PHOTO: A shot from the 2018 St. Jude’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon shows Rick and Melissa Sears with a group of runners. / Submitted
By RACHAEL LONG
Running a marathon isn’t second nature to most.
But for a significant group of runners in Nolensville, that’s the weekend plan as they tackle the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in Nashville.
Several runners are members of the Nolensville Running Club (NRC), a 501(c)(3) organization founded by Scott Alexander in 2010 as a way to “connect with others in South Nashville who share a passion for running.”
Alexander estimated that about 20 members of the NRC would be running in the Nashville marathon this weekend. The group’s Facebook page has more than 2,100 members, and Alexander says about 250 are active members who join in on group runs or walks.
For those eager to be more active but not ready to commit to a race, the NRC also helps inspire new runners through its free Couch to 5k program. It’s an eight-week program the NRC puts on in Nolensville for ages 12 and up, beginning Monday, April 29. The program, Alexander said, usually has between 50-75 participants each year and is designed to train new runners to run in the Nolensville 5k on June 22 at 7:30 a.m.
The Couch to 5k program is how Rick and Melissa Sears got involved in the NRC about five years ago. The couple plans to run the half-marathon race at the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon this weekend and says this is the fifth year they’ve participated.
“It’s a great race,” Rick said. “The support on that race is phenomenal. That’s why we also we do Nashville … because of just the excitement of it, and it’s only going to be magnified this weekend because of the draft.”
For the Sears family, running is something they do for the fun and social environment it provides.
“For somebody who has never run or doesn’t quite get it,” Rick said. “For somebody to say, ‘We go out and run 13.1 miles for fun,’ they may look at you like you’re a little crazy.”
The NRC is a group that many describe as open, warm and welcoming. And that’s the way Alexander says it’s designed.
“The thing you think about when you hear ‘running club’ is you think, ‘Oh, these people are fast,’” Alexander said. “That’s not the case. We’ve got anywhere from walkers to people running 6-minute miles… we’ve got something for everyone. So, if someone wants to come out there and just walk, we’ve got a group for them.”
That sense of welcoming is something that new NRC member Megan Carson swears by.
“It’s the most encouraging and generous group of people I think I’ve ever encountered,” Carson said. “They welcome everybody with open arms, and they encourage every type of walker, runner, whatever you are. There’s somebody for you to join with.”
Carson, who will run the half marathon this weekend, says she likes to run alone, headphones in and listening to music. It helps remove her from the task at hand.
One Nolensville resident who plans to run in the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon this weekend is Brandon Fyffe, who says he’s not a member of the NRC. Instead, he’s in a group called F3, which is a free men’s workout group that focuses on fitness, fellowship and faith.
This marks Fyffe’s seventh full marathon and fourth in the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Nashville. For him, marathons and distance running are a personal challenge he enjoys.
“[It’s] only competitive to me in the sense [that I’m] competing with myself,” Fyffe said. “That’s kind of what, to me, distance running is. It’s an internal battle. You’re always trying to overcome everything that you’ve gotten you to get through that race.”
“Honestly, I think you’ve got to be a little crazy to like doing marathons and stuff in the first place, so it’s kind of hard to explain,” Fyffe said. “But I like it because it is so difficult … I like the challenge, I like doing something that keeps me in shape, keeps me sharp. I’ve got two little daughters, ages 5 and 10 months, and so I’m trying to stay around as long as I can for them.”
And while Fyffe likes the challenge of the marathon and the health benefits running provides, it’s also a way for him to honor his faith.
“I would always lift up my creator in everything I do,” Fyffe said. “I don’t have the strength to do these races on my own, I call to a higher power.”
The “runner’s high,” also referred to as the “second wind” may sound like lore, but both Carson and Fyffe say it’s a feeling to which they’ve grown familiar.
“Until probably about 6 or 7 at night, I have a lot of energy, I guess the endorphins are still kicking in,” Carson said. “But there definitely is that sense of accomplishment that drives me the rest of the day.”
That sense of individual accomplishment, Carson said, comes from knowing that even when running as part of a large group, “at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can cross that line.”
Fyffe says the “runner’s high” is something shared by many runners, and has been documented in studies.
“The way it feels, if I could describe it is, you’re on mile 13, 14 or 15, where as you should be getting more tired, at some point there’s just chemical reactions going on in your brain, and you do get a little bit of a ‘runner’s high,’” Fyffe said. “It’s a real thing.”
The NRC also hosts a 10-mile race in October, and Alexander said the funds from both races go to support Nolensville High School athletics programs. Over the last four years, he says, the NRC has raised nearly $40,000 for the high school.
“I would just encourage anyone who wants to come out to come out and join us,” Alexander said. “If you’re a six-minute mile person or a walker or anything in between, we’ve got something for you.”