Back in 2010 when I was researching costs involved with starting an event organization, I had another idea that involved technology. I had noticed years ago, while racing, that there didn’t seem to be an online platform that could socially connect participants with community fitness events where one could track and get rewarded for accomplishments. So when I launched the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series I decided to create a prototype to test the idea. I took it a step further and applied gamification techniques that involved leaderboards, points and awards. So when participants completed events they earned points that became redeemable for merchandise, for example my participants could print out certificates and walk into WholeFoods for free merchandise.
So I thought wouldn’t it be cool to do this at the state level and reward cities for their, for example as participants logged their daily workouts, there accomplishments rolled up to their city team and winning cities could earn prizes such as Fruit Cups that could be used at future community events – now we are working on grant funding as another source. So I started to do some research and came across the National League of Cities which is an organization setup to support all 50 states. I then noticed each state had a Municipal Association that represented and supported every city within their specific state. So of course I reached out to Georgia and Tennessee. I got them both excited and in 2013 we launched Active Georgia and Walk Tennessee. In Tennessee we had about 18 cities participate.
As I was promoting the initiative in Tennessee I met a lot of great city leaders and community advocates – take for example the City of Nolensville, who was the winner of the 2013 Walk Tennessee Challenge, the mayor’s son had an active run club and I mean active. I had a chance to meet up with them and participate in one of their weekday runs – Nolensville is a cool community 24 miles south of Nashville. Scott Alexander is the inspiration behind the run club – or should I say his wife!
I asked Scott what his inspiration was with the run club, Scott replied ‘I use to run a lot by myself and I noticed other runners in the community running alone and we had a lot of runners in Nolensville. I just wanted to create something to connect us all – so I started the Nolensville Run Club.’ ‘I started the run club 5 years ago and on the first night we had 4 people show up in March of 2010.’ Scott said. ‘Since then we have grown to over 400 runners and we are now a Non-Profit organization.’ Scott went on to say ‘ Our goal is to put together a series of races’.
‘We meet every Wednesday night and we go out for a 3-5 mile run where we typically have 100 or more runners show up.’ ‘Pretty good for a city population of 6500 people’ Scott replied.
In fact I thought it was really awesome considering Nolensville was the initial winner of the Walk Tennessee Challenge competing against larger cities in Tennessee.
Scott went on to tell me, ‘Our run club is open to anybody and everybody – we have folks of varying speed, skills – runners and walkers.’ ‘We have a Charity 5k that we participate in called Change for Chance 5k which is in the middle of June and we have a couch to 5k program – which is free and also helps us grow the run club, Scott replied.
‘We have a calendar of events that we attend as a group – or try to at least – and we have an annual tradition to run in the marathon in Carmel Indiana – this year we took a group of 80 runners to the event’ Scott replied. ‘Its six hours away and we have been doing this event for the past four years. Its special because most runners will attempt their first full or half marathon at this event’ Scott stated.
So I asked Scott what is so special about this event, Scott replied ‘What’s real fun is the event director rolls out the red-carpet for us! We get some great stories from this event, for example one of our members is my dad who is 74 year old. He ran his first marathon and finished first in his age group – it was real cool to be a part of!’
Scott went on to tell me about the goals with the club, ‘Our goal for the run club in the next year is to create three races: one 5k, a 10 miler, or half-marathon on veterans day as there is a big parade in town that we would like to be a part of and all these events will take place in Nolensville’ replied Scott.
So I went on to ask Scott what got him started with running. ‘I’ve been running for 7 years, I got started because at work one day I was 50lbs overweight – a co-worker challenged me to run a half marathon so we began training together. At ¾ mile in I had to stop and I couldn’t run a mile – I wanted to give up – it was frustrating but I didn’t. My first official event was a half-marathon – I did one 5k leading up to it to help me get use to the experience of the events’ Scott stated.
‘The thrill of accomplishing is what got me hooked. So I did my first full marathon 5 years ago, qualified for Boston and ran in it this year. The half-marathon is my sweet spot because with marathons I reach that point where I always ask myself – why am I doing this – usually at mile 20 or 21’ Scott replied.
So I asked Scott – what would he tell someone new to the sport. Scott replied ‘Be consistent – make time for yourself, give yourself time to accomplish and don’t make excuses and most importantly be patient’. Scott went on to say, ‘Lots of time I would get home from work and the couch was calling – its soo hard to pass up but I didn’t allow that temptation to take advantage of me. The socializing and making new friends is amazing and so rewarding. My wife runs as well and she is just as active having completed 5 marathons herself”, Scott stated.
Thank you Scott for sharing your story as I hope to get back up to Nolensville soon to partake in another run club or perhaps join you at a future event.