Meet the LRC – Monthly Member Spotlight


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Melissa smiling or grimacing, all these years and I still can’t decipher.

As year three of the Libertyville Running Club comes to a close, it’s time we highlight Melissa Brunette, the Great and Powerful Oz herself, in this final Monthly Member Spotlight.

Many of you know her, many of you do not. It’s difficult for her to be around the LRC as often as she would like given that I’m around the LRC as often as I like. She will do the occasional group run and 5K and has run a half marathon. She joined the SEDOL board this year and was integral in raising over $6,000 via the LRC network for their Making Strides for Kids 5K, accounting for 1/4 of the total funds raised from the event. What few of you know is the extent to which she is involved in ensuring the LRC’s success. In fact, she is the reason there is a Libertyville Running Club to begin with.

I met Melissa in Chicago while she was working for a large law firm, one that ensures your life IS work until you want something more. After a few years of dating, she found something more (shameless plug – ME!) so she left the firm for a position in Libertyville that offered a more reasonable work-life balance.

Melissa’s mom was in the army. Though she was born in Colorado Springs and called it home for her teenage years, she spent most of her early life inhabiting various military towns in the U.S. & Europe. College, then law school, brought her to Massachusetts, then Illinois, where she ultimately settled. Melissa knew nothing about the north suburbs but loved her new company. Unfortunately, it came with a 125-mile round trip commute.

For four years, she commuted to Libertyville while we settled into our home in Flossmoor, a south suburb of Chicago. We loved it: our friends were there, my family was there (my sister lived down the street from us and my parents worked within a few miles of our house), and I started a running club with the goal of opening a running store in town…

Then we had Mars. Her commute didn’t allow for much time with him given that he was asleep when she left for work and asleep when she returned home. The only solution was to move closer to her office. Libertyville had everything we wanted: a vibrant downtown, running trails, and seemingly good people (this has since been confirmed).

We would have to leave the club I started yet Melissa was confident that I could create it again. In my mind, Libertyville was top choice given its lack of a running club. “How could this town have a running store but no running club?”, I questioned. To my chagrin, I discovered that answer after working there.

Fast forward to today, 3 years and 3 months later. Melissa is my copy editor for much of my writing (these articles included, except this one – she doesn’t know about this one). She’s our skilled corporate attorney that navigated the incorporation rules, trademark stuff, and all the liability and insurance details I don’t like concerning myself with but must. She listens to me ruminate about all things LRC daily and offers a lot of great suggestions.

As we reflect on 2016, look to the year ahead, and continue to give thanks for all that we’re thankful for, let’s celebrate Melissa: the reason the LRC exists, the reason our community is a little brighter, and the reason so many of us have become great friends.



Meet Kiko, possibly your next running buddy.

Kiko’s foster mom, Nicole Quigley, has been fostering him for 8 months from Placing Paws  – a Libertyville-based rescue group that takes cats and dogs from rural shelters with high euthanasia rates. With no physical location for their animals, they rely on folks like Nicole that will care for them until they can be placed in their furever home.

Kiko came to the rescue the same way many animals often do, he was purchased from someone for his looks that ended up not knowing much about how to care for him. Unfortunately, he spent most of his days in a crate in the garage before being given up to a shelter.

Since living with Nicole and her mastiffs, Kiko has been given a chance to fully embrace the dog life. He is a high-energy dog with an obsession for playing fetch. Kiko is a great running mate with a love for trails and cool morning runs. He’s got a 7-mile distance PR but Nicole knows he can shatter that. Kiko joined the LRC for one of our hill workouts and showed us all he’s got what it takes to tackle a What-the-Hell-Does-Mike-Brunette-Know training plan.

Nicole’s mastiffs are older dogs and though they don’t have the energy to keep up with Kiko, they get along swimmingly. Nicole thinks he would be best suited in a home with older kids because of his energy and size (70lbs). He hasn’t lived with any cats but he sure is intrigued by them. Nicole has taught him some manners – he’s a chewer of toys and rawhide but leaves her shoes and furniture alone – and sit, stay, down, shake, and leave it are now commands he follows.

Much like us runners on a run, he has a sensitive stomach, which is common with the pit bull terrier breed. He will occasionally counter surf for food Nicole may have left out but he’s always content with a bone of any variety.

While Nicole is at work, Kiko often spends his days at K-9 Playtime in Mundelein. They are very supportive of the mission of foster families and offer free daycare to all dogs fostered through Placing Paws! Here he has the opportunity to get all his energy out before going home to chill on the couch.

Thank you to Nicole and others like her that are happy to foster these animals until they find their furever families. It is our hope that people will stop buying pets from puppy mills and breeders and instead look to animal rescues like Placing Paws for their next pet. If you’re interested in Kiko, know someone who may be, or would like more info about or to donate to area shelters, below are some links to a couple Libertyville organizations we have great experience with.

Placing Paws site HERE.

Orphans of the Storm site HERE.

The Libertyville Running Club will be making a donation to both of these organizations based on the number of runners that attend our annual Run of the Dogs fun run at the end of November – an event we started last year to honor the loss of Dixie (read that article HERE) and all of the dogs & cats we’ve lost after having the pleasure of their company as family members. Details of this run will be announced on our Facebook group page soon.




Dan Riefenberg with crew & pacer extraordinaire, Jen Wierzba

Meet Dan, he’s a bit nuts. This is a common trait among the successful ultrarunner. How else do you explain someone who pushes themselves to run so far, for so long, often times in dangerous conditions? In other words, Dan – like so many others – possesses a drive to explore the limits of his physical and mental capabilities. As many of you know, it’s often the mental challenge that defeats us.

Running a marathon was a bucket list item for Dan; in 2006, he accomplished this in Florence, Italy as a fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation. His crazy reveals itself here when I tell you that he had only run as far as an 8K in training. After years of spectating the Chicago Marathon, he finally ran it (a bit more trained than the Florence race) in 2013 & 2014 – accomplishing his goal of running a 4-hour marathon.

He needed a new goal, so in 2015 he set out to qualify for the Boston Marathon and discovered the Libertyville Running Club on Meetup (yes, in the early days LRC had a account). Tired of doing his winter long runs on the treadmill, he made the trip to Libertyville from Fox River Grove (a 35-minute drive on a good day) for some company and discovered a gaggle of runners just as crazy as himself. He knew then that this was going to be a great group to be around. The LRC helped him trim 50 minutes off his previous marathon time!

Narrowly missing a Boston qualifying time in 2015, he went back to the Illinois Marathon in 2016 and accomplished a qualifying time of 3:09:49 only to discover this past week that it wasn’t enough – the 2017 Boston qualifying time is 2 minutes and 9 seconds under his age group’s 3:10:00 qualifying standard. In the days after the Illinois Marathon, he searched for a different kind of challenge.

He was running about 50 miles a week and decided to attempt one of the hardest 100-mile races out there: the Ouray 100 Mile Endurance Run – a trail race in southwest Colorado with 42,000ft of gain over an elevation range of 7,600ft – 13,400ft. Dan hadn’t run on a trail yet. To remedy that, he signed up for and finished his first ultra and trail race, the Kettle 100K in 8th place! Though this gave him the confidence to attempt Ouray in August, he still had to fine-tune his training and tackle it at elevation, something he couldn’t train for in the midwest.

All the articles and YouTube videos about ultrarunning can’t replace the insight you’ll get from completing the ultra yourself. He discovered that not overthinking or overtraining played to his advantage. After Kettle, Dan realized that running hill workouts and higher mileage helped. Now he would add a few runs in the dark and a 30-miler. Much like the struggle one feels around mile 20 in a marathon, Dan notes that miles 30 – 35 in an ultra are similarly difficult. The night running can be exhilarating but navigating the dangers of what lurks just beyond the illumination of your headlamp takes some getting used to. This is where your pacer or teaming up with another runner will be beneficial.

The Ouray 100 ended up throwing everything at Dan: cold, rain, darkness, loneliness, sleep deprivation, elevation extremes. At around mile 75, after 36 hours of running, he was ready to give up. He had gotten lost several times, he was wet and shivering in the night looking for the path down the mountain. This is another point at which your crew and pacers are important; Jen Wierzba saw to his every need throughout the race and convinced him to keep going. Having someone to tell you to eat and drink and chat with will keep you from having those Tom Hanks / Wilson moments from the movie Cast Away.

He did it in just over 50 hours! Dan was one of only 5 out of 30 people to complete the race. Now he wanted to earn enough points to enter the lottery for the 2017 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 100-mile race in the Alps and enter the lottery for the 2017 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California. So just 6 weeks after completing the Ouray 100, he ran the Mark Twain 100-Mile Race in 26 hours (2nd place overall) after falling, injuring his knee 4 miles in, and leading the race for 69 miles! Throw in lottery attempts for the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run, the Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run, and sub-3 hour marathon and sub-24 hour 100-mile goals, and Dan has a pretty ambitious 2017.

Dan hopes this will inspire and motivate all of you getting into ultrarunning and/or running the Hennepin 100 races this weekend. Eat what you crave at those glorious ultra aid stations, enjoy your surroundings, appreciate your crew and pacers, and push beyond where your mind tells you to quit. Good luck ultrarunners-in-the-making!


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Holly, Joseph, Sebastian (2), and Kaya (9) – the quintessential active family

By now, you’ve likely seen the Charles family at an LRC run: Kaya leading the speedsters on her bike at a Saturday long run, Joseph running with Sebastian in the jogger to meet us between his house and the Metra station, Holly increasing her miles in the LRC Strava group, or the whole family out for a Wednesday night fun run. Seemingly all in now, they are one more example of the LRC lurker that eventually made it out to a run and never looked back.

The Charles family moved to Libertyville after living in Philadelphia, PA then Winston-Salem, NC. Joseph’s career in R&D pharmaceutical/analytical chemistry brought the family here, and Holly now works part-time in graphic design/marketing while she pursues her master’s degree in nursing. In September 2014, Joseph noticed this ragtag group of runners trotting past their home and thought he would one day like to join in on the fun.

It just so happens that Joseph works with Moises Ortiz – an LRC runner and a most helpful Run of the Dead coordinator. Through Moises, Joseph met other LRC runners, and eventually he made it out to a Saturday run this year. But his journey leading up to that point is quite impressive and vital to the Charles family’s zest for an active lifestyle.

He was never a fan of running, though he grew up playing cricket, basketball, cycling, and volleyball. When family and work responsibilities relegated those activities, Joseph found himself weighing 318lbs in January 2015. It was time to make drastic lifestyle changes; he committed to a liquid, high protein diet of 600-800 calories a day for a year. Gradually adding more calories and walking then jogging, Joseph lost 105 lbs that year! His first run ever recorded was June 2015 for a 10:26 min/mile. One year later, he logged 2.2 miles at a 7:16 min/mile pace! His goals include running a 5K in under a 7 min/mile pace and losing that last 10lbs to get him under 200lbs. He plans to work on running a strong 10K but nothing more. He is now addicted to Strava, thanks LRC!

Holly’s parents encouraged her to play basketball in high school because she was shy. From that experience, she realized the importance it played on her physical and mental well-being. She enjoys yoga and has always admired runners from afar. Seeing the positive effect it’s had on Joseph and hearing him rave about the LRC, she decided to give it a try. Whereas 1 year ago Holly would have been proud to run a mile, her new normal is 3 miles with a goal of breaking a 10 min/mile for 3 miles and running a 10K. If you’ve seen her at a group run, you already know her excitement is palpable as she progresses rapidly!

Running with the LRC has encouraged Holly to be diligent. She’s inspired by how well others are performing. Joseph notes that the super-friendly LRC, with its range of abilities and inspiring characters, keeps him from stopping and walking at the 3-mile mark that usually does him in. The regularly scheduled group runs help to keep them from skipping weeks of working out. We may inspire this family to achieve more but we also turned Joseph onto the maple bacon donut, something he once though we were nuts to enjoy.

Joseph and Holly want their kids to experience the same healthy lifestyle and are not above bribing them into participating. Sebastian – the crazy one – is easy; throw him in the jogging stroller or bike and go. Kaya – spectacular and very bright – enjoys riding alongside mom and dad, but it is often difficult to distract her from what she’s doing to get her moving (unless it’s volleyball, she loves volleyball). They’ve found that $1 per non-whining mile is great incentive for her. Don’t tell Kaya that Joseph would secretly pay 10 times that to ensure nothing derails his run and resulting Strava entry. All this family activity has even inspired Kaya to want to participate in a color run.

