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Hitting Their Stride

 In Coastal Life, Health Matters

Local running groups offer a sense of community while racking up the miles

Coffee. Cookies. Camaraderie. When chatting with some of the Outer Banks’ most avid runners, the cardiovascular benefits and challenge of it all rarely get mentioned as their “why.”

Instead, they drag themselves out of bed in the pre-dawn gloom, fire up the apps on their phones and fitness trackers, and form a pack that pounds the pavement for an hour – or much more on some weekend runs. Then, they gather back at Front Porch or Waveriders to cool down, compare notes, get caffeinated, and head their separate ways to get ready for work … before they do it all again the next morning.

Coastal Life (CL) caught up with a couple of well-known running groups to learn more. Spoiler alert: Hearing from these friendly folks may have you digging through your closet to find that old pair of sneakers!

CL: How long have you been involved in running?
Jonathan Hope (JH): I started running in the year 2000, moved here in 2015 and immediately got involved with the local running club. My second year I became running coach for the club because I’m a certified running coach – I’d been coaching marathoners in Maryland before I moved down here.

CL: Can you talk about your involvement in the OBX Running Club?
JH: I was coach for two years and then I became president of the running club for three years and now I’m running coach again for the second year. I also put together the running training programs for the club, usually for half marathoners. The club had three runs per week, and I added the Saturday run for a fourth one. Then COVID hit and now we only have one official run per week, on Saturday.

CL: How many people usually come out? You leave from Waveriders at 7 a.m. most Saturdays, right?
JH: We’re usually at about 10 runners and walkers. That’s an important thing to note: We do have quite a few walkers that come out. Unfortunately, I’m gonna walk now because my right knee has gone bad, and my hip is apparently problematic also. So even though we’re called a running club, we promote walking also. During the winter, we almost always leave from Waveriders – during the summer we move around to some other locations where there’s more shade because you can’t go in Nags Head Woods because of the bugs.

obx running clubCL: You mentioned walking. That can be a barrier for having new folks come join you, right? That sense of intimidation with people wearing their shirts from past marathons and thinking, ‘Whoa, I could never do that!’?
JH: I’m planning to do one more marathon, probably. Mainly walking. You can’t dawdle, but you can do marathons walking.

CL: What do you enjoy about these Saturday mornings together?
JH: It’s a social environment. One thing about being a member of a club and running and walking in a group, as you talk to people, you find out a lot of things and you have a lot of great conversations. So, it’s just the group atmosphere. It’s sort of interesting, because this is true in virtually any running group: We can talk about anything, with two exceptions – politics and religion. We avoid those two.

CL: You also get runners here on vacation who will join the group sometimes, right? Do people keep up with the OBX Running Club primarily on the Facebook page?
JH: We do get out-of-towners, and we have people from all over the Outer Banks – Manteo, Corolla – come and join us. We also have pop-up runs, and that’s where we meet a lot of new people. The Facebook page ‘OBX Running Club’ is where we post all of our runs. One of the things we always say when we post the runs, ‘All runners and walkers are welcome, local or not, member or not.’ You do not have to be a member to come and join us.

CL: How long have you been involved in running?
Mel Mattingly: I’ve been running for 11 years now. I started about a year or two after I moved here with Outer Banks Boot Camp and that’s kind of how we all found each other. We’ve all kept running and racing ever since.

CL: What is it about running that you and so many of the people who come out with you enjoy?
MM: At this point, this is kind of what I do, is I just get up and run every day. I’ve been outside and it’s my social hours running with my friends and then we come in here for coffee.

CL: That’s the big thing, right? A lot of people will joke that the hardest part about running is getting out the door.
MM: Knowing that I’ve got to be there to lead the run that we’re doing because I’m the one that wrote the route, that helps motivate me knowing that I’m gonna be out there for everybody else. That’s why the group’s called ‘Lace Up.’ Sometimes you don’t want to, but you just gotta get up, get out of bed, lace up and go run.

CL: How many folks do you have join you?
MM: It kind of depends on what we’re doing, time of year. There are mornings we’ll have a dozen people and sometimes we’ll have two people. It kind of varies with all different speeds and paces and backgrounds and ages.

CL: Is your group coed?
MM: (Laughing) Theoretically, but all the boys quit on us. They’re all broken or lazy!

CL: What does a typical run look like for your group? I’m guessing the best way to find you is searching for “Lace Up OBX!” on Facebook, to join the group and learn about the runs?
MM: Just find us on Facebook and let us know you’re coming. Most of us are theoretically training for half marathons and marathons. So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do speed work. On Mondays and Fridays, we’re kind of just doing maintenance runs like three, four miles. In the middle of the week, we’ll do kind of a longer run. And then on either Saturday or Sunday, whichever day the weather is better, we’ll do a long run which could be anywhere from six miles to 20 miles depending on where we are in training.

Some people can do the same thing every single day. I’m not that kind of person. We start kind of all over the place depending on what we’re doing, but I try to mix it up because I get bored easily. It’s meant to be as open and inclusive as possible. There are people of all paces and speeds. We run a lot. We don’t necessarily run fast.

Steve Hanf
Author: Steve Hanf

Steve Hanf is a former professional sportswriter who teaches the journalism classes at First Flight High School. The dormant Nike Running Club app on his phone offers a reminder of the seven half-marathons and one full marathon he completed … several years ago. 

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Photo by Wes Snyder PhotographyPhoto Courtesy of Worrell 1000 Race, Inc.