Tuesday Testimonial

Guest Post by Stacey Greenberg

I played soccer growing up, all the way through high school, and into college. I tore my ACL freshman year and had to endure surgery and eight months of rehab. That resulted in a much higher interest in barhopping than sports for the rest of my college days…and well, my twenties as a whole.

After having kids in my 30s, I somehow ended up on a Roller Derby team. It was super fun until I had my leg broken in two places, which resulted in another surgery. This time I had a twelve inch metal rod hammered into my tibia.

Desperately needing to get in shape as my forties approached, I signed up for a boot camp class. It only took two weeks before I hurt my knee and had to take a break.

See a pattern here?

Despite thinking I couldn’t run because of all of the metal in my legs, a friend and I muddled our way through the Couch to 5K app, and then continued running on our own for about a year. We weren’t really getting any faster or going any further on our own, so we decided to sign up with Star Runners last fall for the half marathon training group. It seemed like a crazy idea at the time—a half marathon!—but we did it.

And then we did another one. And then we signed up for Star’s triathlon training group. We completed the Memphis in May Sprint, the Dragonfly Tri, and have two more races fast approaching. Now I don’t just run on a regular basis, I swim and bike too.

This is all in less than a year!

I think what’s most notable, at least for me, is that I have been 100% injury free. Star is very serious about everyone sticking to a plan and not overdoing things. She has provided so much guidance and offered so much support, it’s been impossible to fail. I’m in the best shape of my life, and for the first time in over twenty years, I think of myself as an athlete.

Thank you, Star!

Tuesday Testimonial

guest post:  Brad Heinz

Star Runners is truly a running group for anyone, at any level. I recently joined a group that changed my life and it can change yours.

A few years back my wife, Sally, worked with Star Runners in preparation for the St. Jude half marathon and ended up training for two consecutive years. She liked the program, enjoyed the people, and was thoroughly prepared for each race. During this time, Sally kept suggesting that I might like to join the running group too, and how great it was to run with other people, all with a common goal. I dismissed the idea because I thought it was for beginner runners, plus I didn’t believe running with a group would benefit me. I found out later that my assumptions were wrong.

As a 30 year running veteran, with an on and off running commitment over the past 20 years, I realized I needed to back off on trying to run every day and incorporate some cross-training, so cycling and swimming made the most sense. A friend suggested that we enter a beginner triathlon, so with minimal preparation and training, I completed my first sprint distance triathlon in 2011, on a hybrid bike. I knew how to run, had cycled a little, but was a weak swimmer. It wasn’t pretty, but I finished in one piece. I continued to run and cycle for the remainder of the year, but decided to get more serious about it in 2012.

Star Runners launched a triathlon training group in early 2012, so I decided I would give organized training a try. I bought a decent road bike and joined the group which started in January and was geared toward completing the Memphis in May Sprint and Olympic distance events.

My running experience includes a fair number of races of all the usual distances, plus one marathon; the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, WA, which allowed amateurs to compete with elite runners. During all these years I rarely ran with anyone else, let alone with an organized group.

When the tri training started, I was comfortable enough with the running distances and being with other runners, but cycling and swimming were another story. Star made it clear early on, that we would be wearing tri suits for the event, so all the appropriate apparel was required if we were to do this right. Squeezing into cycling shorts and a shirt that felt two sizes too small, (not to mention swim shorts in a pool with mostly women, nearly half my age), was not my idea of fun and it pushed my comfort zone. Star asked what my goals were as we began the process. For being a self-coached runner, I had some success and my best race times are behind me. However, my main goals were to lose 10-15 pounds, develop healthier habits, and to feel better.

As the weekly workout emails came, group runs and rides completed, and the days and weeks went by, I realized that all of us were in this program together and we all had to train hard, each and every day. Nearly every one of us was a novice at one or more of three sports. Star had the wherewithal and good sense to bring in a professional and arranged to have a swim clinic at Rhodes College with the swim coach, which worked out well. It was during this clinic, that I felt the sense of being on a team. The coach gave us drills, which were not easy, and off we swam. When finished I was thoroughly exhausted, yet satisfied, knowing that I really worked.

I was completely humbled in the pool, and, riding with clip-in pedals was also a reality check. Back in January, it only took me 15 minutes to fall on my face, not once, but twice, trying to get out of the pedals. A couple of weeks went by before I rode that brand new, slightly dinged-up bike.

The Memphis in May triathlon was a success. It was my first open water swim, along with many others in the group. We were all truly happy for one another having completed this event as a team. It’s not easy putting three sports together under racing conditions. Since then, a number of us have done one or more triathlons, with more to follow this summer.

I really enjoyed the daily training and particularly the days when we worked out twice. When the training schedule ended, I felt a little out of sorts, not seeing my training buddies or working out with some direction. Presently, I continue to ride and swim on my own and also ride with a group once a week.

If you join Star Runners you get the benefit of having two seasoned athletes, coaches, and mentors for the price of one, plus the bases are covered for any unique male and female differences, problems, or needs.