For a non-stop active family, they still find time to relax. The Charleses make a habit of Taco Tuesdays at Milwalky Taco and unwind with their fair share of Panda Pop, Duke basketball, and family time. While Joseph will crave that maple bacon donut after a run, Holly is most looking forward to a babysitter to keep the crazy child from crawling all over her. Many of us can relate to that!

So there you have it, families that run together, have fun together and we all know that families and fun are always welcome around the LRC. Keep pushing your limits and inspiring us Holly, Joseph, Kaya, and Sebastian!


AUGUST 2016:

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JulieAnn Villa with her punny signs for the LRC Dog Days of Summer 3K

You’re likely familiar with JulieAnn as a volunteer at LRC events: Dog Days of Summer 3K, Run of the Dead Elimination Run, Chicago Marathon Mile 23 Party Station. But that’s not to say she doesn’t run. In fact, she just finished her goal of competing in a race every weekend in June and she is participating in the LRC track workouts, making the drive from Glenview. Her willingness to help others is coupled with determination and spirit, and is the silver lining of losing someone to cancer and then facing her own struggle with cancer. Twice.

Long before her own cancer ever reared its ugly head, JulieAnn lost her best friend and boyfriend to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in 1997. Sad and grief stricken, she followed her roommate’s encouragement to run. Having never been very athletic – she managed to elude gym class all throughout high school – 2 physically excruciating miles somehow left her feeling better emotionally. She would soon be inspired by others to become an endurance athlete, riding a century race and running her first marathon in 2003. It was the positivity she derived from running that would get her through the even tougher times which she had no idea were ahead.

JulieAnn was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2010, and running became her way to train herself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. “Doing it anyway, despite the diagnosis” became one of her mantras. She believed in thriving after that diagnosis, and she has. As a survivor, she is determined to be a beacon for other young cancer patients and survivors. One such recent example is her involvement with True North Treks, having just returned from a week in the remote wildness in Idaho on a retreat for young adults diagnosed with cancer. Positivity and giving back to others has been her way out.

So, she survived cancer! But then work began to consume her and she was neglecting her runs. Feeling out of shape and that running was no longer fun, she ordered a red tutu for the 3M Half Marathon in Austin, TX. She had been having complications with her jaw and was awaiting biopsy results. She needed to find some joy in life again and the cheers for her outfit from the spectators helped to lift her spirits a bit. The jaw pain proved to be a second cancer diagnosis in 2015, this time for Osteosarcoma of the left mandible (bone cancer in her jaw). It was at this point that she took to calling herself a unicorn because of the rarity of getting two different cancers within four years.

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Unicorns Michele and JulieAnn spotted at the Run of the Dead Elimination Run

To be fast really isn’t the point of why so many of us run. There are any number of reasons that we’re drawn to running, the same as we’re each drawn to so many other things. Running allows JulieAnn to feel stronger physically, but also mentally and emotionally. She began running with TEAM in Training (TNT) – an endurance training program that fundraises for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, four years after losing her boyfriend and has been involved with them ever since. JulieAnn also runs with Fellow Flowers, which is a group that has allowed her to celebrate her moments of transformation with a tribe of women who understand her. You may have seen her and others wearing flowers in their hair; each flower has a unique meaning, and for JulieAnn, sporting that flower is her way of showing her committment to doing the work.

Her relationship with TNT connected her to her coach Andy Pekarske and later to her teammate Michele Kwok, both of who you surely know from their participation in, and photography of, all things LRC. The two of them have been with JulieAnn since her first diagnosis and she credits them for saving her life. As many of you can attest, it’s the friendships you acquire through running groups that will be cherished long after the miles have been accumulated.


JulieAnn, Andy, and Michele putting the fun in run

Right around that second diagnosis, Andy described to JulieAnn a run club that celebrated after runs with a maple bacon donut. The sparkle in Andy’s eyes when he described this donut club intrigued her. After finishing with her chemo treatments she joined her TNT friends at the LRC dance party / cheer station set up at mile 23 of the 2015 Chicago Marathon. She was impressed that long after the bulk of the runners came through, LRC and her TNT friends were still encouraging and celebrating every last runner and walker. The spirit of the LRC is something she wanted to be a part of. The energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

I can’t put into words what JulieAnn has endured and describes in her own words so eloquently and at times quite humorously. Rather than paraphrase her writings, I will include THIS LINK and THIS LINK describing the journey. Let her story inspire you to run with a purpose – to shed whatever trivial or seemingly insurmountable weight you carry. JulieAnn found strength in doing just that… One foot in front of the other. Now she’s looking forward to running the Portland Half Marathon in October with a goal of 2:15, and then the 17-mile option of our Run of the Dead Elimination Run later that month. That will be the longest run for her since her initial cancer diagnosis in 2010.

JulieAnn still has some reconstruction work to do on her jaw but she is now cancer free. She will have checkups every 3 months for the next few years and notes that she has received so much radiation throughout her bouts with cancer that she likely glows in the dark. She continues to mold and inspire young minds as a science research and chemistry high school teacher. She’s completing her Master’s Degree in Science Communication with a focus on medicine. She hopes to become a science communicator – an intermediary for patients and doctors.

Cheers to JulieAnn to being cancer free. Here’s to a lifetime of it!

JULY 2016:

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Kenneth Sas – Resident of Vernon Hills, master of maintenance for the kids of Hawthorn Schools, and striker of impromptu superhero poses

Meet Ken – he likes photography and long walks on the beach and… Seriously though, he is an avid scuba diver; that’s kind of like walking on the beach. In the beach. And he was one of the photographers that provided us with some great shots for our Run of the Dead race.

Ken recently experienced the classic progression of a marathon runner through thoughts ranging from, “a marathon?” to “alright, I’ll do one” to “let’s do it again but faster!” This laissez-faire attitude was evident back in high school when on the first day of freshman orientation he decided to give cross country a shot simply because 90% of the class said they intended to participate in some sport. “Why not?” he thought.

About three years ago he picked up running again and did his first marathon in 2013. He started doing it more regularly and joined the Golden Legs Running group in Mundelein just as it was going defunct. They directed him to the LRC. And that’s where things got crazy…

After seeing some of the LRC folks doing multiple marathons, and setting and achieving big goals for 2016, he knew he could too and also have support along the way. He enjoys the enthusiasm, the experience, and all the activities the Club provides, so he decided he would go for not one but two marathons this year!

He received a free entry from the LRC for the Wisconsin Marathon in May and trained with us throughout the winter. Like the training, the race conditions were not pleasant – cold and windy. He found encouragement in the applause of family and Jenny, his girlfriend, and the few of us that ran along the course to cheer for him and other LRCers. 5 hours and 57 minutes later, he crossed the finish line.

One down, one to go.

For the Chicago Marathon, he would like to best his first marathon time of 5:30, in addition to taking his efforts one step further… Through Team One Step, a charity providing children’s oncology services, Ken will raise money to provide empowering, supportive, educational, and fun experiences (ski trips, whitewater rafting excursions, dude ranches) for children who have been diagnosed with cancer. You can help Ken reach his goal by kindly donating HERE.

Because of his go-with-the-flow demeanor, Ken is following the What-the-Hell-Does-Mike-Brunette-Know? training plan again (you know nothing Mike Brunette!). The summer plan incorporates our Libertyville High School track workouts which Ken credits for his ability to maintain a faster pace, for longer, which has helped him become a better long distance runner. That, and the chicken wings. Protein is good for you, right?

And so is chocolate milk, his go-to post-long-run indulgence. If you’re new to running, he recommends you try it. He also recommends leaning on the LRC for the wealth of knowledge and experience we possess. He was once one of those people that thought he couldn’t do a marathon. He has since learned to enjoy every step of the way. To have fun. To ask questions. The rewards achieved throughout training and once you cross that finish line are worth the efforts. So are the friends you pick up along the way.

JUNE 2016:

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The New Christy

Today is Global Running Day (A.K.A. –  National Running Day) – a global initiative aimed at encouraging people to live healthy, fitter lives. Since the beginning of the LRC, I’ve come across many inspiring stories of healthy transformations, from our very first Monthly Member Spotlight 16 months ago featuring Carrie Wagner, to Christy Bartolain, who was introduced to the LRC by Carrie. Christy’s story hits on all the things that Global Running Day is about: having fun and being active and healthy.

Christy lives in Round Lake Beach and started making the 25-minute drive to Libertyville to run with the LRC last summer for our track workouts. Christy had just started running more consistently, having run her first race a few weeks prior on Mother’s Day – the 2015 Barrington Mother’s Day 5K. The track workouts were a great introduction to the LRC in an unfamiliar town; she knew she wouldn’t be left behind. She began the 2015 11-week track program with an 11:22 mile time trial and finished the program with an 8:53 mile time trial and after running with us this winter, she ran yesterday’s time trial in 8:22! For those of you that did your first 1-mile time trial with us last night, you’ve got some improvement to get excited about.

As a bit of an introvert, she was comforted by how encouraging, welcoming, and helpful everyone was. She soon attended a Wednesday night fun run and met Erin Westphal – a leader in the LRC community that ensures no runner is left behind. The miles flew by while chatting with friends. She was encouraged by the people in the LRC to keep stretching her boundaries. A half marathon no longer seemed impossible. She ran with us throughout the winter to train for her first half marathon – the Wisconsin Half Marathon in May.

She began the year with a 10-mile New Year’s Day run with the LRC. This was her first long run without any blisters; she was off to a good start. She used the LRC training plan as a guideline and made some adjustments. For example, she likes to be over-prepared so she stretched her longest run to 15 miles. She was more than ready for her half marathon and it showed on race day. Christy was all smiles despite the cold and windy conditions. Michael Stehling jumped in to run with her around mile 10. She was thankful for the pick-me-up; that mile and the next were her fastest of the day!

I remember Christy from the track workouts last summer. And when Jill Baranowski and I saw her at the Wisconsin Half Marathon last month we noticed something different. She looked happier, healthier. Since the beginning of 2016, she has lost 25 lbs.! Running has played a huge role in her weight loss. She tracks her calories with My Fitness Pal. Though she doesn’t obsess about every entry, she finds that just logging some of her meals keeps her from overindulging. Running helps her burn the extra calories while continuing to enjoy meals and snacks without feeling deprived. Her advice is to find an activity you love and be cognizant of what you eat. Exercise isn’t painful if you’re having fun doing it. Hmm, sounds a lot like our If It Ain’t Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong! slogan.

She credits the workouts for teaching her how to train effectively and introducing her to interval training and tempo runs – something she now incorporates into her running. Her goal this year is to make a sub-10-minute-mile her new normal; she’s currently around 10:15 – 10:30/mile. For all the new participants this year, she recommends taking advantage of the before and after time at the track to socialize with the other runners. That’s what inspired her to participate in other LRC runs and as a result, push her limits.

And that’s what she’ll do again when she trains for and runs her first marathon this fall – the Chicago Marathon. She’s also running the Venus de Miles 5K and the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon (a group trip with Moms Run This Town – a Lake and McHenry County running club) this summer. She’s looking forward to training with the LRC again and completing her first marathon as a charity runner for Team Bright Pink.

And now my favorite thing you probably don’t know about Christy… She rides a motorcycle! Christy and her husband are avid riders and together they experience many of the things she also finds most enjoyable about running: sharing a passion with someone, being alone with time to think, and that indescribable feeling of being out in the open with the wind against your face. There’s a sensory awareness derived from riding a motorcycle and from running that you don’t get riding in a car.

Join us tonight for a fun run on Global Running Day. Like Christy, you’ll be amazed at how far you could go in just one year. No more excuses, just run.

Christy & Mike at Bill & Ted's Run

Christy and me, just because we happened to have this photo from our Bill & Ted’s scavenger run.

MAY 2016:

Diana Run of the Dead

Diana Reyes at the Run of the Dead Elimination Run before the challenge warranted less smiling

Diana came to the U.S. in 1999 on vacation from her home in Bogotá, Columbia… And stayed here. She and her daughter, Natalia, moved to Libertyville almost 6 years ago. As Diana expressed to me, they nearly left Libertyville until the LRC made her feel at home. She recalls Facebook-stalking the LRC page since October of 2014 and seeing me run past her house often (we live a 1/4 mile apart). Though she’s unsure exactly when she decided to show up to a run, she’s glad she did and only wishes she had done it sooner.

