There’s only one thing brighter than the sunset at Woodbury Creek Park.
It’s the blazing orange shirts of the Road Runners Club of Woodbury.
Every Thursday night at 6:30, the group of runners–usually about 15 or so–gather at the base of Wood Street, next to the Woodbury High School track, before taking off on a three-mile jaunt through the streets of Woodbury.
It’s not just a bunch of people taking off on a run, though–it’s about building a running community and helping people improve their lives.
“It’s the passion–we love to run, we love to help people,” said John Carlson, the group’s vice-president and recruiter, and a marathoner himself. “We’re passionate about spreading health, not just running.”
Carlson, a former powerlifter who had topped out at 225 pounds, is now a greyhound-thin marathoner, and is quick to bring others into the group. He’ll spot runners at the track at Woodbury High School, and his first thought is how he and the club can reach out.
“I always think, ‘Man, I would love to get to that guy, so I can help him,’” Carlson said.
Vic Micklasavage, the Fun Run coordinator for the group, said it’s the interaction between runners that helps cement the group together.
“You can talk, you can get tips,” said Micklasavage. New runners in high school are out there alongside people who have run eight or nine marathons, and there’s always something to learn from other runners.
As for the course itself, the run rolls through the center of Woodbury, down Centre Street to Bell Lake Park and the sneaky hills around the park, before curling back on itself down Centre to Wood.
It’s the same route as the Benjamin-Ross 5K–which the club runs, along with sponsoring the Woodbury Relays and a youth track & field day–minus about 100 meters or so, and Carlson and Micklasavage said it’s a good length, even for beginners.
“The first thing I say to [new runners] is, it’s a walking club, too,” Carlson said. The point isn’t to go out and race, he said, but to get out, do your best and get something out of it for yourself.
And what you can’t get out of the runs, you can get out of the group’s newsletter and website, which the two men said are critical in recruiting new members and retaining old ones.
“It comes down to communication,” Carlson said. From sending out running tips to tracking people’s personal records–in runner’s parlance, PRs, and an important stat–to developing training plans, keeping in touch consistently with the 135 or so people on the list keeps people interested, whether in the dead heat of summer or the razor’s cold of January.
“When you’re training, you’re out there by yourself,” Micklasavage said, and said that besides the weekly runs, keeping track of everyone via email and the website keeps them engaged.
“People like to feel, ‘Hey, I’m getting recognized for some hard work,’” he said.
Joining the email list is just a few clicks on the group’s website, and joining the club is as simple: all you have to do is show up and run.
Just look for the orange shirts.