In September 2006, I was at a difficult place in my life, coping with mild depression due to events in which I demonstrated poor judgment. The mystery of these circumstances is irrelevant: instead of wallowing in self-pity, I joined the Lake RidgeRunners, a local running club established since the late 1970s. Unexpectedly, and far more easily than anticipated, I moved on. Running enabled me to feel alive and well. It was a lifeline, an exercise that filled a void.
Before joining the club, I had never considered myself a runner nor completed more than two miles. The first time I showed up at the Springwoods Elementary School parking lot for the Tuesday evening circuit, most members were in their last days of training for the Marine Corps Marathon and had planned an “easy” six-miler to Davis Ford Road and back.
I didn’t run those six miles. I shuffled through a combination of walking, trotting, and some spurts of genuine running in ungainly form. Yet that initial group run lit something within me—the hope of perseverance and accomplishment.
I kept going because I was championed by runners with years of experience and enormous generosity: Papa, Ernie, JC, Anna, BC, Mollie, Jim, and Keith.
Even in the midst of their rigid training schedule, these runners walked with me when I couldn’t run. And when the sweat dripped down my back and matted my hair to my forehead, Ernie would say in his gorgeous Southern drawl, “Looking good, baby, looking good!” It was this kind of cheery disposition and unfailing support that helped me burn mile after mile during the following months.
The RidgeRunners became for me more than a circle of like-minded individuals with a punishing hobby. They were friends.
I spent over a year running the Tuesday and Thursday evening circuits with the RidgeRunners. Once or twice, in preparation for a marathon, I even made it to the Saturday morning circuit, which allowed me to see the sun rise slowly over the Lake Ridge horizon while winter winds condensed my breath and froze my toes.
My children’s soccer and swimming practices, along with other timely interferences, eventually paved the way for a different running schedule. When my daughter was a toddler, there were times when 11 p.m. was the only hour I could head out for a long jog. I kept in touch with the group, but I could no longer join them on their evening runs.
In many ways, such is the story of the club itself. The art of being busily occupied takes its toll on everyone at some point. Most of the club’s founding fathers have retired and moved out of the community. Last fall, group members stopped meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at Pizza Gourmet, as they had been doing for years. The website shut down in April.
In 2010-2011, the Turkey Trot 10K and the May Day 5K races were canceled. Organized by the RidgeRunners, these races were instrumental to the running community at large and local elementary school fitness programs, which used these races as completion goals.
Nonetheless, the club has not fully disbanded. Many of us have become solitary runners who continue to race and keep mileage logs. The Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association Recreation Department still receives inquiries about the club from prospective members. In this light, the time has come to regroup and build a broader, more family-friendly club.
Mollie will soon create a RidgeRunners Facebook Fan page and, with the help of my husband and the approval of LRPRA, I plan on reconstructing the website this summer. The RidgeRunners Club has spanned nearly four decades and changed many lives for the better. Together as a community of walkers and runners, we can put this club back on its feet and watch it take off, literally.
Regardless of your current fitness level, please join me on Saturday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m. by the stairs leading to the Lake Ridge Elementary School soccer field for an evening of physical activity and club reboot brainstorming. Bring your shoes, a water bottle, and your smile.