She started running for fun with her dad about 30 years ago – amazing, since she’s 21 years old, right? They would get up early and take advantage of Ciclovía, a practice originating in Bogotá in which certain main streets are blocked off to cars for runners and bicyclists every Sunday from 7am – 2pm. During this time, stages are set up in city parks and various fitness instructors and musicians lead people through performances. She continued to run when the mood struck because she liked it and she knew it would keep her healthy.

Diana was what you would call a group-run virgin, having never run with a group before meeting the LRC. I sing the praises of running with a group so often that I sound like a broken record so I’ll let Diana sum it up here by saying it gets her out the door on those “blah” days, it holds her accountable which helps motivate her to run longer and faster, and it’s just more fun with friends. Considering that her pace went from about a 10:30 min/mile to a 8:50 min/mile in this past year, I would say the system works. I’m always amazed at how much she’s improving when I pick her up on our run over to the Breakfast Club run.

Being a single mom of a 10-year-old daughter can prove difficult when wanting to run with and participate in all the LRC social events. Luckily, we don’t bite and Natalia fits right in; we’re pro-kids! Occasionally, Natalia will ride along side mom on her bike, accompany us to an event (like volunteering with mom at our Poker Run 10K), or join us for post-run dinner and drinks. But as far as making time for herself? Diana just hides in the bathroom leaving Natalia to think mom takes too long to go. Whatever works!

Diana is going to complete her first half marathon on May 7th at the Wisconsin Marathon & Half Marathon in Kenosha after months of following LRC’s What-the-Hell-Does-Mike-Brunette-Know? training plan. She finds motivation on those long runs just knowing that running is something that many people are physically unable to do. She also enjoys getting faster and stronger, and setting a good example for her daughter. She looks forward to returning to spend time with her after the run… And after a good nap.

Libertyville certainly has no shortage of routes to run. Diana would choose to run the Des Plains River Trail for the rest of her life IF only it extended to a coastal city. But the real choice as of late is, when picking a “side” for track workouts: Church or Cult? Libertyville Running Club’s not-meant-to-be-offensive replacement of the traditional and boring “Club” with “Church” and “Cult” has left all of you in the same quandary. Diana is aligning with the Cult – dark, naughty, fun, and sweaty things come to mind for her. Whoa! Save it for Hook Up Wednesday Night Fun Runs, Girl.

Running with a group can be bad news for people that don’t want to push themselves. After her first half marathon, Diana is joining the LRC for our return trip to the Denver half marathon in June, signed up for the Chicago Marathon this fall, and is planning to do a 50K after that. She isn’t so intimidated by the challenges because she and the LRC share similar philosophies of keeping it fun and enjoying the run. Because of that, she tells people that haven’t taken the leap to show up to an LRC run or event yet to just do it. You’ll regret not doing it sooner like she does.

Join the LRC throughout May for a group run of varying kilometers. And if you’re looking for a fall marathon training plan, join Diana and the others when ours kicks off with a party on June 18th!

APRIL 2016:

Nakanishi (1)

Matt Nakanishi – a man of many (s)miles

Matt has been on my list of people to write about for a long time. However, I thought it would be best to do so when we could join him in celebrating his achievement of not only completing 50 marathons before he turns 50 but by doing it at his first Boston Marathon in two weeks.

He only started running at 28 years old because a softball injury left him sidelined and gaining weight. While at first he did it to lose the weight, he found running to be enjoyable and within a year, he raced the 1999 Lake County Races from Zion to Highland Park then the 1999 Chicago Marathon. After one summer of marathon training, he was hooked. He soon added a spring marathon, then others when a thought occurred that if he kept this up, he could complete 50 marathons before he turned 50. He’s run the Chicago Marathon every year except one since then, the Fox River Marathon every year since its inception in 2010, and the Disney World Marathon (as part of the Goofy and Dopey Challenges, no less) since 2013 as a way to incorporate a family vacation. Or is it the other way around? With the Boston Marathon, he will finish this goal 4 and 1/2 years early.

But qualifying for the Boston Marathon was never really a thought, until…

Shortly after the LRC formed in the beginning of 2014, Matt heard about this new club that was going to have track workouts at Libertyville High School. Intrigued, he started following our Facebook group. When he saw us volunteering at an aid station at the North Shore Classic Half Marathon dressed in costumes and having a good ol’ time, he knew this was the club for him. The LRC played a huge role in Matt running PRs in every distance he raced in 2015 and ultimately in qualifying for Boston at his 40th marathon (2015 Illinois Marathon): the summer and winter speed workouts, various cross-training offerings the LRC sponsored, the group long runs, and field trips to Barrington with LRC & Fleet Feet Chicago all helped him earn that Runner Passport to Boston.

Prior to the Club, he ran indoors during winter and mostly alone year-round. With the LRC being active all year, he was motivated by others on those long, or cold, or fast runs. As a result, he pushed himself more, resulting in stronger and faster runs, than if he had done it alone. One of the best things about the LRC to Matt is that while someone is always there to push him, everyone enjoys running and no one seems to take it too seriously. He has found the LRC to be an amazing group of people who are fun to hang out with outside of running.

When Matt’s schedule gets too hectic, he likes that he can train with his running buddies virtually through the LRC Strava page and feel connected to the LRC. This virtual motivational tool has proven helpful for many, including all of us that bore witness to Matt’s impressive mileage total for 2015 and what he is currently doing as part of his Boston training. Hint: it’s a lot! If you use any type of GPS tracking, feel free to join us on Strava. Matt will surely motivate you. 

Take all this running and add to it that Matt plays ice hockey and you have to wonder how he finds time to get it all in. You also have to wonder why he’s mixing running with ice hockey! He claims that the ice hockey has actually helped his running: it’s a great workout using slightly different muscle groups which has helped with his recovery and kept him relatively injury free (cross training, people! Do it!). Of course, without such a supportive family, none of this would be possible. With the birth of his twins 8 years ago, then a daughter shortly after, his in-laws moved in to help out while he and his wife Akemi continued their careers. In addition, Akemi is extremely supportive of his running and 50 marathon goal. He tries to minimize the time away from his kids by completing many of his runs before they wake up; The Tuesday morning LRC Breakfast Club runs afford him one more opportunity to do that with friends.

As if all these marathons aren’t challenging enough, he twice completed the Ice Age 50-Miler and will run it again this year. He says that the 2014 Ice Age event was his biggest challenge to date. He had never run any race as technically challenging as Ice Age. It was also his first 50-miler so he was definitely intimidated going into the race. Convincing himself that he could finish the race was just as difficult, if not more difficult, than the physical aspect of actually running the race. But as Matt notes, in order to take yourself to new levels you have to get in over your head and out of your comfort zone.

And when it comes to getting in over your head, Matt gets by with a little help from his LRC friends. When the LRC jumped off the ultra-running deep end and submitted a team for the Leadville 100-mile trail race lottery, Matt couldn’t resist taking one of the eight spots. Ever since the threat of Leadville came and went, Matt has been intrigued by the distance and may one day register for a 100-miler… That one day likely being next year when we try for Leadville again!

Matt hasn’t set up any goals after Boston because he wants to truly enjoy the moment without having to worry about what’s next. His sister lives in the Boston area and he plans to celebrate the race with his wife, kids, father, and sister. Joining him in Boston will be a few other LRCers and friends: Kate Wichmann, Stephen Ryner, Ted Tharp, Michael Stehling, and Sam Stein. Matt is certain there will be some LRC shenanigans taking place with that contingent.

Here’s to wishing Matt a great Boston Marathon! Join the LRC after our fun run on Wednesday, April 20th to celebrate Matt and the others when they return from Boston. The Boston runners’ drinks are on us!

APRIL (FOOLS’) 2016:

The end roadsign 2

Members of LRC, meet The End. We’ve come a long way in these two years but it’s time that we bid adieu with one last article paying homage to The End of the LRC.

“It’s just time to end on a note, any note will do” said Mike Brunette – founder and organizer of the Libertyville Running Church. “I see the future of running clubs evolving and I’m not an innovator. I’m tired and your membership dues just haven’t afforded me the lifestyle of similar church leaders like that Joel Olsteen guy. I’m happy to have been a part of this but it’s time for other clubs to take over from here.”

And take over they will. Age-old area clubs like the OTESD – Open Track Enthusiasts of Short Distance – are looking forward to getting their members back. All duties will be transferred over to these more fun running clubs because, and let’s be honest, the LRC only cherry-picked from the best ideas anyway. From Bill Bowerman’s famous chicken wing & watermelon track workouts, to Jimmy Kimmel’s aid station antics, to Lover’s Lanes’ Wednesday night hookup runs, the LRC was merely reinventing the wheel.

When asked about the demise of the LRC, Bee Hintson, 35-year resident of neighboring Lake Zurich,  simply questioned, “Who’s the LRC? If I haven’t heard of them, then they clearly weren’t that special.”

Pastor Zed Wardklay from the Des Plains River Community Church had this to say: “who do they think they are, calling themselves a church?! Meeting weekly and running among nature as they do is nothing like attending Mass in one of God’s beautiful indoor amphitheater creations, like He intended. And to call himself the head of a church is sacrilegious; Mike is only an ordained minister online. ANYONE CAN DO THAT; IT’S FREE AND TAKES TWO MINUTES!”

Ordination Certificate

Bill from Chili-U had kinder words when asked about the Club disbanding, “we’re really going to miss hosting the LRC on those Wednesday night hookup runs. Boy, those runners can eat and drink! We used to just put out a chili trough and let them go to town. What a great boost to our local economy they were.”

Finally, The Deacon – LRC’s second-in-command – was quoted as saying, “Meh, I figured he didn’t have it in him to keep this up. Times are changing and people only want to run on single track trails now. The LRC just couldn’t adapt. If only he would have followed the Deacon’s Way, The End would have never happened!”

MARCH 2016:

Ann Article Photo

Jim Moberg, Ann Rowley, and a pending little one I’m betting will be a boy named Miles

Spring is around the corner and about to bring us warmer weather and longer days, which always means the Club gets bigger. This year in addition to the new people who will find us for the first time and all the hibernators who will be back to join the fun, we’ll also welcome a firstborn from Ann Rowley and her husband Jim, who is expected to arrive on March 17th.

Ann relocated to Libertyville from Boston almost two years ago to take a job at Abbvie as a chemist while Jim completed his board exams to become a nurse here in town. She settled on Libertyville in a way that I’ve heard others do and is so typical of runners: she searched for running clubs throughout Lake and Cook counties. Ann and Jim met in their running club in Boston – Sommerville Road Runners – and it was important to them to find a replacement just as fun and social and in a location with plenty of places to run. Ann soon determined that in all of Lake and Cook counties, no other city seemed to have as cool of a running club; our reputation precedes us. Discovering that downtown Libertyville is so lively and has a great restaurant and bar scene sealed the deal.

Running was a means to an end for Ann. She didn’t enjoy it growing up but did see it as a way to stay healthy and in shape for other sports. As grad school later took its toll on her health and her ability to run waned, she re-committed to getting in shape after her thesis was written by signing up for her first marathon – the 2008 Vermont City Marathon.

Though she made every beginner mistake – camped the night before the race, ate a Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwich on the way to the race, showed up late and overdressed – she finished and was determined to do another one. When Ann’s grandmother fell ill a few years later, Ann sent her the race medals she had earned, hoping she would find strength in these tokens of Ann’s accomplishments. When her grandmother revealed that these medals did in fact give her the will to pull through, Ann vowed to run a marathon in every state for her. A story was planned for her grandmother’s local paper but she passed just as Ann was about to deliver the 3rd medal. That medal now lies with her in her casket. Ann is 20 marathons in and still plans to fulfill that promise.

Discovering that anything is possible, Ann later completed an Ironman in 2014. However, Ann now knows that was not as challenging as completing two marathons while pregnant these past few months. For that, she found inspiration in training with Heidi Greco, who struggled with injury frequently while training for her first marathon (the 2015 Chicago Marathon), and Steve Lorey, who spent much of his last year in Libertyville battling cancer and struggling through chemotherapy treatments (Steve is now doing great and is living in San Antonio). For Ann, any movement was good movement so long as she got outside or to the gym. She has noted that whether training for an Ironman or a marathon while pregnant, her donut consumption peaks at three in one sitting. She thanks the LRC for turning her onto the maple bacon donut.

