Anj Wiley and Tara Hill, two north Raleigh moms, met through their children. They started spending time together, pushing their little ones in strollers. Then, they began meeting for regular 6 a.m., Saturday, walks.
These were long walks - 12 miles sometimes - that they fit in before soccer games, birthday parties and all the other weekend activities that keep families busy.
Then, one day, one of them wondered if they could run, instead of walk, to a point ahead. It wasn't pretty, but they did it. Pretty soon, they were running from point to point along their walks. Eventually, they were running the entire way.
"It wasn't about the miles though," Wiley tells me. "It was about our friendship, our connection."
And that all led them here: Wiley, a mom of three ages 9 to 19, and Hill, a mom of four ages 15 to 23, are founders of north Raleigh's River Run Club. The group, which formed in May, meets at 6:45 p.m., Thursdays, at Nantucket Grill for a social run of three to five miles. About 20 people - men and women - regularly show up for the run, which includes places for all levels - from six-minute milers to mostly walkers.
That first run in May 2012 included a dozen runners, mostly friends or friends of friends. By August, several members were training for the Pink Shamrock 5K. And earlier this month, a dozen ran the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in Durham. Today, the group has nearly 200 fans on Facebook.
While some beginning runners might feel nervous about joining a club, Wiley and Hill say there's no reason to wait.
"Don't wait to be a runner to join a club, join a club to become a runner," as the two moms included on their Google+ page.
I met up with Hill and Wiley at Pullen Park last week to talk more about the group. Here's our Q&A. For more, watch my video interview with them.
Go Ask Mom: How did the running club start?
Wiley: We came up with the idea for a social running club because we wanted to join a club, but there weren't any in north Raleigh. So we started our own. We also had come to realize how much running meant to us and we wanted other people to experience that joy. We felt running had given us so much and it was time to give back to running.
Hill: Anj and I have collaborated on other projects in the past and have run together for years. Everyone runs for his or her own reason, but runners "get" each other no matter if you run a six-minute mile or a twelve-minute mile. The idea of social run clubs wasn't a new idea. We wanted one near us on a night we could commit to. We had already been managing a Facebook page about running in Raleigh, so we knew we had a base of people to reach. We both love running and what running offers us and wanted to share that with others.
GAM: What do you do?
Hill: We meet and greet each Thursday at 6:45 p.m. outside Nantucket Grille and the group heads out for a three to five mile run. We have runners at ALL paces, typically people find someone at their pace to run with. After the run, we share drinks and laughs at Nantucket. It all typically appears seamless. Behind the scenes ... that can be interesting as we have grown the club and strive to motivate people to come out in the dark and the cold or the blazing heat. We come up with routes to defeat boredom, themes for fun and motivations for the days it just feels hard to run. The club also has participated in several local races - a 5k, 8k and, most recently, a half marathon.
GAM: Why do you do it?
Hill: THAT is the question. We ask each other all the time WHY and the answers come to us in so many different ways. Most recently for me was during my physical and my physician thanked me, honest to goodness THANKED me, for starting a running club and encouraging people to get active. In one of our first "meetings" about starting the club, we asked ourselves the same thing with a "who are we" kind of slant. We determined we are just people, helping people to help themselves.
Anj: This is the question we find ourselves asking quite often and we ALWAYS receive unexpected answers in one way or another. We do it because it gives us more than we put in, we get inspired by others each week, we never run out of running buddies. Runners get each other. We've seen pure joy and hope come back to people's lives. We have watched transformations. We see people lean on running to get through tough times. We've seen genuine friendships form. Everyone understands starting out, injuries, goals and support.
For more about their group and to join, check out the River Run Club's Facebook page.
This is the latest post in our Runner Moms series.