On any given weekend morning, most folks enjoy sleeping in, catching up on chores around the house, binging a new show, or just staying under the warm covers a bit longer before facing the week ahead.
However, there is a whole community of people dedicated to health, fitness, camaraderie, and, most of all, taking advantage of all Savannah has to offer, and supporting local events.
Groups like the Savannah Striders have been walking, walk/running, and running the streets, parks, and neighborhoods of the city since the early 1970s. With healthier resolutions and efforts to be more physically fit while also getting out of the house, the running community in Savannah is seeing a welcomed boom.
“The Striders started as a small running group out of [then] Armstrong State College,” said Tharon Lambert, president of the Savannah Striders and 20-year group member.
“There was a running boom in the country at the time [the 1970s]. With those four original runners, they added a few people here and there and the Striders just grew from that.”
Today, the group has regular meetups for runs, events, and general community socialization. The group celebrates upwards of 300 members striving to exercise, move, and stay in the best health possible.
“The Striders had a marathon back in the day on Hunter’s campus,” said Cecilia Arango, an active Rotarian and long-time member of the group. “Now, we have get-togethers, regular runs, we participate in events as a group, and we generally support each other. It’s all about community.”
That was certainly the situation Marc Cameron, 44, and his wife, Kelly, found when they moved to Savannah five years ago.
Cameron is the manager of Howe2Run, a locally owned business geared toward supporting walk/run fitness. In only its third year, the store was named one of the best running stores in the country under his watch.
He can’t believe he’s such a big part of such a beneficial community.
“If you had told 36-year-old Marc that he would be a runner, have done countless 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and two marathons, he would have said, ‘no way… I’m living life hard and fast. If I make it to my 40s, it’ll be a success,’” he said.
Cameron’s journey to running was not one he saw coming or had even planned. He openly shared his experiences.
“Seven years ago, I was 350 pounds and felt like I was falling helplessly off a cliff,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I did this all on my own. I mean, I’m an Italian Jersey boy who likes to eat, drink, and have a good time. It was only when the number on the scale got so big, I knew I needed to make a lifestyle change.”
After losing some weight on his own, down to 320, Cameron’s doctor performed gastric bypass surgery to aid additional weight loss.
“Just because you get the gastric bypass surgery,” he began, “you still have to do the work. You have to adjust your eating habits. I was one of those guys who constantly ate meals that were too big and then my metabolism couldn’t process it.”
Simply following the doctor’s orders and moving his body proved to be the answer for Cameron in avoiding the pitfalls following this type of procedure.
“For me, the surgery was successful because of my coaching background. I took it as a challenge… like a new scouting report. I told myself I would follow everything I was supposed to, follow the game plan the doctor issued, drink the exact amount of water, and do everything according to instructions. I became pretty regimented and have stayed that way. I drank a lot of water, ate 5-6 small meals a day, and started moving. I started by walking.”
Cameron said he walked for 10 months, adding a little bit of running into the mix. In that time, he trimmed down to 175 pounds and knew he had a regimen for life.
“I began walking from one lamp post to the other. Then, I’d add more distance to the point where there were times my wife would call, wondering where I was,” he said with a laugh. “I was enjoying the fitness too much.”
Cameron’s weight loss, coupled with his newfound love of walking/running, coincided with his family’s move to the Savannah area. (Rather, his wife’s move back as Kelly is a Savannah native.)
“I had done a few local races when I was in New Jersey, but things really took off here. I went from being overweight to now being a part of the Savannah running community and working in the running community for Phillip and Pamela Howe, which is just completely wild to think about. Now, I’m the Running Shoe Geek.”
“It was a healthy lifestyle change that turned into a job that’s also something I love to do. It’s a win-win,” Cameron said.
Cameron’s journey is not an unfamiliar one. Many get involved in walking/running for all the right reasons, but they never expected finding a community, according to Lambert.
“We have a couple of people in their upper 80s and 90s in the Striders, but we also have people who run the gamut from very, highly competitive runners looking to make their best times to people who are just out there moving, doing what they can to get healthy, and also, socializing in a relatively safe, outdoor environment in these new normal times,” the Savannah Striders’ president stressed.
As for general well-being and energy, Arango feels there’s nothing better than running.
“The health benefits you get are understood, but there’s also accountability,” she said. “If you’re someone who struggles with an exercise routine or staying on track, then doing it with a group of people can help you stay motivated. We hold each other accountable. Not in a pressuring way, but in a supportive way. It’s easier to achieve the goals you’ve set out for yourself when others are in your court cheering you on,” Arango said.
“We welcome everyone, no matter their fitness level, goals, motivation, etc.,” Lambert said. “Some people come out and walk while others run. It’s whatever people prefer. We’re not in competition with each other. We’re there to support and encourage and keep people moving.”
Arango said one of the best things about running in a group is seeing people from all backgrounds. “The beauty of it is it’s a very diverse group with various running paces and abilities, but it’s a non-judgmental activity where you can belong, even if you’re just starting.”
Lambert is proud their Savannah Striders group is supportive at all levels. “Not only do you see people of different races, nationalities, body shape, abilities, you name it, but you also have some of those motivated self-starters who are more Type A personalities and they help motivate and encourage others. Particularly with what we’ve just come through—worldwide pandemic and illness… we need each other.”
“We’ve had some folks express to me that coming to this group greatly helped them with their depression. Whatever their reason, people in the group understand the group’s major purpose. “It’s an all-around, completely supportive effort,” Lambert said.