Ann and Jim did put an interesting spin on another LRC cliche by hosting a baby shower beer mile. They met in a running club, then married on 3/17 and hosted a 3.17-mile run before the wedding (complete with 3.17 stickers for their guests), and now their baby is due on 3/17; it was only fitting that they host a baby shower that involved running. Friends participated in costumes, like onesies, diapers, and baby carriers. The only bad time had was by Christine, Ann’s sister (and only while puking), and by my car which happened to get puked on. That’s what you get for parking near the start/finish, dummy!


Thanks Christine!

Ann isn’t planning to rest too long; she has the Jack & Jill Marathon in North Bend, WA on July 31st to celebrate her 39th birthday. Lucky for her it’s all downhill, right?

She is happy with her choice to move to Libertyville. She notes that the LRC is unique because, even with a plethora of talented, fast runners, no one is braggy or stuck up. Everyone is willing to run with some slower runners if need be and even the fastest runners are always super encouraging. No one seems to get hung up on their pace; everyone seems more focused on having fun.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: Ann and I discovered one day that we both grew up loving these two somewhat obscure bands in the 90s, ergo, Ann is cool. Enjoy!

Superchunk – Hyper Enough Video

Jawbreaker – Fireman Video



Jill “Nixon” Baranowski at LRC’s Run of the Dead race

You know what I love? Runners that don’t take themselves too seriously. There are myriad reasons why each of us run but ultimately, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Jill conveys that message in a very comical way in her Another Run of the Jill blog – a lighthearted narrative of her running thoughts and adventures as she trains for her first marathon, The Flying Pig Marathon, this May. With these monthly features, I usually ask a series of questions then edit and sculpt them into the article you read. However with Jill, her stream of consciousness is what makes her blog so enjoyable and accordingly, I’ll present to you her response to my questions with very little editing. It’s longer than usual, but it’s good! Enjoy!

  1. When and why did you started running?

I began my running journey in October 2012. I was in the second year of grad school and finally realized how fat I really had gotten. 5+ years of school had put a lot of weight on me. The scale was nearing 200 lbs, and I had told myself growing up I would never let it hit that number. A girl in my grad program was running a bunch and the two of us signed up for the It’s A Wonderful Run 5K through Seneca Falls, NY. I got fitted and bought shoes at Fleet Feet and signed up for the Schaumburg Turkey Trot as well. I ran that with a friend from kindergarten and barely survived that 5K in 35 minutes. After the Seneca Falls 5K, a group of 4 of us decided we would sign up for the Flower City Half Marathon in Rochester that Spring. It was really a way for us to keep our sanity knowing we had Orals and final practicums coming up. I ran the Flower City Half Marathon in 2:12. Since I started running, I’ve lost approximately 30 lbs and have kept it off ever since!

Jills first 5k

Jill’s first 5K – the 2012 Schaumburg Turkey Trot

  1. How did you stumble into the LRC?

After moving back in with my parents in August 2013, I was running by myself through Mundelein and Long Grove. After being there almost a year and having few friends and no one to motivate me to run, I googled “running near me”. I went to The Runner’s Edge and they had a flyer for the LRC. They were meeting at Downing’s Tavern that evening and doing a Wednesday Night Fun Run. I awkwardly emailed you like 3 times as I was driving to the run trying to figure out where Downing’s was and how I would know who was a part of LRC. I’ll never forget that first run. We did 6 miles on the bike path and I ran with the amazing Laura Wood, trying to keep up with Derek O’Sullivan and Doug. Post run beers made me a repeat member.

  1. What brought you to decide to run a marathon this year?

I thought, “why the hell not?” Honestly, it was Halloween and Susan Geidner had signed up. I had a few drinks and Lauren Delfeld signed up right then. I figured I could survive it. I told myself in the past I’d never run a marathon, but here I am with 2, possibly 3 on my calendar for 2016. I thought I should do it once. Peer pressure usually works pretty easily on me. It would also give me something to do and plan for. Plus, I might have a shot at running the Revel Rockies full marathon in Colorado for the LRC return trip this year if I get on the marathon buses instead of the half marathon buses… Too soon?

  1. Give us your reason for starting a running blog and tell us what to expect in it.

I need ways to keep me accountable. If I don’t have external rewards, I’m 100% less likely to do things I don’t want to do. I struggle with intrinsic motivation. If I had to write about the fact I was training or people expected things from me, I knew I would be more likely to do it. Runners are notorious for talking about running. I also talk a lot, but I know my family and my roommates get tired of me complaining and talking about the same couple things. If I’m writing it and don’t care so much about who is reading it, it’s a way to get things off my chest without pissing anyone off.

You should expect A LOT of stream of consciousness writing. I don’t really edit it. I kind of just go with what I’m thinking and hope it turns out semi-coherent. I plan on not only documenting my training, but also things going on in my life. I want to get back to the part of my life that wasn’t all about running. I want to try new things and do more and be more active, so what a great way to document those things and share. I like shopping so if I get running gear and tell people it’s awesome and then they get it and love it, I’ve done some good and boosted the local economy.

So what to expect: pictures of Stella (my dog), questions I have about running/exercise, LOTS of talk about poop, food/nutrition questions, my family life, hilarious anecdotes of my school life/students. And recaps of what I’m Netflixing.

  1. One of your recent blog entries talks about the dinosaur tattoo you got for your brother (to go along with the tattoos you have for your mom and dad). Share with us the meaning of those tattoos. Now which LRC “family member” would you get a tattoo for and what would it be?

Oh the dinosaur. He is on my arm for my brosef. I have the most wonderful older brother who used to be my sister. Brandon used to be Jenna and he is transgender and came out almost 3 years ago. He actually came out not long after I got my wrist tattoos. I got the t-rex because he is a freak for T-Rex Tuesday…. It’s a meme thing. Also, there is a quote I stumbled on once saying “LGBT: The T isn’t silent, it is loud like a dinosaur.” And I find that so true. Just not for individuals who are transgender and their allies, but for everyone. Be loud and proud! Stand up tall and find your voice.

I’m not the best at finding my voice and my confidence. My self confidence is pretty low (this surprises so many people), but I just want to finally take a stand and be opinionated. So I enjoyed that. The stripes are for the transgender part of the story. They are from the transgender flag. I think they look like cotton candy. I know a lot of people who have gotten the stripes as part of a star or heart or ribbon, but I thought a t-rex fit Brandon perfectly.

Jill Dino


My wrist tattoos are my mom and dad’s handwriting. Again in grad school (so many poor choices by me), I wasn’t sure where I was going to move when I graduated. Moving back to the suburbs was not even a little bit on my radar. I was so determined (and still am) to move out West and try it on my own out there. My mom and dad might be the most supportive people I’ve ever met on the planet. I know everyone says that but it’s true with The Mary and The Dave. Every choice I’ve made, they’ve backed, even if they thought it was dumb as hell (which they do a lot). I just wanted a piece of them with me wherever I went. I wanted them and their support physically with me no matter where I ended up and what I ended up doing. So I cut up some old birthday cards from them (I hoard them) and picked some of the “I love you” crap from the bottom of the cards and ended up with these bad boys.

Which LRC family member? Maybe the margarita glass on the logo? I think he is so adorable! I like his salted rim. It shows his sweet and salty personality, like me! If I got a human, I already promised your wife I’d get her portrait on my neck. So there’s that. I might actually get some paw prints for all of our puppy LRC members. That LRC dog run in December was seriously the most fun, even though I stepped in dog poop and Stella was a crazy dog. Dogs are so important!!! So, paw prints. My final answer is paw prints.

  1. You met your roommates in the LRC. Give us a story about each of them – good, bad, or ugly. 

No one wants/needs stories about Lauren Delfeld. I will say that she has climbed into bed with both Stacie and myself randomly in the night. I woke up to her once after an evening out snuggled next to me in my bed. I then went back to sleep and didn’t think anything of it. Everyone knows probably everything else about that girl 🙂

Lauren and I also eat about a dozen eggs a week and watch Family Feud almost every night. We try to not miss it, even though we have actual cable now. Oh and I went as her for Halloween to the LRC Halloween run/party. That was one of the weirdest costumes I’ve ever had.

Stacie Otto – So Stacie is pretty much the nicest person ever. For the holidays, she got me all this Star Wars paraphernalia and it was awesome, especially since she hadn’t even seen VII yet! Let’s not talk about that. She is also super fun to watch reality TV with. The three of us got sucked into The Voice this season – even though none of us had ever watched it before – and she had some great commentary.

  1. What do you think about on a long run?

I think a lot about what else I have to do that day, or how much longer it will be until I’m finished. I also think a lot about food. It drives most of everything I do. Hopefully I’ll be talking to someone on my long run and I’ll be focused on not tripping and falling. There is also “why the hell did I sign up for this?!” but when I get past the halfway point, I think of how close I am to being finished and how much better and happier I’ll be all day!

  1. Yes or no to music while running?

Running by myself definitely, or else I think too much. I try to use running as my time to not think. If I’m meeting others to run, then no music. I also do music/TV while on the treadmill. If I’m running along in a forest preserve or on the trail, I only ever put in one ear bud though to be safe. I do a lot of rap and hip hop when I run. Eminem, Beastie Boys, and Kanye West get played a lot but so do Britney Spears and Beyonce.

  1. What’s one thing you love or must have after a long run?

So lame, but a banana. I have extremely horrible GERD, and I suck at fueling on long runs. After Run of the Dead, my acid was all up in my throat and chest; it was kind of agony. I really must have a giant bottle of Mylanta. Also flip flops in the summer and a change of clothes. I love having bare feet after a long run. The Stick is quickly becoming my new best friend after long runs. Sticking my butt and hammies feels so great.

  1. Finally, what is your favorite LRC shenanigan?

I really enjoyed whitewater rafting in Colorado and that whole LRC Revel Rockies marathon/half marathon trip. It was awesome to get to know LRC people better. Whitewater rafting just brought out everyone’s personalities and I learned and saw way more of people than I ever expected to.

Spectating races this past fall (Twilight Shuffle 5K and Chicago Marathon) became another one of my favorite LRC shenanigans. Such camaraderie and enthusiasm for everyone, no matter how fast or slow their paces were. It is wonderful to see everyone have so much fun and focus their energies on others instead of themselves. At Chicago, the music war with the music school was on point and I’m sure will be even bigger and badder in 2016.

Jill rafting.jpg

Whitewater rafting (clockwise from top left): Sarah Molsen, Raven Newberry, The Deacon, Joe Szatmary, and Jill Baranowski (oh, then the rafting guide)



Cheers and hoppy new beers from some of the LRC shenanigators

Here we are, the beginning of a new year and the start of the second year of these Member Spotlight articles. These articles are meant to give the reader a better sense of who the LRC is and show how a group sharing so much camaraderie is also made up of an amazingly diverse collection of individuals.

This month’s article puts the focus on the large group of you who submitted 2015 accomplishments and New Year’s resolutions – 72, to be exact. It pleases me to see what we’ve achieved while participating in the LRC and just how grand our visions have become as a result of the supportive and inspirational club we’ve built.

With so many of you responding to my call, there’s no way I can repeat back all of the great accomplishments and plans for 2016, so I figured the most readable way to do this this year is in highlight format (I actually have a spreadsheet working behind all of this, but only about four of you would prefer to read it that way).

