Since forming 10 years ago, the Kachemak Bay Running Club has been promoting the activities, benefits and joys of running and walking for participants of all ages and providing support for local schools’ running teams and other youth sports.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the club includes all levels of performance, from recreational walkers to elite runners and everyone in between. The group holds numerous runs throughout the year, from Family Fun Runs to Dog Jogs to more competitive races like The Spit Run, as well as programs like training sessions.
Randy Wiest is a retired physician and founding member of the club. He ran track in high school and through college and medical school, but it wasn’t until he participated in a Fourth of July race in Juneau and was encouraged by other runners that he began approaching running more seriously. While he does not consider himself an elite athlete, he has run 20 marathons, including the Boston Marathon three times.
“Running is a very efficient way to get exercise and helps you feel good overall,” he said. “I also see it as a really important activity that preps your body for all other outdoor activity.”
Other founding members of the club include Richard Burton, Andy Haas and Bill Steyer, all semi-competitive runners at the time who wanted to encourage running as a way of life and as a path to community wellness.
KBRC hosts workouts, training sessions and is in the process of arranging guests seminars on training or common overuse injuries, hosted by lifelong runners and organizations like Summit Physical Therapy, as well as collaborating with organizations like South Peninsula Hospital and SPARC.
With a belief that everyone can benefit from running or walking, Wiest has participated in the hospital’s Walk With a Doc events at SPARC, where community members walk with a doctor talking about a specific subject matter. He has also hosted community talks around Couch Potato to 5K and None to Run, online running programs for beginners.
“One of the selling points about running is that it an efficient way to get in a workout that’s moderately or really intense and do it in a short period of time,” he said. “Online programs can provide a solid way to approach running and give great advice when you hit roadblocks.”
Last summer, Board President Bob Ostrom, who is also the Homer High School cross-country and track coach, held summer conditioning workouts for high school athletes and members who wanted to participate in intense workouts to help improve their performance. Ostrom has been involved in athletics his entire life.
“I’ve done a lot of different sports, but I always come back to running,” he said. “I find running to be peaceful, invigorating and challenging at the same time.”
Ostrom sees first hand the benefits running has on youth, from giving them confidence to being part of a team competing together to accomplish a goal, and on adults, from managing stress to forging community connections.
Community members of all ages and abilities are invited to join the club and benefit from interacting with other like-minded individuals and participating in locally organized fun and competitive runs, like the Migration Run 5K, the group’s first major competitive run of the season this Mother’s Day. A USA Track & Field-certified run along the Spit bike path, the event is open to runners and walkers alike.
Other runs throughout the year include the Valentine’s Day 5K season starter; Homer’s oldest organized competitive running event — the 10K Spit Run — in late June; the Halibut Hustle 5K fun run held after Labor Day; and the Thanksgiving morning 5K Turkey Trot. This year for the first time, the club hosted a January Run that was sponsored by Homer Jeans and the Ice Bug Running Company as a way to showcase ice-cleated running shoes. KBRC also sponsors other events with trail runners, including the annual summer event, Race to Grace Ridge.
Jennifer Chapple Waltenbaugh and her family are longtime participants of the club’s running events. Raised in Homer, Chapple herself is a former state champion in hurdles and her father and grandfather have run the Spit Run since the 1970s.
“These runs are a fun and healthy activity for my family and I appreciate the board, volunteers, members and community members who participate in any way they can to support running in the community,” she said.
With several longtime members set to retire this year, including Michael McGuire, Melissa, Elrich and Bob Ostrom, the club is looking to rejuvenate the board, including welcoming Hal Sheppard to the board. With two-thirds of the club’s runners women, Wiest would like to see more women on the board.
“I’m the institutional memory, but the women are the future of this club,” he said.
Eager to attract a broader audience, KBRC is working to bring back the weekly community fun runs/walks and create more social events, like post-run get-togethers. For now, they are planning numerous activities to engage the public, including this weekend’s Migration Run on the Spit bike path, running south to north to imitate the direction of bird migration. Club membership is not required, all are welcome, and awards will be given to the top female finishers of any age, with special medals for the first three stroller moms to cross the finish line, and includes a youth and kid’s division. Start time is 10 a.m. at Pier One Theatre. Register online at kachemakbayrunningclub.org. Day of race registration fee goes up by $5, so sign up ahead of time.
Promoting fun and physical activity, the running club is actively looking for new members and board members. A portion of membership and race fees support the club’s membership in Road Runners Club of America, which provides insurance for events, while the rest is used to provide support for youth sports and running teams in the schools and community. Join at kachemakbayrunningclub.org. For more information on joining the board, email email@example.com. You can also find them on Facebook, Kachemak Bay Running Club.