A cold rainy day. no one would ever call this kind of weather “good running Weather.” Good weather for moping around indoors, maybe, but definitely not for running. The sky is dark and angry, an autumn breeze blows a fine, yet persistent rain and the temperature is a chilly 55 degrees . Despite this, a handful of runners brave the storm, clustering under amber street lights making small talk. They’re gathered for one of The Road Runners Club of Woodbury’s weekly group runs.
Making sure that all shoes are tied and watches set, the group takes off on a 3 mile loop through the city of Woodbury. I fall in with home town neighbor and avid runner, Larry Redrow. As vice president of CGI Racing, Redrow makes for good conversation. While talking between breaths about hometown affairs, we run at a challenging pace. All the while, I am reminded of the benefit of running with someone. With nothing else to focus on, the mind turns a mild cramp in to a knife wound, or a 5 mile run into an eternity. But shooting the breeze with a fellow runner it seems to take less effort to run harder.
When Redrow and I finish, we turn and watch the other runners return. Seeing everybody jovially cheer each other on, I sense a lack of judgement. Coming from cross country and track in high-school, this is new and refreshing for me. Instead of competition there is only mutual enthusiasm. “We welcome anybody. Whether you’re fast or slow, young or old,” Says Vic Micklasavage. After the run, I get a chance to chat with Micklasavage, the Clubs vice president and event coordinator. Although few show up to run in tonight’s terrible weather, Micklasavage tells me that more usually show up, sometimes upwards of 50.
Talking with the Vice President, it quickly becomes evident that he’s proud of the group’s atmosphere. But, that’s not all there is to be proud of. The club is also full heartily committed to the betterment of the community, as Micklasavage explains, involving themselves in many community events. One that catches my ear as an ex-track runner is the Woodbury relays. Promoted by RRCW’s Executive Director John Carter, and helped run by the club, the Woodbury Relays is one of Gloucester County’s biggest high school track events, with dozens of schools from all over the south Jersey area in attendance every year. The event attracts over 6,000 people and involves over 40 local businesses and organizations within the City of Woodbury.
Although they set up arguably the biggest track meet in this area, that doesn’t mean the club isn’t involved in philanthropic events. In 2012, the Woodbury Heights firehouse was destroyed in a fire. Micklasavage wanted to do help. “So I asked the club, hey, do you think we could put on a run and donate the money.” In two years of putting on the Hot Run, the club managed to raise a total of 23,000 dollars. Now with the firehouse rebuilt, proceeds from the most recent Hot Run were donated to operation warm, an organization geared towards providing needy children with coats.
As I’ve often seen the clubs orange shirts at any given race in the area, I realize that the club has a real presence in the south Jersey running community. “We like to volunteer to help operate races, even for other organizations.” explains Micklasavage. And through their weekly newsletter of 700 subscribers, the club keeps its runners informed on the area’s upcoming events and races.
The final runners return. Despite being the only college aged kid there, I feel welcome. We discuss past running experiences, and upcoming events. More than once, I am invited to the club’s next weekly run. And why not? For even miserable autumn rain can’t deter this group’s underlying love for running.
That’s exactly what makes this club special. It has has succeeded in combining two great things: a means of connecting to other runners, and volunteerism. What could be better than giving runners a chance to run in a social setting, all the while give back to the community?