We All Need a Little Support

by Chuck Hull
It’s always important to have support when you run. Whether you realize it or not, having someone with you can help you out more than you think. 
A few years back, I joined Steel City Road Runners because I decided to give running a full marathon a shot. Not only did I learn quite a bit about my running, but I made some pretty awesome new friends during my training. I was also able to run with Team Red White and Blue on occasion where I also forged some new friendships. My support group, however, did not start with SCRR or Team RWB. It started with my running buddies!  
My running buddies (as we call ourselves) and I have known each other for most of our lives. I had already been running for awhile, but it was only after a few years that I realized some of my friends had taken up running as well. Before I knew it, we were running 5K, 10K and other distance races together!
Now, what I’d like to do (and what I’ve wanted to do for a quite a while now) is share a little more about these folks. I’d like for everyone to hear some of their stories, so I decided to ask my running buddies the same questions: 
  • Why do you run, or what got you into running?  
  • What motivates you?  
  • What was your favorite race?  
  • What did you think about your first race? 
I have reasons why I run, but so do they and that’s why I want to share their stories with you.
1. Sara Majetic 
Sara and I have known each other since the eighth grade. We even worked our first jobs together. We’ve always kept in touch over the years, and before I knew it, she was out pounding the pavement and hitting the trails with me. According to Sara, “The reason I run is because I didn’t know how to deal with finding out that my brother was diagnosed with cancer. Knowing there was nothing I could do, I chose to run to take out my frustrations, and support him.” 
When she finally signed up for a race, it was the Penguins 6.6K in 2014. “I was super nervous but knew I had a great group to run with. On top of that, my friends surprised me with shirts showing support for my brother Lou. Needless to say I was in tears, and it was way too cold to have tears that day.”  She’s not kidding! 
When it comes to running, Sara shared, “I’m grateful for my running buddies that continue to support me, push me, and are all around good friends. My life could have taken many turns after my brother passed in December 2014. With running and their continued support, it has taken me down a path that I will never look back on.” 
Sara’s favorite races are the Hell Hath No Hurry trail run and the Tough Mudder series, which she has completed three times.
2. Amy Egan
Amy and I have known each other since high school, but it was not until many years after that we really became friends. When I approached Amy on the subject of running, she had a lot to say, including, “I run to control the stress in my world. As a nurse, there are days full of chaos and running helps me to decompress and clear my mind.”  
She attributes running to her boyfriend’s daughter. In the beginning, his daughter was really into 5K races, so Amy decided to train and run with her during a summer visit. Amy reflected, “My first race was the I’ve Got Your Six 5K. I had to run that alone because our little group did not exist just yet. It was very emotional to finish and reach a goal that I thought I’d never obtain.”
Her motivation still comes from consistently setting goals. In the past five years, “I’ve completed races that I never in my life thought were a possibility. It’s even better when you can talk your friends into it, too!” She also told me that our running buddies group has been a pivotal part of her journey. There is always someone there to support your crazy ideas and cheer you on to the finish. “Training together and emotionally working together is so important when you’re tired, hurting and overall cranky.”  
Amy’s favorite race continues to be the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon because “there is something special about racing through your hometown with all of the local support along the course. I look forward to it every year, especially running through the Strip District.”
3. Stephanie Haas
Another friend I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for almost 20 years is Stephanie, who says, “Anxiety is one reason I run. Running helps to clear my mind, as well as put things into perspective. Things I may have been stressing over don’t seem as bad post run.”  
When her uncle had been diagnosed with melanoma and sadly passed away a few years ago, Steph and her family decided to do a 5K walk in his honor. While walking, conversation turned towards running the same event the following year. According to Stephanie, “Amy suggested trying the Runner’s World Holiday Streak, along with a couch to 5K program. My running took off from there.”
When I talked with her about that first race, she said, “I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I can’t describe the feeling of accomplishment I got when crossing that finish line because it’s just so hard to describe.” It really is! I think that feeling is different for everyone but also the same that first time. 
Even when I finished my first 5K, I got a finisher’s medal and thought every race gave away medals. I quickly realized that’s not the case, but it didn’t deter me from running. It doesn’t discourage Steph, either. “Seeing each other start and finish some of the hardest races can make it all totally worth it. Our goals keep each of us going, and we work together to achieve those goals.”
4. Adrienne Tolentino Essey
Adrienne is someone I met through SCRR when I was training for my first full marathon. I had the pleasure of getting to know her in 2016 and run again with her during the 2017 training season. According to Adrienne, “I started running in 2011 as a way to get into shape and feel better about myself. I was feeling unhealthy, and it seemed like the best option for a non-athletic person like me.” Now she runs because it’s just part of her routine, mentality and quite simply part of her identity.
When I asked Adrienne what motivated her, her answer was fairly simple: food! She loves to eat, but running also helps to keep balance in her life while also giving her a community. Running with friends and a group also helps to keep her motivated and accountable for her training. “I used to be a lone wolf until a couple years ago when I took a leap of faith and showed up for a group run. It totally changed my life!  Running is so much more than just exercise now.”
Most importantly, Adrienne wants to set a good example for her daughters. Running through both her pregnancies – and completing 15 races of various distances during them – helped her to feel more energetic and less nauseous. It was also a special way to connect with both of her babies. In fact, her oldest daughter already knows that “running is just part of mommy” and “it’s fun to watch her interest grow, too.”
Adrienne had a hard time trying to decide what may be her favorite race because she thinks “every race is memorable, even the cruddy ones!” The DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is at the top of the list, though. “It’s the hometown race! I always see a ton of my friends on the course. And running through every neighborhood makes me fall more in love with our city.”
These are just a few people that are part of my support group. I’d also like to recognize Bryan Benson, Amy’s boyfriend and friend of mine from high school, who is also an integral part of the running buddies. Known as “Uber” or our own personal “Pit Crew,” Bryan has walked a few 5K races but prefers to sit back, cheer and take photos while we cross the finish line. Just don’t let him hold your unlocked phone! 
Two other folks I’ve had the pleasure of running with are Diana Cannon and Ryan Walker. Though unavailable for comment at this time, I wanted to recognize them as part of my support group. There are many others I could name, including SCRR coaches Suzanne Lancaster-Natter and Betsy McGovern, as well as best friends David and Bonnie Hamstead who have pushed me since day one of this incredible journey. I think you all get the picture. 
It’s always possible to do things like run on our own, but after all that you have just read, why would you want to?  It’s so much more fun when you get to run together! Not only does it help keep you focused and motivated, but simply crossing the finish line and celebrating together is much more rewarding.
With that in mind, keep on running Pittsburgh. 
Chuck Hull, The Running Jedi
Chuck is one of our 2018 #10YearsRunning Official Bloggers. You can follow along as he trains for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on his blog Picked Last in Gym. Chuck is also a charity runner who is fundraising for the Mario Lemieux Foundation. If he raises $3,500 or more, he will run race in a flamingo print suit and give away a signed Mario Lemieux hockey helmet to one lucky donor!
Chuck Hull
2018 Official Blogger

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