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.