Arango suggested as with any organization or group one joins, it’s what one puts in and takes from it.
“Shortly after I came to town, I caught the running bug. I found the Striders and wanted to join the group for what Tharon mentioned … it’s not about ability, rather it’s more about camaraderie and people who have a similar interest in mind.”
“At the beginning, it can be a bit awkward because you’re meeting new people, but then it becomes like this huge, supportive family that shows up for each other,” she said proudly. “That’s why I show up for the morning runs and races.”
Cameron also organizes runs out of the Howe2Run store on Gateway Boulevard. The large parking lot is ideal for socializing outdoors before the runs begin.
“We have paces for everybody that wants to walk, walk/run, and run. The hashtag we use is #BigGiantRunFamily because it’s what we are,” Cameron stated. “We’re also close and like celebrating each other’s milestones and accomplishments. Obviously, before COVID, we had large groups celebrating people’s birthdays and anniversaries in person. We still do stuff together, just in different ways. Folks go on ‘run-cations’ together or they’ll road trip to do other races. In fact, a bunch of us are doing New York City Marathon in November.”
As for the best places to run in Savannah and the local area, everyone agreed on the answer.
“Downtown,” Lambert said without hesitation.
“No place is better than downtown,” Cameron agreed.
“It’s the best tour on foot,” Arango said. “You’re up and out before anyone else is awake. You have the whole city to yourself and you can take it all in.”
Arango said when driving through Savannah, you can miss things. “If you’re running, though, you can take in the scenery, the environment, nature, architecture. You miss details when you’re driving that you really notice when you’re on a run.”
Lambert said the Savannah Striders have added some new running routes.
“We’ve incorporated the new Truman trail ad into our runs so we’ll do that during the week or on a Saturday. We also like to run out at Isle of Hope sometimes. Seriously, you could run in a different area every week and might not see the same area twice.”
Other areas Lambert and Arango suggested were Wilmington Island, Fort Pulaski, and, of course, the beaches and neighborhoods of Tybee Island.
“We’re excited about the upcoming Critz Tybee Run Fest,” Lambert said. “Our tradition is we start with a 10K in the morning and a half marathon that afternoon. A lot of us will only do the 10K and then we will sit right in front of Wet Willie’s and watch the half marathoners as they make it to the finish line,” he said.
“Cheer me on,” Arango added. “I’ll be doing the 5K.”
Emily Dover Critz, public relations manager at Critz BMW and also assisting with the event, said, “We’re so pleased to be working with the YMCA again on the Critz Tybee Run Fest. It’s a chance to provide a great event for folks, but it is also about giving back to the community. The money raised will go to the YMCA of Coastal Georgia to help foster education and healthy lifestyles.”
The Critz Tybee Run Fest is an annual weekend event, running February 3-5, combining five different races from 1 mile to 13.1 miles, totaling up to the 26.2-mile marathon distance. In addition to a world-class race atmosphere, the race weekend provides entertainment for families and friends traveling with participants.
Critz stated there are 1,000 people pre-registered and some of the races have already sold out, so she encourages people to plan ahead.
“We have five races all together that total a marathon,” Critz said. “It’s a unique formula for how races go and we’re proud of the diverse group it brings out. We’re also one of the few events to include a beach race.”
As for the level of racers, Critz stressed how everyone is welcomed. “We have very serious runners looking to improve upon their times and we also have groups and/or families just walking together to help raise money, have fun, or simply to be together outside. It’s an event for everyone – you’ll see people ranging in age from two to 92.”
Cameron said the event—and running, in general—will help people get out of their pandemic cave-like living. “It’s such a good mental thing to run and clear your mind from all that’s piled up inside. It’s the best stress reliever. We’ve had people come out to our Wednesday night runs—#WednesdaysWeMove—who found us because they were sitting at home and for whatever reason, they want to get moving again.”
He continued, “The pandemic has unintentionally promoted weight gain, depression, lethargy, and lack of motivation. Especially when folks are working from home, they may not move around as much as they did before. Add to it the mental aspect of being stuck in the house—sometimes alone—and it’s just so beneficial to get out, meet new people, join a healthy hobby, and enjoy life again.”
Cameron looks forward to the Critz Tybee Race Fest as a time to explore the activity.
“Running in and of itself is a socially distanced activity, but when we come together after or before races to cheer each other on, celebrate milestones, and, in this case, to do something that gives back to the community and helps others… well, there’s nothing better.”
Although Emily has worked (and run in) the event before, she is excited about the timing of this race and how it will benefit so many.
“It’s such a great, fun event for locals, visitors… anyone. It’s also huge for Tybee Island because it brings people to the island during the off-season to enjoy the amazing restaurants and hotels. It’s a fabulous opportunity for locals to get out of the house, stop feeling cooped up, and join in an event that helps out the whole community.”
“What else could be better for your mental and physical health than being outside in nature and moving about?” said Arango. “Running is that answer. And… running in Savannah is like nothing else.”
“I started running with the New York skyline as my view, so I’m a bit spoiled. Even more so here with Savannah’s moss-covered squares, vibrant neighborhoods, and million-dollar views on River Street,” Cameron said. “It’s the best place for runners and I hope folks will join us in running this town.”
And, most of all…
“Never stop moving,” Lambert stressed. “Never. Stop.”
For a reference list of running events in the Savannah area, check out savannahraces.com
‘ Este Articulo puede contener información publicada por terceros, algunos detalles de este articulo fueron extraídos de la siguiente fuente: www.connectsavannah.com ’