So what’s in a resolution and how far can we push ourselves? 2015 was a year of big achievement for many of you:

  • 5ks – Completing their first were Christy Bartolain and Diana Reyes; thanks to LRC speed workouts their fastest, big improvements and a win were accomplished by Rachel Shoemaker, Sue Behringer and Lee Dunbar, respectively, while Bonny Thomas was proud to get her two children out to complete two 5ks as a family.
  • 10ks – Tackling not one, but two within one week of each other and for the first time in 30 years was Greg Anderson who credits the track workouts for building the strength and confidence he needed to get back in it.
  • Half Marathons – Chris Brown knocked off six states toward his 50 state half marathons goal, Molly Ellis and David Christensen completed four, accomplishing their first were Chris Ankeny and Eric Miller, and Sinee Feld worked her way back from knee surgery with races building up to and including a half marathon.
  • Marathons – 2015 was a year of first marathons for Derek Romeo (who also BQd!), Jenni Horst, Michelle Smith, Heidi Greco, and Carrie Wagner, a year of BQs for Michael Stehling, Kate Wichmann, Stephen Ryner, Ted Tharp and Matt Nakanishi, and finishers abound including Emily Jones, Heather Pietschmann, Jodi Majewski, Alicia Waters, Selina Carpenter, Ryan & Kristy Dietz, and Rae Goodman, among others.
  • Ultras – A lot of firsts here: The Deacon, Josh Hogan, Adrianne Warren, and Bob Lenning tackled their first 100-milers, the LRC peer pressure machine saw several newbie and seasoned runners at this distance enter and complete the Ice Age Trail 50-Miler including Amy Perrin, Josh Hogan, Patrick Morris, Matt Nakanishi, The Deacon, and myself, and various 50ks and our Run of the Dead race created first time ultra runners out of Jeremy Bartusch, Jacki Whitney, Maryam Zakariya, and Trisha Zubert.
  • Triathlons & Cycling – Rae Goodman (after purchasing her first bike), Diana Reyes, and Carrie Wagner accomplished their first triathlons while Sinee Feld continued her post-knee surgery comeback with a sprint, olympic, and 1/2 Ironman distance. Molly Ellis completed the epic RAGBRAI ride across Iowa.
  • PRs – Wow! And this is just a sampling. Marathon PRs for: Rae Goodman – 55 minutes; Nate Rugg – 29 minutes; Kristy Dietz – 28 minutes; and Kate Wichmann – 19 minutes. Other PRs include: Nicole Quigley in an olympic distance triathlon; Amy Lauren and Maritza Pozo ran their furthest runs ever – 18 & 17 miles, respectively, with the LRC; Stephanie Nickolsen – half marathon & 2nd in her age group for a 5k; and Stephanie Hunsberger achieving a 7:50 minute mile at the LRC track workout 1-mile time trial – a huge improvement for her. Amazingly, Matt Nakanishi PRd in just about every race he ran including a half, full, 50k, and 50-miler!
  • Annual Mileage – Eric Miller came back from back surgery with 200 miles (the most he’s had in a long time), all while rediscovering his love for running with the help of LRC; Derek Romeo – 750; Derek O’Sullivan – 900; Erin Westphal & Ryan Dietz – 1,000; Alicia Walters – 1,200; Rebecca Atkinson – 1,300; Nate Rugg – 1,500; Maryam Zakariya – 1,600; Jeremy Bartusch – 2,200; and Matt Nakanishi & myself – 3,000. These were record years for all but Eric. Susan Geidner reached the highest ranking Volt status on Nike+ – a badge given to those who have run 9,320 miles (she did this in 6 years).
  • Other – Several of you lost weight, including Jeff Klein, Georgia & Josh Hogan, and Chris Ankeny. You volunteered at races and ran with your kids and dogs. Joanna Lee became a certified personal trainer. Chris Brown just ran 40 miles for his 40th birthday on New Year’s Eve with several of you joining him for some miles. Many made it a goal to take that leap from lurking the Facebook page to participating in the LRC which I suspect may have something to do with all our progress in 2015 and the lofty goals we’re setting up for 2016.

And now for our 2016 New Year’s resolutions:

  • 5ks – Alex Ander hopes to reduce his 5k pace from 10 minutes per mile to 8 minutes per mile.
  • Half marathons – Georgia Hogan, Greg Anderson, Diana Reyes, and Christy Bartolain plan to accomplish their first half marathons, while several plan to build on their resume including Chris Brown and Heidi Greco knocking off many more states toward their 50 state goal.
  • Marathons – Throwing their hats in the ring for their first at this distance include: Katie Hinrichs, Nicole Quigley, Jill Baranowski, Adrianne Warren, Rachel Shoemaker, and Diana Reyes. Kate Wichmann, Ted Tharp, Michael Stehling, Matt Nakanishi, and Stephen Ryner head to Boston for their first time. Ann Rowley is planning to come back to marathons four months after giving birth to her first child while Carrie Medina would like to attempt her first after a tough year of recovering from being hit by a car. Attempting what is consistently ranked as the 1st or 2nd toughest trail marathon in the world, Bob Lenning plans to run the Pikes Peak Marathon – starting at almost 6,400ft above sea level and climbing 7,800ft to summit Pikes Peak at 14,200ft then going back down!
  • Ultras – Here we go; the year of the ultra will see Kevin Hoffmann, Tom Sheehan, Michelle Perez, Carrie Wagner, and Diana Reyes earn that belt buckle with their first 50k; Susan Geidner with a 50-miler; and Christine Borgerding with a 100-miler. Also, several of you didn’t heed my warning NOT to sign up for the Ice Age Trail 50-miler including: David Christensen, Ted Tharp, and Jacki Whitney for their first. Seasoned ultra runners such as Maryam Zakariya and Patrick Morris are sprinkling their calendars with a few 50ks and 50-milers, with Patrick going for an ultra slam – a series of four area 100-mile races in a calendar year. As if that’s not enough, Brad Gorski is eyeing a 200-mile race! And I successfully goaded seven of you to enter the lottery with me for arguably the dumbest of all feats: the Leadville 100-mile trail race. Here’s to hoping we don’t get selected Jeremy Bartusch, The Deacon, Sarah Molsen, Ian Nichols, Matt Nakanishi, Josh Hogan, and Amy Perrin!
  • Triathlons & Cycling – Nicole Quigley, Bonny Thomas, and Rae Goodman are all planning on their first 1/2 Ironman, while Lisa McCauley and Selina Carpenter return for their 5th and 6th Ironman, respectively. Also adding triathlons next year include: Maritza Pozo, Kevin Hoffmann, Heidi Greco, Carrie Medina, and Diana Reyes, while Lee Dunbar is taking his goals a step further, looking for a sprint distance age group win.
  • PRs – Kurt Krieghbaum, Stacy Speer, Eric Miller, and Jenni Horst hope to PR in a half marathon while Lisa McCauley, Rae Goodman, Nate Rugg, Josh Hogan, Ryan Dietz, Tom Sheehan, Kevin Hoffman, Jacki Whitney, Alicia Walters, Jill Baranowski, Heather Pietschmann, Zack Wolk, and Pat Emmons have set their sights on marathon PRs including sub-5 hour, sub-4 hour , sub-3 hour, and BQs. Stephanie Hunsberger and Bonny Thomas are among many of you looking forward to improving their mile pace with the help of our LRC track workouts this summer.
  • Annual Mileage – Some of your mileage goals include: Eric Miller – 300+; Christy Bartolain – 1,000; Derek O’Sullivan – 1,500; Nate Rugg – 1,800; and Maryam Zakariya & Erin Westphal – 2,016.
  • Other – Many of you are planning to incorporate more cross training and healthy eating to achieve the above goals and to assist in weight loss or keeping the weight off, staying injury free, and enjoying running more. Ryan Dietz is planning to run an event a month, Howie Kaske will get out of bed for LRC Saturday runs, and Stephanie Schaefer is willing herself to make running more of a habit and run a strong 3 miles. Again I see a trend of vows to participate in more LRC runs and events and volunteering opportunities.

So what are you waiting for? It’s never going to get better than it is today! Together we’re setting great examples for our friends, children, and community. I think you’ll soon discover just how big your accomplishments will become with a little help from the LRC; just ask these folks.

Happy New Year, LRC!

– Mike Brunette



As we wrap up our first year of Member Spotlight articles, it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to a member that’s been with us since even before the beginning. Though she would have surely been a featured member sooner or later, it’s with great sadness that her unexpected passing has firmly put her into the “sooner” rather than “later” category.

Dixie, our yellow labrador retriever, would have been 5 years old this month…we think. We named her Dixie because her mom was rescued from a kill shelter in Arkansas while she was pregnant. She and her 3 siblings were birthed and cared for at Wright-Way Rescue in Niles, which is where we adopted her. Dixie came to us only weeks after we tragically lost our shih-tzu to unexpected illness; we adopted her specifically as the opposite to Texas so as not to mourn painful similarities; I also wanted a dog I could run with.

It’s said that animals are our first children. If you’ve had or have a pet, you know this to be true. Dixie was my and Melissa’s first child. And that child loved to run! Once she was almost a year old, I started taking her with me on one or two runs a week. Pretty soon I had to run with her daily, or bike alongside her so she could run, just to control her puppy energy. Eventually, she was my companion for several 14-milers, always setting the pace. She even has one official race on her resume: the 2011 Cleveland 5-Mile Turkey Trot, where she finished with a blistering 6:23 min/mile pace. In that way, she gets much credit for making me a faster runner. There won’t be another sub-3-hour marathon where I don’t recognize her contribution.

Dixie loved our runs so much that on the days I would run without her, she would find one of my other running shoes, take it to her bed and lay with it, and stare with disappointment when I returned. This went on for years, and became even more heart-wrenching after multiple surgeries for a torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL surgery) and meniscus damage in the same knee within a year. Though our runs became less consistent, she was still good for up to 6 miles and would occasionally make an LRC group run. Many of you have seen her Strava posts. Having access to Lake Minear year-round was the perfect offset: she also loved to swim. She even made it to a few of the LRC group swims this summer.


Dixie getting a few laps in at the LRC Group Swim this summer

Three human children later and Dixie was as good to them as we were good to her. She followed them around the house everywhere. The day before Thanksgiving, Dixie was hit by a train. In the days since she passed, I keep thinking about what I could have done differently, or would have done differently, or should have done differently. And the truth is, there’s nothing. Sometimes life happens. Sure, we spent less one-on-one time together with the birth of each child. But with that came the love each one of them had for her, the raucous play Mars and Mila engaged Dixie in, and the copious table scraps Dixie lined up for. And at the end of the day, she still jumped up into bed, sprawled out, and laid her head on my feet. She was loved, no doubt.

Let this serve as a reminder that every day with someone is something we should cherish. This applies to our family members, our pets, each other. Enjoy it all and keep those memories close. And take lots and lots of pictures.


Dixie Brunette 12/21(?)/2010 – 11/25/2015


Michael Fort 2 base photo

Michael Stehling in his classic two-finger “V for Victory” running photo pose

michael denver

And again

Michael Chi Marathon

And again

michael pose again

And again

You’re unlikely to find someone more genuine and humble than Michael Stehling. This month marks his 1-year anniversary of running with the LRC and I’ve been planning to feature him for nearly as far back. To see him evolve as a runner and in the process become a good friend to all of us has truly been one of the more rewarding aspects of this Club, and as you’ll read, he’s grateful for what the LRC has done for him – both in his running and in his social life.

First, let’s delve into the pre-LRC Michael.

Michael entertained the idea of trying out for track in high school like his brother but that’s as far as he got. He didn’t begin running until after college, simply as a means to exercise. After a 2010 visit with his cousin, also a runner, he decided to run his first race – a local 5k. Completely naive to racing, minutes before the gun Michael overheard another runner suggest that a good time for a 5k is under 20 minutes and so Michael decided at that moment he was going to need to go all-out to achieve that… And that’s what he did. He was impressed with the time of his first mile but he got slower with each successive mile and was left feeling dehydrated and in pain. Though he managed to win 1st place in his age group, running a 5k was much harder than he thought.

The marathon came a few years later. His work has a wellness program that offers points for various activities. A marathon just so happened to net a lot of points and so he figured he could do one. He registered for the Prairie State Marathon 5-6 weeks before the race and did one 2-hour run to train for it. Needless to say, he had a tough time finishing that race. But he did finish. Then, the fatigue in the days after caused him to swear off ever running another one. Any first-time marathon runner can tell you what happened next…

With a training plan and after a few more marathons, Michael achieved what he thought was the perfect race and was ready to retire from marathons until that fateful day he met the LRC at the Advocate Condell Centre Pink Ribbon Run 5k at the Mundelein Seminary in October 2014. He admits to at first sizing up the group of LRC runners in their blue shirts as competition, but also that he thought it would be cool to run with people. After the race, Derek O’Sullivan, always the recruiter, introduced himself and the group to Michael and invited him to run with us.

Pink Ribbon

This is the photo Michael saw when he Googled the LRC for details after meeting Derek. Notice Michael photobombing in the background.

