Sports

New club takes off with monthly fun runs

Runners, many sporting ugly sweaters, pose after the February fun run.  - Courtesy Photo
Runners, many sporting ugly sweaters, pose after the February fun run.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Folks who are looking for some sociable exercise, or those who want to know if the words “fun” and “run” could possibly belong together, should check out a new monthly event on the Island.

Monthly fun runs sponsored by the Vashon Running Club are growing in popularity. What makes them fun?

First, it’s the people. There is a happy camaraderie among a diverse, intergenerational group of runners, joggers and walkers. If you come you are likely to find familiar faces from various parts of your Island life — a person who lives down the street from you, someone you recognize from the store or the boat or a fellow parent from your kid’s class or team. There seems to be a synergy between socializing and exercise in this setting.

As Kevin Kim-Murphy, one of the founders of the running club, points out: Running is more fun with friends. It works the other way too. People are friendlier when they share a common pursuit. It turns out that running promotes conviviality better than alcohol.

Vashon Running Club events are entirely non-competitive. The course varies from month to month, and the stated distance — “5k-ish” — illustrates the informal tone.

No one is timed (unless they bring their own watch), and no places or finishing order are recorded. The accomplished runners are more likely to hang back and run with family or friends than to push the pace. If anything, there is a greater motivation to finish further back so that there is a larger group to offer the hearty cheer that everyone gets when they finish.

The event setting, Island Center Forest, enhances the fun. With the support of many Islanders and the good work of the folks at King County Parks, the forest has come a long way from the days when visitors would get lost in the maze of trails. Now there are maps at each entry point, and most trail junctions are marked with signs. Directional signs posted the day of the race remove any chance of losing your way. Trail work has significantly improved passability, although in the winter there are still plenty of the puddles and mud patches that give trail running the obstacle course quality that many of us like. Passing through the rich, dark green landscape of salal, fir, ferns, huckleberry and cedar is beyond fun — it’s exhilarating.

As if all this were not enough, the run organizers add unique and festive touches to each event. At the December run, jingle bells were distributed. The forest filled with the tinkling of about 120 bells, one for each foot of the 60 participants.

February’s theme was ugly sweaters, with a contest at the end for the best ugly sweater. Signs posted along the route showed pictures of famous sweater wearers such as Mr. Rogers and Bill Cosby. At trail’s end there are always hot drinks and treats to share.

If you are suspicious of people offering fun with no strings attached, be apprised that the Vashon Running Club — whose founding members, in addition to the Kevin and Claudine Kim-Murphy, include Bruce and Lisa Cyra and Kate Van Houdt — does have ulterior motives. But these are completely honorable, and include increasing the use and appreciation of Island Center Forest and encouraging fitness and community on the Island. So although you come for the fun, be warned that you may come away inspired to take up running or to make more visits to the Island’s natural treasures.

 

— Tim Morrison is an avid runner and longtime Islander.

 

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