Run Club has changed a lot since its inception last year, but one thing has remained the same: its members, whether or not they choose to run together, still cover a lot of terrain.
Founded by Adin Vaewsorn ’15, who has since passed the torch to Tara Hoda ’15, the club is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a community of runners who encourage each other, schedule times to run together, and make it a point to integrate running into their routines.
The club isn’t as active as it used to be—fewer and fewer people show up for the scheduled running times, and sometimes nobody shows up at all—but those who are on the Run Club email list still get weekly reminders of meet-up times. Lots of Run Club members choose to run alone because it’s more convenient, but Hoda, who now sends out the weekly emails, explained that they still find encouragement from discussing their runs with each other.
“Seeing that other people are running is motivational,” Hoda said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, these people are running 10 miles today? I can run 10 miles today.’”
Although Vaewsorn has stepped down as the club’s coordinator, he still believes that it is a valuable resource for people who want to run.
“I was a competitive runner for many years before coming to Wesleyan,” Vaewsorn said. “I founded Run Club as an alternative community for runners who enjoy the team aspect of track and cross country but wanted a more casual, lower commitment, less competitive environment.”
Vaewsorn added that the club seemed like a good way to encourage exploration of the broader area through running. Hoda reflected on one of the more memorable routes taken by the group.
“You go up near the Connecticut River, where the railroad tracks are, and then you go down this weird, secret road, and then you end up at a juvenile [detention center],” she said. “Once, we kept running past there, and we got to this ghost town…There was nobody in the entire town, and we were just running. It was straight out of a scary movie.”
For Hoda, running offers an opportunity to get off campus and appreciate her surroundings.
“Once I was running past Long Lane Farm, and there was a cow in the meadow, and the sun was setting,” she said. “It was amazing. I would say that Run Club was a huge thing that settled me into college during my freshman year—realizing that I’m not trapped on campus. As much as I do love it [here on campus], there’s a lot of world out there.”
Yet some runners, such as Catherine Marquez ’16, focus on distance rather than location.
“I don’t know the area very well, so I do one four-and-a-half-mile loop however many times I need to get my mileage,” Marquez said. “Sometimes I just do loops at Indian Hill.”
When more people tended to show up to scheduled runs, the group would run as a whole, with members turning around whenever they felt ready. Hoda recalled people expressing fear about slowing the group down, and emphasized that that should not be a concern.
“We wouldn’t be doing Run Club if we didn’t want to run together,” she said. “You can always go off and run by yourself, but it’s [about] the experience of running with other people.”
Yet running with a group is hard when participation in scheduled runs is so low. Marquez said she shows up for those runs fairly often, but about half the time she ends up running alone. Hoda hopes that the club will start getting more active again next year, but she wants people to know that the community is always there for people who are interested, regardless of its size.
“It’s really just come as you can,” Hoda said. “People don’t realize that they don’t have to come every single time—they can really just show up whenever they want.”
This past Sunday, Hoda, Marquez, and Samantha Sikder ’14 ran a half-marathon together in Rockland County, New York. The Run Club got funding from the Student Budget Committee to cover the fee for participating in the run, and the participants agreed that it was an inspirational experience.
“At one point, there was this huge hill,” Sikder recalled. “I wanted to give up, but there were these people along the path, just being like, ‘You’re almost at the top! You’re doing so great, good job, come on, you’re almost there and it’ll be over!’ At that point, I was just thinking, this is like a metaphor for my life. I need to get to the top of this hill, and if I can get through this, it’s all downhill…That’s how I got to the top.”
Marquez knew exactly which hill Sikder was talking about.
“There was this old guy that I ran up that hill with,” she said. “He was right next to me. And I was like, okay, I can finish with the old guy.”
Marquez added that seeing older people running the half-marathon was a testament to what we are capable of if we stay in shape. Hoda agreed.
“I feel like as you get older, it means so much more,” Hoda said. “I would say we were probably in the youngest one percent of the people there. There were, like, two kids who looked like they were younger than me. It was amazing to see the older people run. People with knee braces were doing the half marathon.”
Sikder said that the spectators standing near the finish line made her incredibly emotional, particularly given the recent trauma of the Boston Marathon.
“There were just complete strangers seeing you put your all into this, and completely respecting that and cheering you on, and that’s a very warm feeling,” Sikder said. “I just kept thinking of how nice of a feeling that was, in comparison with something so horrific to have happened.”
The runners find that people here are always impressed when they say that they ran a half-marathon, but they noted that running 13 miles isn’t that daunting of a task if you have the right mindset.
“It’s totally psychological,” Hoda said. “A lot of people tell me that they don’t think they can do half-marathons, but if you can run at all, you can finish a half marathon. It’s all about your mind.”
Marquez agreed, adding that getting past mental blocks is a huge part of running in general and recalling her own experience during her first day running cross country in high school.
“We were running only three miles, and it seemed like the biggest feat,” Marquez said. “I walked for some of it, and I barely finished, and I know that there have been days in the past few years where I’ve been just as out of shape as I was in that first day of cross-country, but I can go out and run five miles and be fine, because now I know I can do it.”
Even though they’re not always training for half-marathons, Run Club members do regularly run fairly long distances.
“Four [miles] is my comfortable distance, when I haven’t been working out that much, but just want to run,” Marquez said. “But if I’m in shape, probably seven. Seven just feels nice. It doesn’t feel like a real run if it’s under four. It used to, but…it’s like a drug. You need to do more and more over time. It’s really insane.”
Hoda has a similar baseline for her runs.
“Usually, I run four or five miles, three or four times a week, and that’s all I do,” she said. “But this week I’ve been training, so [I’ve] been running 10 or 12 miles. Once you get to six or seven miles, you can run forever. You feel like you’re flying.”