Though not the outgoing type, Michael gave it a shot and came to the following Saturday run. On this particular Saturday the LRC was doing a run then an event at Crossfit Freedom, so many of the runners cut the run short to attend the free event; Michael was just interested in the run. He enjoyed the run (he likes running in Libertyville – it has access to streets and trails that easily enable him to run high miles on a variety of routes) and the scenery, but he left a little disheartened that there weren’t more people to run with. Luckily, he stuck with it and came back. In the Saturdays that followed, Michael found his place within the Club and soon had a core group of friends to run with. Michael laughingly notes now that when he saw the LRC’s “The Maple Bacon Donut Support Group” banner at the Prairie State Marathon, he quipped that a donut and a running group doesn’t seem to go together. Now he realizes that everything fun goes with running, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Michael has travelled with the Club to run the 2015 St. Louis Marathon and the 2015 Denver Rockies Marathon. In fact, that St. Louis Marathon is his favorite race to date. Previously, he had not traveled much. On the trip, he got to explore a new city with friends, experience a large race atmosphere complete with raucous spectators and have a fun post-race dance party. He also followed the LRC’s marathon training plan to a T and came away with a huge PR of 2:51 (better than he thought possible) from a 3:14 and after training with the LRC for just 6 months! He has come to really enjoy running with other people in such a welcoming and inclusive club and being included in the diverse range of activities the LRC offers outside of running.

Michael has found the Club to incite a more charitable nature about himself. It started with our Toys For Tots run last December and he soon found himself participating in all the volunteer activities and showing up to cheer for our runners at various races. One of his favorite charitable events was hosting an aid station at the North Shore Half Marathon where he found it completely natural to cheer, hand out water and Gatorade, and dance at the same time – we were having a party and helping others. The experience of being with friends before and after runs are what he’s come to enjoy most.

Michael’s charitable nature has permeated the Club. He’s there to help guide group runs, share advice, and most importantly, to support all our runners. In addition, he goes out of his way to show his support. For example, he just ran our inaugural Run of the Dead Elimination Race (the 17-mile distance) after having run the Milwaukee Running Festival Half Marathon in a blistering time of 1:22 that morning! He knew from the onset of the race planning how worried I was about making that a successful event and he did not hesitate to register even though that meant he would end up running 30+ miles that day!

It’s truly been a pleasure getting to know Michael and having him so admirably represent the charitable and friendly nature of the LRC.


Adrianne and Nick Hennepin

Adrianne Warren and Nick Molsen celebrating their Hennepin Hundred finishes with bottles of Ommegang Hennepin beer. Not pictured (but proudly worn): their 100-mile finisher belt buckles.

Meet our newly appointed “Deacon” Adrianne and recently promoted to “Monsignor” Nick, both of who earned their titles after their incredible and inspiring first-time finishes at The Hennepin Hundred 100M race last month, with Adrianne finishing in 26:10 and Nick finishing in 23:40. It was the first time either had attempted to run the 100-mile distance.

Graduating from a run to the mailbox to completing a 100-mile race, Adrianne’s progression into ultra running was a long time coming. Having run her way through nearly every conventional race distance (except a marathon!) up to and including 50 miles, and meeting and running with an ultra running group, she craved the physical challenge of running 100 miles and putting her mind to completing something that few people can.

For Nick, the challenge of a 100-mile race fell into his lap; he won a free entry to The Hennepin Hundred at an LRC event hosted by Road Runner Sports in Kildeer. Free is a beautiful thing and a helluva motivator! Nick decided to try his hand at running in 1985 after he was inspired by a friend’s dad’s Boston Marathon performance; however, he abandoned that plan after a few 10Ks, a triathlon, and a duathlon. He started again in 2009 with the Lake Geneva Triathlon and continued his quest through varied running distances up through marathons and a few more triathlons until coming to the conclusion that swimming is just not for him.

But why join the Libertyville Running Club? Though not specifically an ultra running club, Adrianne points to its laid-back, carefree, love-all approach to running and runners and having a good time – who doesn’t like to get all sweaty then follow it up with laughs and cocktails at a different local establishment each week? The Club harbors an assortment of 5K to 100-mile runners who have distinct preferences for road, track, or trail, and hosts group runs that accommodate all disciplines. Having previously run with Golden Legs before they disbanded, Nick wasn’t quite sure what to make of the LRC’s post-run activities. In his experience, run clubs just ran then went home, that is until he stuck around after an LRC run for the festivities. Nick discovered the support and camaraderie to be nothing short of amazing and he subsequently pushed himself to run beyond what he previously thought capable. To each of them, the LRC represents everything running should be about: support, friendship, inspiration, and fun!

But how exactly does one train for a 100-mile race? There’s no one way to train for anything as the plans of these two will show you:

Adrianne – After Ice Age 50 – a 50-mile race race held in May, Adrianne didn’t really have a training plan for Hennepin. Her mileage was inconsistent given her motherly responsibilities (she has two young and adorable redheaded children) but still managed to complete another 50-mile run and an overnight 60-mile run. She pushed her children in the double jogger often, cross-trained with a kettlebell, and focused on clean eating. After being introduced to the LRC this summer by local ultra running guru, Shelley Cook, she found the LRC hill workouts to be fun and the speed workouts to be beneficial but challenging.

Nick – After Ice Age 50, Nick developed the dreaded plantar fasciitis which essentially derailed his plan to build upon his mileage all summer from the 50-mile race. Instead, he focused on running only the three weekly Club runs in order to give his foot time to heal. This approach ensured he was getting in hill workouts and speed workouts, a tempo run, and a long run (his longest being 16 miles!), all of which he found essential in his ability to run 100 miles, regardless of the fact that this particular ultra was flat and that ultras in general have a reputation of being something you finish rather than race. That being said, there is still an incentive to finish the race in less than 24 hours, as everyone who does receives the prized 24-hour finisher belt buckle, which Nick did earn (with 20 minutes to spare)!

Being physically capable of running 100-miles is one thing; being prepared mentally to run for 24+ hours is an entirely different animal and what really determines one’s ability to finish this type of race. Nick just focused on breaking the run into short legs of aid station to aid station (there were 20 aid stations in total). He pictured crossing that finish line so many times that when he finally did, it lacked the excitement one might expect. Adrianne found herself in darker territory: at mile 76, she began shaking in the cold and sweat and at mile 84, she went to lean against a tree that was not there. The hallucinations continued with visions of lions in trees and midget men along the trail until she actually fell asleep while running at mile 89. Her pacer got her to drink an energy drink and she soon retained her composure.

Pacers and friends at aid stations along the course offered encouraging words and reminded them to eat and to keep moving, which helped to lift both Nick and Adrianne’s spirits. Nick’s wife Sarah was instrumental in keeping Nick on task by meeting him at every accessible aid station, getting him what he needed, and encouraging him. Adrianne had two friends pace her through most of the race – both providing conversation, encouragement, and keeping her focused and on track.

So what’s next for these two? Adrianne’s race calendar is choke full of her usual races: Frozen Gnome 10K or 50K, Earth Day 50K, Dances with Dirt 50K, Ice Age 50M. She has also registered for Run of the Dead – the LRC’s inaugural race on November 1st. This elimination-style run gives runners an hour to complete a 4.25-mile course before starting the course again (and again and again – the event has 1, 4, and 8-loop options – she’s running the 8-loop, 34-mile option), and an after party for all participants. If time allows, she’ll add Kettle Moraine 100 and Chicago Marathon in 2016; she looks forward to seeing what a season of LRC speed workouts can do for her first marathon. In addition to our Run of the Dead race (he’s also doing the 8-loop, 34-mile option), Nick’s planning to just have fun and enjoy all the LRC runs (he leads the Wednesday night fun runs throughout the winter) and any other free race that drops into his lap.

Cheers to these two on a banner year of running!


Erin Westphal (left) from Grayslake and Heidi Greco (right) from Libertyville - two of the most genuinely nice and quietly determined runners in the pack

Erin Westphal (left) from Grayslake and Heidi Greco (right) from Libertyville – two of the most genuinely nice and quietly determined runners in the pack

Heidi and Erin are both training for the Chicago Marathon. This is Heidi’s first marathon, a race that has been on her bucket list for years after having spectated and volunteered in the past, whereas Erin is returning to Chicago for her third time in as many years with a goal of completing the race in under 5 hours (her current PR is 5:39). Both women are running to raise money for charitable organizations that affect them personally: Erin is running for Team CF Superheroes – benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and her friend who has cystic fibrosis, a rare disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. Heidi is running for NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization whose mission is to eradicate mental illness and improve the lives of those affected by mental illness, some of who are her family and friends. She hopes to end the stigma associated with the disease and to continue to show her support.

Shortly after completing the 2014 Chicago Marathon, Erin discovered the LRC. She realized that in order to get faster, she needed to train better and there was no better way to do that than to reap the benefits of running with a group. Heidi and her husband Bill were introduced to the Club by a friend who suggested our love of all things fun was right up their alley. Shortly afterward, they joined us for our first unofficial beer mile in January this year. Both women agree that the support they’ve received from the LRC’s runners has been endless and authentic, and their training has improved due to the accountability. As a result, their overall love of running has never been greater. With so much collective experience within the Club, there’s a wealth of information at their disposal to aid in their training.

Erin and Heidi just completed one of the toughest weeks of training for a marathon with the first 20-mile run. Though mentally and physically challenging, Erin felt stronger than ever and knows she could have gone the extra 6.2 miles. Based on her time for this 20-miler and for the Badgerland Striders Half Marathon this past weekend (2:16) she’s on pace to reach her sub-5 hour marathon goal! Though Team CF Superheroes offers a training plan and coaches, Erin has relied even more on the support and plan provided by the LRC. She maintains a 20-mile week when not training and is currently running 35-40 miles per week before planning to taper. For Heidi, the 20-miler was her first. She attests that the first 10-15 miles went well… and then the support of the group kicked in to provide a much needed distraction for those last 5 miles. Heidi has used Hal Higdon’s training plans for several half-marathons in the past, but always felt physically drained come time for her long runs. For her Chicago Marathon training, she has been using Furman University’s 3-days-per-week training plan. She is currently running 20-30 miles per week and feels ready and rested for her long runs.

Heidi is constantly picking up tidbits of information that are helping her along the way: training in miles vs. minutes, using GU vs. Jelly Belly Sports Beans, the importance of listening to your body and utilizing foam rollers, and the one I stress often, enjoying the race. Heidi knows that you only run your first marathon one time and she’s ready to take it all in and enjoy every moment. Erin agrees that enjoying the race is the most valuable advice that she would want to share with Heidi and anyone else, whether running their first or 30th marathon. She adds that you should appreciate the journey of training for a marathon. A lot more work than just the day-of goes into any race, and this is where you can gather and experiment with various suggestions from others to learn what works for you.

So what do these two do after a long run? Erin likes to just go with the flow and try to rest and relax. When food cravings kick in, she doesn’t fight them. Heidi finds that she doesn’t have much of an appetite for a few hours after a long run; instead, her focus is hydrating with a Nuun in cold water and taking a shower. Her next step is a green tea and water from Starbucks to keep her going for the rest of the afternoon. Now I’m not saying that donuts are the answer for everyone, but I know I’ve seen both of these ladies recovering with the LRC at Lovin’ Oven after those Saturday long runs!

Training for a marathon takes up a lot of time. If she wasn’t training, Heidi would channel the spirit of Patrick Swayze and take a pottery class, make a quilt, or submerse herself in some riveting book series. Since she loves the half-marathon distance and finds the recovery easy on her body, she would love to find a few half-marathons to turn into vacations (in fact, Heidi recently traveled with the LRC to Denver for a half-marathon). Erin, on the other hand, has a hard time imagining not running. After a tumultuous year in 2011, which included a career change, a break up, and finding herself burnt out from competitive figure skating, training for the 2013 Chicago Marathon was great therapy to rid herself of that negative energy. Without running, she thinks she would likely be sitting at home watching t.v. and feeling sorry for herself. Running does change everything!

Here’s to working hard to achieve your marathon goals ladies!

If you would like to help Erin and Heidi raise money for their respective charities, click the link to their fundraising pages below:

Erin’s Page: Team CF Superheroes

Heidi’s Page: NAMI


Aug LRC Spotlight - Susan

Susan Geidner running the 2013 Boston Marathon, the year of the bombings

Susan, who previously lived in Antioch, discovered the LRC on a sort of whim. While running the Golden Legs Pub Run last fall with her friend, John Mellon, they noticed a smattering of LRC shirts. If you can believe it, she suffered from social anxiety before she met us. Therefore, it was John who approached Vanessa and Steve Jones who in turn sold them on the Club in six simple words: donuts, chicken wings, watermelon, beer, and running. With her divorce imminent, she moved to Libertyville soon after.