Star and Keith have tremendous experience, are willing to share their knowledge and time (they also participate in most of the workouts); they foster a healthy, positive environment, are approachable, and make things fun. They practice what they preach, they’re winners, and are also the kind of people that I want to associate with. This also holds true for the rest of the group members. I’ve met many new friends and am thankful for this.

I’ve also realized that being part of a running or tri group is not a one time event. For me, it’s a healthy lifestyle change that I always wanted and am now realizing. Since the triathlon training, Sally and I joined the marathon training group and are well on our way toward my second, and her first marathon. We had no intention of running a marathon, but the magic and spirit of Star Runners, persuaded us that we can, should, and will do this.

Here’s a word of thanks to Star and Keith Ritchey. You both put a tremendous amount of time and effort into these training groups and I don’t know if you realize this or not, but you are changing peoples lives, one mile, and one day at a time. You have the respect of your peers.

Keep up the great work! Next time, I’ll listen to my wife.

Brad H.

Love Affair

Most people assume I have always had a love affair with Running.  Not the case.  It took several years before I truly fell in love with Running but I think it took Running even longer to fall in love with me.

When I decided I would start running, I just expected this perfect relationship…the one where you are so excited to be together, the one where you feel so comfortable, the one that is “the” one.  I was surprised when it was not this way.  I felt like I was constantly giving it my all but Running wasn’t giving anything to me.  Or was it?

Yes, Running had a funny way of teaching me perseverance and determination.  I think Running knows that if it’s too easy you won’t come back for more.  You have to prove to Running that you’re in it for the long haul and then Running will start letting you in.  I ran for a couple of years before I ever felt like I found my groove.  I had done 2 Half Marathons but still didn’t really love Running like I wanted to love Running.  I was frustrated and really couldn’t figure it out and then it hit me, I was expecting too much out of this fairly new relationship.

I expected every run to feel good and be perfect and they’re just not that way.  It wasn’t until my 3rd Half Marathon, the first I was running completely on my own- didn’t even know anyone else in the race, that I realized that sometimes the “bad” runs are just as epic as the good ones.  That race changed me.  It changed my relationship with Running.  I began to respect Running more and I think Running maybe even started to fall for me a little bit.  It seemed that we finally started to find our balance.

Many Half Marathons and a couple of Marathons later, this love affair between me and Running has really blossomed.  We still struggle on occasion but we know we’re in it for the long haul.  No matter how frustrated I get when a run doesn’t go my way, I never regret it.  It just keeps me wanting to come back for more.  I know that this relationship cannot be one sided.  I have to give a lot if a lot is what I expect in return.  Like any other relationship, this one has to be nurtured as it is constantly evolving.

This is a relationship I’m happy and proud to be a part of.  Running, I’m pretty sure you’re the one for me.

Tuesday Testimonial

Guest Post by Toby Sells

I rose at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday to meet my team for a three-mile run with fartleks. If the me before Star Runners would have read that four years ago, he would have been incredulous and confused.  “No way you got up that early on Tuesday. Monday is pint night at your favorite bar,” he would have said. “Why did you run three miles? Someone chasing you?”

Yeah, he was a real funny guy. So, you can imagine what he would’ve thought about “fartleks.” But at least that guy back then knew he wanted a change from his couch-and-bar-stool lifestyle.
I just didn’t know how the miles (somewhere north of at least 1,500 miles by now) I’ve run with Star and Keith Ritchey would change me. No, I’m not a model or an athlete now. But I’ve got push. Push enough to run those training miles even when I don’t want to. Push enough to get over the finish lines of a marathon, a handful of half marathons, a 200-mile team relay and a bunch of other races – stuff I honestly never thought I could do.
Those miles have also helped me deal with the tough stuff of life. Some runs feel like outdoor therapy sessions with friends.
 This team works for me. My teammates are supportive because we’re in it together in one way or another. Our coaches, Star and Keith, stay true to their core values of hard work and consistency and never make light of someone’s effort or lack of knowledge.
 Even the me before Star Runners would’ve been in to that. The me as a Star Runner is glad he decided to try.

Evolution

I haven’t always been a runner.  I have always been intrigued by running but mainly for the reason that the New York Marathon seemed really cool.  I fell in love with New York in 8th grade when my mom let me tag along on a work trip.  Then even more so when she took me and my best friend for my 16th birthday.  I remember hearing about the NY Marathon (it’s always the week before my birthday) and thinking, “oooh, maybe i’ll do that one day!”  Funny thing about that is I wasn’t a runner…not just a little bit ‘not a runner’ but really not a runner at all!  A girl can still dream.

Fast forward many years and I hadn’t ever really attempted running nor had I ever said out loud, “I want to be a runner”, but I was fit and active and a friend approached me about training for a Half Marathon and I immediately said “yes.”  We talked about it on a Friday night over drinks and met for our first training run on the following Monday morning.  When I decide I’m going to do something, there’s usually no stopping me.  It’s not a competitiveness as much as it is a stubbornness but whatever it takes, I’ll take it.  Once I’m ready to face a fear, I want to tackle it head-on.

