LRC Third Year in Review


What’s not to love about this group?!

What is a running club? Moreover, what is the goal of a running club? For 3 years now, the LRC has set out to redefine what one is and what it can do. At our core, we provide runners with the means to achieve their goals by hosting 2-3 weekly group runs year-round, offering tempo, speed, and hill workouts when our custom training plans call for them. A mix of those services are going to be available in any running club. Consistency works.

But the manner in which we do these things is unorthodox.

Many clubs are tethered to the notion that their routes and activities must be sanctioned by governing bodies like Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) or their own superfluous board of directors. We set our own rules. We like to explore – we’ve run hundreds of different route maps from various locations in these 3 years. Variety is a good thing.


The Candy Cane Fun Run map – one of our proprietary maps

We offer half marathon/marathon training in the spring and fall but training for one of those races is not a requirement to come out and run. If you like to run 3 miles with a group of friends (or strangers), you can do that here. We do not use pace groups because of the cliquey environment they foster. We run roads. We run trails. Acceptance of all types of runners is paramount. We recognize that if you’re out there moving, you’re a runner.


Oh, and the fun runs we have… Have you been part of a running club that toured surrounding towns to explore their running trails and breweries and commemorated it with tour lanyards and shirts? Have you ever tried a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure-themed scavenger run? What about a festive holiday run like our Candy Cane Fun Run or Halloween run or Festivus run, or the Stop-LRC Prefontaine Fun Run (mustaches provided if you can’t grow one), or our Poker Run 10K, or an elimination run like Run of the Dead, or… Well, you get the point. Ingenuity sets us apart.


Trish and Sinee volunteering at a Poker Run 10K stop

Social media is essential nowadays and we are voracious. We use art to express who we are; it helps that our graphic designer is a runner. We can be serious runners without taking ourselves too seriously. Are we a Church or Cult? Neither, but I suppose we have elements of both; what started out as a joke has come to define us. Our creativity reigns supreme.


Where LRC really differs is with its community involvement. After every run we rendezvous at a different local business, in part to fraternize and in part to support them. We want to help you discover a new date night restaurant, great local breweries, a place to buy your homebrew supplies, or the best independent coffee shops. Small Business Saturday? Try small business everyday.


One of six stops for our Righteously Nefarious tour

We strive to inspire you to support those within our community that need our help. Through running events, in just this past year we assisted some great organizations that are hyperlocal: Lambs FarmLake County Haven, Placing Paws, Libertyville Food PantryNational Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), to name just a few. Also, in lieu of requiring $25 – $50 to “join” a running club, we thought rewarding you with a LRC Righteous long-sleeve running shirt for donating $25+ to your favorite charity on #givingtuesday was a better use of everyone’s funds. Now that’s righteous! For the LRC’s own expenses (funding all this great programming), we only accept donations of whatever amount you think being a member is worth and you can afford.


LRC’s 3rd Annual Toys for Tots Fun Run/Walk

LRC’s service and social events aide in making better runners, and just as importantly, citizens of our community. You would be hard-pressed to find any LRC members that haven’t achieved a personal best in the past 3 years. The friendships forged are beautiful. The support network is incredible. Your community advocacy is unparalleled. So congratulations everyone, you are part of the most righteous running club in town! If you’re merely an observer, let’s see if we can push you into the participant column in this next year. If nothing else, it won’t cost you a thing.

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Meet the LRC – December Member Spotlight 2016

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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.

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Meet the LRC – November Member Spotlight 2016


Kiko, with Mila and Nicole, running the LRC hill workout

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.

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Meet the LRC – October Member Spotlight 2016



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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Meet the LRC – September Member Spotlight 2016


Charles Merged Family 2

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!








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Meet the LRC – August Member Spotlight 2016

JulieAnn cover pic

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.

JulieAnn Michele unicorns

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!










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Meet the LRC – July Member Spotlight 2016

Ken WI Marathon Finisher (1)

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.






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Meet the LRC – June Member Spotlight 2016

Christy_Spring_2016 (2)

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.


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Meet the LRC – May Member Spotlight 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!
















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Meet the LRC – April Member Spotlight 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!





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