President's Column -March 2024

Jennifer Hay, Vice President

I spend a lot of time talking with people about running and walking and the role that being outdoors plays in our wellbeing. It’s a part of my job at REI that I really love, and it has become a bit of a passion as you can probably tell given all the energy I pour into our club. Often in my conversations with customers (many of you actually) about Hoka Cliftons or my fave Janji shorts, it comes up that I’m the VP of Gulf Winds Track Club or a co-race director for the Pine Run 20K. I often quickly follow this information with the disclaimer that I don’t run anymore. Then they/you look at me like I’ve just said I have a pet unicorn. It seems too fantastical. The pieces don’t fit: they just heard nonrunner, devotes a ridiculous amount of time to the running community. I totally understand the puzzled looks. But in my defense, I’ve told you how much inspiration I draw from hanging out with our GWTC rock stars, and I meet new ones at every single GWTC event I attend. And, of course, if injuries are going to keep me sidelined from running, there’s no place I’d rather be than behind the scenes ensuring you have fun running. (Plus, I get to rub shoulders with the rock stars there too.) A couple of weekends ago, I was doing just that at the Tallahassee Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay. At the starting line, I got to hand out race bibs and shirts, check bags, and wish everyone good luck. After delivering bags to the finish line, I got to cheer for our very hot marathoners (and especially loud for my hubby and friends) at the REI water station before hustling back to the finish line to help with Half Marathon awards. Then I had a moment to take it all in before another round of awards. I watched and cheered and marveled at all the different shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities crossing the finish line—some raising their hands in triumph, some throwing their head back and digging deep to finish the final steps, some sprinting the last few yards with a huge smile, some sprinting then doubling over and puking, literally emptying the tank. It was a whole lot of different. But there was a common thread. The one that connects all runners. The one that gets you out of bed for runs on cold mornings, has you matching your running buddy stride for stride up tough hills, inspires you to do the strength work to prevent (and heal) injuries, leads you to eat the apple instead of the potato chips, and has you cheering for others after you’ve grabbed your towel and downed some Gatorade. Each athlete is working toward their individual goal—pushing the boundaries of what they’re capable of in the moment, in the circumstances they are dealt. They all experience the joy, pain, doubt, and pride that come with the challenge of being their best self—regardless of where they are in their running journey. This shared experience is what binds us as a running community and a running club. Do you feel that thread connecting us? I do—because it’s connected to the sidelines as well: the desire to be our best and do our best exists there too—to help you and our club succeed in all quests. Join us every chance you get. Come as you are. And show us all the ways you can be a rock star.

 

FROM THE PRESIDENT

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President’s Column – June/July 2023

I work at REI. Retail is a new thing for me, but it often feels more like an extension of the cheerleader in me than anything else. I spend a lot of time telling people they really are an outdoorsy person or they really are a runner. Why do we think we have to reach...