Susan began running about six years ago. 13 months later, she ran her first marathon at Disney World and ran the 2012 Chicago Marathon to qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon by 48 seconds! But this is when her world was shaken to its core and her previous perception that running is a solo activity and a purely selfish endeavor centered around escape, finishing times, and bling was flipped on its head.

April 15, 2013 – The Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Susan was at mile 25.7 when the bombs exploded at the finish line. This was terrifying for those involved and the millions of us watching the live feed from around the world. For Susan, it was particularly harrowing given that her four sons where waiting for her there. Her family was safe, though understandably distraught.

Stunned by the kindness and continuous outpouring of love and support for runners from runners around the world in the wake of the bombing, she discovered that running is really about a community of people that selflessly and often unknowingly empower and inspire each other. While she can never erase the horrific images her sons witnessed in Boston, she now uses her running to prove to them, as well as to others, that with courage, perseverance, and a positive attitude, good truly does conquer evil and anything is possible.

This transformation led her to discover a charity called IRun4Michael which pairs runners with children and adults who have physical, mental and/or developmental special needs. Her buddy is Katherine, an 11-year-old with Down’s syndrome. Kat is the happiest, sweetest, little girl on the planet. She and her mom live in northern Indiana and surprised Susan by making their first trip to Chicago last year to cheer her on at the marathon. All Susan could think about as she ran was the courage it must have taken Kat to take the train into this huge city and then deal with the crowds, noise, and long waits just so she could meet this random, sweaty, stranger who runs for her. Susan was honored to meet them both at the finish line and put her newly-earned medal around Kat’s neck. In turn, Kat graciously offered Susan one of her Special Olympics medals. Though communication was difficult since Kat is non-verbal, they spent the next couple of hours hugging and clinking their bling together, creating a language of their own. Since then, she sends Kat care packages with medals every month or so and they communicate through Facebook and email several times a week.

Susan’s four sons, Chance, Connor, Nick, and Ryan, range in age from 13 – 21. They are soccer and baseball players and though they run with her from time to time, running isn’t their favorite. To Susan’s chagrin – she’s a school librarian – none of them like to read either!

Susan enjoys the half marathon distance and running in new locations, combining her love of running and travel and adventure. She recently traveled with the LRC to Denver, CO for the Revel Rockies Marathon & Half Marathon. Notorious for our running shenanigans, she has a hard time picking her favorite memory from the trip: “riding dirty” while river rafting, dancing the night away in the Latino nightclub, qualifying for cheap beers in the 800 meter challenge at Shoes & Brews (a challenge in which you compete to get your name listed on the top runners board and pay the equivalent price of your 800m time for your pints for life), and being shushed at the Coors Brewery are definitely high on the list. She described the incredible scenery & the race itself as simply icing on the donut.

She is looking forward to traveling with some LRC folks to the Nashville RAGNAR series in November and riding out the rest of baseball season cheering on her Cubs, often running around Wrigley before the games and passing by a few area bars as part of her personal pre-game/post-game routine.

Susan’s positive attitude and approach to running epitomizes the LRC. Hats off to Susan for her sweet disposition in the face of adversity… and by “adversity,” I’m mostly referring to her devotion to those perennial losers, the Cubs. Ouch!


July Member Spotlight - Josh

Josh Hogan traversing the Colorado Rockies on a 6-day, 120-mile mid-life crisis run.

Meet Josh Hogan – One of the Original Six LRC members, recent proprietor of one beautiful beard, drinker of all things craft beer but secret lover of Bud Light Lime (whoops, was I not supposed to say that?), and the 2nd most interesting man in the world.

Josh’s affair with running is a familiar, though slightly more extreme one: as a high school runner (cross country and hurdles) he ran two marathons at the ages of 16 and 17. However, in the 15 years that followed his interest waned as he gravitated toward a more sedentary lifestyle which ultimately resulted in him weighing 250lbs. Inspired by an office Biggest Loser competition in 2007, he got on the treadmill and just started walking, followed by a 3-minute run, followed by a 5K race later that year. His love for running had returned and he was losing weight.

He progressed into ultra running, culminating with the 2013 Trans Rockies 6-day, 120-mile run through the Colorado Rocky Mountains for his and a lifelong friend’s 40th birthdays. Running. Camping. Colorful characters. The equivalent of summer camp for runners. This was Josh’s happy place.

Around January/February of 2014, at the height of our polar vortex winter, Josh started running with the LRC. He, along with Joe Szatmary, Mike Biarnesen, and Pat Emmons (three others in the Original Six) had previously run together with Golden Legs Running. When asked to pick which one of the Original Six he would prefer to be stranded on an island with, he contemplated our respective strengths: “Mike Brunette would come with a wide variety of craft beers. Mike Biarnesen can wield a mean battle ax. Pat Emmons is handy and I’m sure he could remodel our lean-to. Lee Dunbar’s extensive Tough Mudder experience would probably go a long way towards keeping us alive. Joe Szatmary would organize us into recreational kickball teams to help pass the time until we are rescued, although recreational kickball is surprisingly dangerous and in truth he probably wouldn’t even show up.”

After a season of running with the LRC, Josh went into the NYC Marathon in November 2014 ready to enjoy himself. Though he was coming off of an injury, the exuberant crowd lining the course and the people he spent time training with provided him with the strength to sprint the finish through tree-lined Central Park and accomplish a 6-minute PR in the marathon!

Running with a group certainly has its benefits. With the LRC, Josh also notes that his social circle has exploded. He tends to be introverted and isn’t typically interested in the same things that a lot of people are interested in; he can only fake his way through a conversation about golf, wine, or sports for so long. Now he meets someone almost weekly who is wired like him in some way and has a great story to tell. Plus, runners usually lead with a conversation about bodily functions and toe nails, so after that you can talk about anything. He suggests that you try that at work and see what happens.

Josh recently completed another Biggest Loser competition at work, during which he trained for and ran a marathon and two ultras. Using the My Fitness Pal app, he tracked his calories. Though he lost the competition, he also lost 20lbs and is now 5lbs lighter than he recalls ever weighing! He looks forward to cheering on all the LRC runners at the Chicago Marathon this year along with running the Fort 2 Base nautical 10-mile race in August and his first 100-mile ultra at the Tunnel Hill 100 this November.

So how does one train for an ultra? There are so many components to this question but Josh has found a critical part of his training to be heart-rate monitoring – the idea being that while keeping your heart rate down you expend less energy thus enabling you to run for longer distances. The training involves running really slow, so slow that at first it doesn’t even feel natural. He assures us that while he trains with this approach at our Saturday runs this year, he will be at the back of the pack, ensuring no runner is left behind!

But what about the dog? Josh’s dog Matilda (seen below sporting a mustache for the LRC Prefontaine Memorial Run) has become a staple at our Saturday runs. While we’re there to run, she’s there to protect us from small, woodland creatures. Matilda recently adopted a sidekick, Hazel. She’s not so great at long distance, but kills the speed workouts. Both dogs are starting to wear a giant figure-8 pattern into his lawn.

And now you know Josh Hogan. Buy him a beer next time you see him out after an LRC run. Lucky for you, Bud Light Lime buckets are $10 just about everywhere.




Trish Paradise – LRC’s self-appointed caretaker and generally the sweetest person you’ll ever meet

It’s June and today is the start of LRC’s track workouts at Libertyville High School. There is not a more fitting member to highlight this month than Trish – the woman responsible for “spicing” up our track workouts.

In the spring of 2014, Trish and a friend came to a running store I was moonlighting in to get fitted for shoes. As I sat with them, I immediately sensed her exuberance and style with her trademark purple-streaked hair (she IS a hairstylist) and always-matching outfit. Trish explained that she had only been running for one year but was signed up for the Chicago Marathon. Given that the LRC has a broad spectrum of runners, including first-time and experienced marathoners, I extolled the benefits of training with a group and told her I hoped she would come run with us as she walked out with a pair of Brooks – still her favorite shoes to run in.

Like many of us Northsiders, Trish is not originally from the area. She moved to Lake Bluff five years ago, around the time her son was born, from Anaheim, CA. Quick to make friends, Trish made her presence known within the Club with her infectious smile and positive attitude. From Day 1, Trish has become our resident caretaker; she’s always there encouraging others, offering her help, participating, and occasionally buying you a drink after the Wednesday night fun runs. She is a staple at group events, including trips, and is beyond generous with her time and support. We must pay her back one of these days!

When track workouts began last year, she showed up with a bucket of chicken wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and a legend was born, and now verified. Soon after, the chicken wing became a staple of our workouts, a component of our logo, and a sign of what we’re all about: fun and food and running. As Trish put it, “I just wanted to support the LRC and see all the members have fun and enjoy some chicken wings.” Enjoy them we did.

She started running as a means to be healthy and in no time found herself completing her first marathon – the 2014 Quad Cities Marathon (with a time of 5:24)…and then the Chicago Marathon (with a time of 5:30) just three weeks later! Just one season running with the LRC gave Trish the confidence and education she needed to take on this previously unthinkable goal. Running your first marathon is a huge endeavor in and of itself but starting your marathon running career by running two marathons so close together is quite a feat! Trish has now even become a member of the Marathon Maniacs group. She’s looking forward to improving upon her past performances as she trains with us for the Revel Rockies Denver Half Marathon (a July LRC group trip), the Chicago Marathon in October, and the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon (a November LRC group trip).

We are looking forward to running and traveling with Trish this year, getting her under that 5-hour mark at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and making sure that we all buy her a drink and pick up the tab on those chicken wings!


Eleah Photo for May Article 2

L to R (in case you need help determining human vs. cat): Eleah, Topaz

You know her, you know of her, or you should know her. This month we bring you the queen of pun and fun, Eleah Neubauer, via this exclusive interview with her cat, Topaz.

LRC Senior News Correspondent: You’ve recently territorialized the area. What brought you and Eleah to the North Shore?

Topaz: Eleah is really an annoying person. She made me FLY all the way to Chicago from Portland, OR, last summer just so she could spend all her time attending the Pathologists’ Assistant Program at Rosalind Franklin University and running! Have you ever had a TSA officer pet you? It is terrifying. However, I’m pretty glad we moved to Illinois because studying pathology makes her smell like a combination of sweat and formalin all the time; a smell I find quite enjoyable to be near.

LRC Senior News Correspondent: How have you adapted to the change?

Topaz: I have very specific needs that I want met at specific times. I think she forgets she has a cat sometimes. Last October she left me for two full days because she wanted to run from our house in Great Lakes to Chicago and back the next day – 36 miles each way! When she finally got back to attend to me she was so tired I had to get my petting needs met by rubbing my face against her hands, sometimes lying on her face until she pet me. Ridiculous!

LRC Senior News Correspondent: Tell us about Eleah’s running and how she came to discover the LRC?

Topaz: She began running in 2007 in college despite her prior assessment that running was not fun. She started following people she didn’t even know on Strava (creepy, right?) because she wanted more friends to run with and she refused to take me; I begged to go outside with her. She found that chump with the red beard and some LRC folks and now she’s always out running with them, or really drinking and eating donuts which she never even shares with me. Running has been a huge stress reliever for her, and through the LRC she’s made much better friends than she thought she would make in Illinois.

It’s kind of gross really; I’ve even heard her talk in her sleep about how she loves you guys. She finds inspiration from everyone in the LRC. She’s never been part of a running community like this and the support and encouragement is really unique. For example, she thought it was pretty fantastic that a few LRC members came out to cheer her on for her first ultra at the Des Plains River Trail 50-mile ultra race when she had only known the LRC for one week. At least when she is home, no matter where she is or what she is doing, we cuddle.

LRC Senior News Correspondent: Eleah just ventured into ultra running this year. Purina for your thoughts?

Topaz: You humans will find it interesting that she started at a young age (she’s 24) – a discipline that is generally thought to require years of conditioning and an age no younger than 30. Methinks that all of you runners encouraged her to run more miles (this was likely a way to avoid studying also). Soon enough, her legs convinced her mind that she could do it. Unlike us cats with our nonhuman-like quick reflexes, bursts of speed never came easy to her. Instead, she finds enjoyment in the long, relaxed pace of an ultra and swears they are loads of fun!

LRC Senior News Correspondent: Where will the road take you next?

