that process. I started walking and I wanted to do my first 5K and I wanted to run a little bit and eventually fell in love with running. …

"I love to run. My worst day running is better than my best day at work."

Running clubs helped Shaw develop an enjoyment for the sport. Along with surrounding oneself with a motivating support group, running clubs offer a social aspect. Shaw said it is important to find the group that is the best fit for one’s needs and goals.

"It’s a relationship. Not all clubs are built for everyone," Shaw said. "… Just finding a group of people that you seem to click with and that inspire you [is important]. Keep trying folks until you find a group that you like."

Shaw started the Kingstowne Striders as a way to experience the enjoyment he felt as a member of the Reston Runners while being able to run and create a sense of community closer to home. The group started with nine members and now includes more than 90 families, Shaw said. The group, which contains runners of all ability levels, offers social workouts on Saturdays and Sundays and more competitive track workouts on Tuesdays. There are also members only interested in walking.

The Kingstowne Striders are involved in two events which give back to the community: The Springfield 15K/5K in June raises money for youth programs in the greater Springfield area and the Jack T. Farrar Jr. "Fill the Shoes" 5K in November raises money for pancreatic cancer research.

Running with the Kingstowne Striders is one way to stay motivated. Shaw also signs up for races well in advance, knowing he’s going to compete one way or another, so he might as well make it easier on himself by staying in shape.

In terms of nutrition, Shaw said "I don’t beat myself up" when he overeats, instead choosing to re-focus the next day. Also, he realized losing weight was going to take time.

"I didn’t put all that weight on overnight," he said, "and it certainly wasn’t coming off overnight."

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<b>Pushing Forward</b>

Paul Jacobson’s desire to continue running into his 40s earned him personal recognition last year, when he was named the 2010 Montgomery County Road Runners Club’s master Runner of the Year.

The effect of Jacobson’s competitive nature on others, however, has been present for the last six years, while he was an assistant coach with the Churchill cross country team in Potomac, Md. This year, Jacobson will continue his influence on the Bulldogs with a new title: head coach.

Jacobson, 48, runs with members of the Churchill cross country team, helping push them to improve. Jacobson said Bulldog harriers comment that having their coach run with them has a positive influence.

Jacobson takes over a boys program that has finished state runner-up each of the last two seasons and figures to be a contender for the 2011 state crown. He said the girls team will be young.

"Some coaches don’t, but I run with them," said Jacobson, adding he fares well against his pupils. "They keep me fresh. … It’s different when the kids see you doing it."

Jacobson has been running since he was a 16-year-old at Einstein High School in Kensington and he continues to do so at a high level. While running with the Bulldogs keeps Jacobson "fresh," the first-year head coach said he also enjoys competing with the Montgomery County Road Runners Club.

"It was kind of a relief," Jacobson said of winning the master Runner of the Year honor. "I have been nominated many times. It was very close. … [Running is] definitely fun. I like the competition. … I was a better runner when I was younger, but I still want to compete and be the best I can be."

The MCRRC offers programs for those ranging from 5K walkers to experienced marathoners, according the club’s Website. The club will be participating in the Midsummer Night’s Mile at 7 p.m. on July 8 in Rockville and the Rockville Rotary Twilight 8K at 8:45 p.m. on July 16 in Rockville.