I did tons of research to find a training plan..we basically went with the beginners plan that many people follow- run 3 miles a couple of days a week and go up a mile every weekend.  Ok, seemed easy enough.  We trained in old gym shorts and cotton t-shirts.  We didn’t run with music…mainly because ipods didn’t exist!..and we never once uttered the word “fuel.”  We ran the race, maybe took 1 cup of water along the course, finished the race, and ate donuts and drank beer like it was our last ever.

Was it a good race for me?  Well, of course!  It was my first Half Marathon so it was great…but because it was my first, not because it was a smart race.  I continued to run and the next year, same thing.  I trained pretty much the same way, wore the same clothes, and had the same kind of finish.  I didn’t have much improvement from my first Half to my second.

Again, I kept running.  I eventually learned that if I ate before my runs, I would feel better.  I switched from a cotton t-shirt to a cotton tank top.  I added a little bit of distance during the week but I still never varied my pace, I never fueled, and I also didn’t improve much.  Of course, I had read and heard about moisture wicking clothing, fueling (before, during, and after), speed work, slow runs…you name it, i had read about it but i hadn’t really tried any of it.  I think I still suffered from that idea that maybe I didn’t need to be worrying about all of that stuff because that stuff is just meant for the super fast runners, the race winners.

Then I woke up and realized that’s nuts!  Why would I not do everything I can to make myself have a better run, whether “better” for me that day is faster or easier or more comfortable or just more fun.  It was a gradual evolution but eventually I was fueling before, during, and after long runs.  I was wearing moisture wicking clothing.  I was doing speed work, tempo runs, and long slow runs.  I was calling food, “fuel.”  Most importantly, I was becoming a “better” runner.

Not that any of the stuff that I was doing or not doing many years ago is right or wrong.  That’s the great thing about running…what works for some may not work for others and there isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” for much of it.  There are things, though, that will help with your endurance, your speed, and your recovery.  I do sometimes laugh, as I’m headed out the door for a long run armed with a fuel belt, road id, arm warmers, smartwool socks, compression tights, ipod, gels, gps watch, and whatever else that I can stuff on my body, about the “olden days” when I just threw on the cotton and hit the road.

I’m happy with my evolution as a runner and I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years.  My running has certainly improved.  I’m not a ton faster than i was before but i’m certainly stronger and more comfortable!  I think the running industry is constantly evolving so we can continuously learn and do new and different things to become better runners.  I just wonder what in the world I’ll be doing for my running 10 years from now!  Oh, and while I’ve done some marathons, I still haven’t run New York but there’s still time 🙂

Testimonial Tuesday

Guest Post by Emily Wyonzek..

I started running with Star Runners to get in shape for my wedding in 2011.  A friend told me about Star’s group and I knew I needed help, so I signed up for the Couch to 4 Miler program.  I went on from the Couch to 4 Miler straight into the St. Jude Half Marathon training and I’m now training with Star Runners for my first full marathon.  Not only has Star been great, but the group as a whole is amazing!  I’ve met some of the greatest new friends- a true bonus that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Being a part of Star Runners quickly became less and less about weight loss and more and more about being a runner and part of an amazing group of people (but I DID meet my weight loss goal for my wedding!).  Star and her husband Keith have been perfect cheer leaders and are always available to answer questions and offer advice.  I have never sent Star an email without receiving a response- and I have sent her A LOT of emails!

I signed up to run the Germantown Half Marathon in March of this year although most of our team ran in New Orleans.  It was unseasonably hot the day of the race, and the course had some tough hills and boring long stretches with no shade.  I was having a tough race, struggling with water issues, heat, nausea, etc.  I knew that Star and Keith were going to be waiting somewhere around mile 10 and at about mile 6 my mantra became, “make it to Star, just make it to Star.”  I got to mile 10 and didn’t see them, but at about 10.5, I heard, “GO EMILY!!!!!!!”  and saw Star in the middle of the course screaming for me!  But it wasn’t just Star and Keith, there were probably 10 other Star Runners there cheering me on- although that day I could have sworn it was more like 30.  I was so excited and a little emotional that I wanted to skip to the finish line!  A woman next to me said, “Wow- that must feel great to have so many people cheering for you!”  The support that my coach and teammates offered me was the perfect boost to get me through the finish line.  What a great team to be part of!

Because of Star and Keith Ritchey and Star Runners, I have fallen in love with running.  It is the perfect stress relief after a tough week at work   I can’t imagine not carving out time in my schedule to meet with this group.  Not every run is perfect, but I never regret running it, and getting through it with my Star Runners team mates makes it even better!

Emily Wyonzek

Testimonial Tuesday

by Lauri Prather

When I joined Star Runners for the Couch to Four Miler program in July 2010, I couldn’t even run a mile. In fact, Star had to ride her bike next to me as I cried my way over the 3 mile hump!

Two years and twenty pounds later I have completed 3 half marathons, a full marathon, Ragnar Tennessee, and the Memphis in May Sprint Triathlon. I am now looking forward to the remainder of triathlon season, my second Ragnar and my second St. Jude Marathon.

Thanks, Star, for showing me that all it takes is a good coach (and friend) and a little determination to take charge of your health!