Topaz: We are moving to Texas May 27th so she can complete her clinical year. I hope that it is so hot that she will just stay inside with me and give up this whole running business once and for all! Of course, she did already sign up for her first 100-mile ultra race this December. I don’t know if we’ll stay in Texas; she says she wants to go to the mountains. Personally I don’t really care as long as I have access to my catnip blanket and fresh toilet water.

LRC Senior News Correspondent: Will our paths cross again?

Topaz: Eleah plans to get back here for a race and a trip to Lovin’ Oven at least once a year. But not me, I don’t fly and frankly I don’t like confectionaries…or any of you.


Brie and Steve after completing the Chicago Rock N' Roll Half Marathon in 2014

Brie and Steve Lorey after completing the Chicago Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in 2014 – a 3 minute PR for Steve and although 1 minute shy of breaking her goal of 2 hours, Brie did manage to not stop to pee, a feat in of itself!

Couples that run together, stay (fit) together!

Brie and Steve came to the Libertyville Running Club from Puerto Rico after receiving his new assignment as First Sergeant of a Military Intelligence Army Reserve Company at Fort Sheridan last summer. Steve did a little Google search to find people with similar interests to connect with in the community to which they were moving. As Brie said, “We hit the jackpot with LRC and the community vibe it offers. The people were all inviting and welcoming from day one, and I think that really made the difference for us.”

These two are no strangers to making friends and adapting to change. Since meeting at a community college in Arizona, Brie (originally from Marietta, GA) and Steve (born in New York), on account of Steve’s career, have lived in Arizona, California, Puerto Rico and now Illinois. Steve has also had tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The key for them is to plug into the ice skating and running communities right away. 

Brie grew up ice skating. She started skating when she was 4 years old, and was competing regionally by the age of 10. At 26, with an amateur status, she placed one spot shy for a position in ice dance on the National team. Soon after, she returned to coaching. Upon moving to Illinois, she began skating and coaching at Centennial Ice Arena in Highland Park. 

Brie is no Army Wife. She is licensed to practice therapy, with a degree in Psychology, in Arizona. However, rather than maintain her licensure in each new state they move to, she found an accounting position with her church back home that has enabled her to manage an accounting department remotely for the past three years. Through her church, she has embarked on several mission trips, most recently to Myanmar, where she delivered much needed clothing, money, and food to a Christian church and small village.

Steve’s strong desire to stay fit (and possibly his desire to recapture those high school track glory days) led him to the LRC which in turn led him to Amphibian Multisport. After the LRC hosted a Garmin event at Amphibian last summer, Steve began picking up his triathlon training when our midwestern winter introduced itself. He now spends 4-5 days per week there cycling on their CompuTrainers or swimming in their 2-lane, 25 yard saltwater pool. Steve is no stranger to the rigors of triathlete training, himself an Ironman finisher, and a former junior coach for a triathlete group while living in northern California.

Unfortunately, this coaching mentality gets him in a bit of trouble with Brie. As Brie put it, “he’s a great coach….unless you are his wife.” Any time they come to a crossroads or their adventure takes them somewhere they would rather not be, reminding each other they are on the same team has served them well. Brie reminds us that no relationship happens without bumps or even mountains in your path, but doing it hand-in-hand makes all the difference.  

That brings us to a rather unfortunate mountain that recently presented itself…

Steve was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few weeks ago, and although it is a very treatable cancer, he has a few months of chemotherapy ahead of him. His 2015 goals of running his first 50K and clocking a fairly ambitious finishing time at Ironman Maryland will take a backseat to beating cancer and getting back into shape. Luckily, he’ll have Brie and the entire LRC community by his side sending him our love and making sure that happens. 

Of all the places they have been, Lovin’ Oven on a Saturday morning ranks as a favorite. Not only are the donuts amazing, but the gathering of runners afterward is their most enjoyable part. As of now, the Loreys are scheduled to be with us until June 2016. Let’s make sure we put Libertyville at the top of their list of places in which to settle down once active duty life ends in eight years. 



After a hard day’s work, Dixie Cup enjoys a long walk on the beach with her pal, Beer

Runners, meet your new best friend and running companion: Dixie Cup.

Dixie, born in 1907 to a prominent Boston attorney, complimented her father’s development of an ice-cooled water dispenser when she was just a young cup. For years, Dixie enjoyed the limelight as the solution to citizens’ concerns about germs being spread by people sharing glasses or dippers at public water supplies.


Dixie Cup waiting for the first sign of spring to come trickling out

Dixie Cup is a multifaceted individual struggling with tree huggers’ disdain for her (all-the-while sympathizing with their agenda) yet trying to help those who have yet to amass a collection of reusable handheld bottles or fuel belts.  She recently found an arch nemesis in Nathan Bottle who threatens her existence daily. Dixie Cup laments the fact that she has generally one use, maybe two or three, but is happy to be there for runners in their moment of need.


A learned cup, Dixie can often be found perusing her relatives, the Paperbacks, at the library

The LRC has recently employed Dixie Cup to assist in our runners’ hydration needs on our long runs in addition to our summer speed workouts at the Libertyville High School track. LRC President, Chairman of the Board, Executive Director, Managing Director, Audit Executive, Business Development Director, Compliance Director, Creative Director, Director of Communications, Diversity Director, Financial Director (the only position he’s actually qualified for), Human Resources Director, Information Technology Director, Legal Affairs Director, Most Senior Corporate Officer, and CEO, Mike Brunette states, “we believe in paying a good wage and are thankful we can provide that to Dixie in this economic environment.”

Dixie first discovered the LRC via MySpace and started coming to our LHS track workouts. As Dixie stated, “the workouts were great but these folks had chicken wings and watermelon…that is something I fully support.”

Dixie Cup, we vow to pick you up and try our damnedest to recycle you after you support us on our runs, you poly-coated wonder you.


Dixie Cup spotted smelling the roses…even when they’re long dead


The man, the myth, the legend! This month, we feature one of the “original six” LRC runners for our March featured member.

We met Lee for the first time twice last year… first near the beginning of our polar vortex winter when we started off with six runners braving the cold (Lee was known for his running mittens the size of the Incredible Hulk’s fists) and then a few months later once we all took our face masks off; Lee was baffled by all the Facebook friend requests from people he didn’t recognize! The LRC helped coax him from the treadmill and get some more winter miles.

Something very few of you know about Lee (courtesy of the little birdie that told me) is that he was a collegiate bodybuilder back when mullets were the stylish hairdo. If anyone has pictures, please please send them our way! Though he liked competing, he assures me that he won’t be getting up on a stage dressed like that any time soon. I think there’s a fundraiser in here somehow!

Lee did a little running back in the ’80s then took two decades of recovery until his wife Lisa, who also runs with us, convinced him to do a half marathon. At 46 years young, he figured it would be good for the heart, and he had always loved long, wandering runs. Soon, the triathlons followed. He found the frantic pace of sprint triathlons enjoyable and the training to be manageable given his busy schedule and short attention span.

Lee credits the LRC speed workouts at Libertyville High School for helping him achieve a 5K overall win and a top 10 age group finish at the Naperville Triathlon. However, his proudest racing moment this past year came from working as a guide for a disabled triathlete through Dare2Tri.  He refers to paratriathletes as his “fabulously badass friends.” In the coming season, Lee wants to continue as a paratriathlete guide, break his 5K PR of 19:30 that he set 27 years ago, which he came pretty close to this past year, and get an age group triathlon win. He is also looking forward to his first Ragnar Relay – Madison to Chicago race.

Lee is hoping to bring a new element to the LRC this year – a walking group. Given that many diseases and illnesses can be reduced or eliminated by having an active lifestyle and seeing the power of our group to influence healthy lifestyle changes, Lee wants to guide a walking group on Saturday mornings once the weather gets nice. Help spread the word so that we can influence more people in our community to be active!

Now that you know Lee, give him a high-five on a Saturday morning while he’s still wearing those mittens!


Featured Monthly Member: Stephanie Hunsberger

Next up in our monthly featured member segment is Stephanie (from Libertyville), proving in her photo that we are nothing if not a fun, cheerful lot!

Stephanie, who never considered herself to be the athletic type, turned to running as the pressures of adult responsibilities loomed with her imminent college graduation. She began with a challenge to see if she could run one mile on the treadmill. As her distance grew to two, then three miles, she parlayed these achievements into her first race, the 2007 Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8K. In 2013, Stephanie along with her siblings, Dave and Lisa (also LRC members), competed in Tough Mudder. The 12.5-mile obstacle course convinced her she could train for a big race – the 2014 Fort 2 Base 11.5-mile race. That’s where the LRC comes in…

As someone who enjoys the social aspect of running, Stephanie was pleased when her sister introduced her to a running club that was supportive, inspiring, and as excited about running as she was. Run clubs can be intimidating but she has been drawn in by the friendly welcoming attitude of all the LRC members, regardless of their pace or distance. She particularly appreciates all of the programming the LRC offers including yoga in the park, speed workouts at Libertyville High School, hill runs, self-defense seminars, shoe-test runs, and the occasional party…there is always something going on. Finishing the Saturday morning runs at The Lovin’ Oven to celebrate the Club’s unabashed love of maple bacon donuts helps motivate her to get out of bed to run!

After training with the LRC last summer, Stephanie completed her most ambitious and rewarding year of running, one she claims will be hard to top. She ran the RAGNAR Madison to Chicago relay race, the Chicago Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon (her first half marathon), and Fort 2 Base – a 10 nautical mile race. She credits the Club’s summer speed workouts for a successful Fort 2 Base race in which she felt as strong at the finish as she did at the start!

Stephanie is currently student teaching to receive her master’s degree in teaching and a certificate in secondary education. Given her busy schedule this winter, she has become more creative in maintaining her fitness routine; she relies on the treadmill and various conditioning classes at the gym along with the occasional Jillian Michaels video. Once she completes student teaching, she looks forward to having more fun with running in 2015 and going back to Fort 2 Base to top her 2014 performance.

Three cheers for Stephanie on a successful 2014! We look forward to making 2015 even better for you with 150% more fun (and a little bit of hard work)!


Featured Members: Ann Jo, Melisa Murphy, and Carrie Wagner

Featured Members: Ann Jo, Melisa Murphy, and Carrie Wagner

To kick off the new year and the Libertyville Running Club’s new monthly featured member segment, we couldn’t separate these three women. Ann, Melisa, and Carrie met through the LRC at the beginning of our free speed workouts at the Libertyville High School over the summer. Ann (from Long Grove) was relatively new to running so her niece suggested she try running with a group and recommended the LRC while Carrie (from Grayslake) and Melisa (from Antioch) found the Club online. All were looking for people to run with and motivation to get out of bed for those Saturday morning runs. At the track workouts, they witnessed a wide array of paces and gravitated toward the slower paced runners to do the workouts with. The “Back of the Pack,” as they called themselves, became fast friends and have been running and hanging out together ever since.

One of Carrie’s most inspiring moments occurred at a track relay event in which the LRC participated that had seven members alternate running 1 mile each over a 4-hour period. Her anxiety over being the slowest runner on the team quickly dissipated with the carefree attitude and unwavering support displayed by the LRC. Carrie felt so encouraged by this that she ran her first mile in 10 minutes; faster than she had ever run a mile before! She recalls how fantastic it felt to see Kate Wichmann, one of the fastest women in the LRC, enthusiastically cheering her on. Carrie attended every single track workout for the summer and won a free race entry for the Twilight Shuffle 5k for her perfect attendance.

Collectively, these three ladies cite freedom, relaxation, weight loss, and health improvement as reasons for running. Once they found each other, their aspirations grew. Carrie set personal records in every distance in every race she did in 2014. By the end of 2014, they completed the Hot Chocolate 15K and the Schaumburg Half Marathon together, firsts for all three of them. Those are big accomplishments, especially when you consider that Carrie just started running at the end of 2012 with a 16-minute per mile pace for 20 minutes after a lifetime of being, as she puts it, “morbidly obese.” In those two years of running she has managed to lose a lot of weight and to feel healthy again. Though Ann started running in high school, she ran her farthest distances in 2014 and lost 17 lbs in the process! And Melisa credits the LRC for helping her just get back to working on running goals.

Ann and Melisa have been so inspired by their accomplishments that they are planning to run the Chicago Marathon in 2015! Carrie is planning to do her first sprint triathlon and, if her schedule allows, her first full marathon also. So when you see Ann, Melisa, and Carrie at the next group run or track workout this summer, congratulate them on all their success!

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