by Sasha Reddy
A new season is quickly approaching, bringing with it warm weather, longer days, and tons of activity. People all over suddenly have annual spring cleaning and summer vacation plans on the brain. So what are we looking forward to at HAC in the coming weeks? Running season. And this year’s season is especially newsworthy, as it marks the 10th season of Run HAC, Hockessin’s oldest running club.
Run HAC was founded in 2011. It is currently run by Andrea Bradley, Premier Personal Trainer at HAC, and Jen Besten, Premier Trainer and USATF Running Coach. Since the group first began, it has grown from around 20 members to over 70 by the end of 2019. Jen and Andrea pride themselves on having built not only a successful program for runners of all skill levels but also a following of supportive, fun-loving athletes and friends. In fact, most Run HAC members will tell you that the strength of the community is primarily what makes the club so successful and enjoyable.
Members of Run HAC participate in one race together every month, and every race raises money that benefits a good cause. “Every once in a while, we will add a race onto the schedule if it’s for a cause affiliated with one of our members,” adds Jen. Each season begins and ends with a “big” race; this year’s runners will be kicking it off with the Tacos & Rita’s Run in Newark on Saturday, May 2nd. The Run HAC squad has made annual appearances at many other local running events, including the Kennett Mushroom Cap Festival, Baltimore Running Festival, and the final race of this season, the Rehobeth Running Festival.
In addition to monthly races, Run HAC members get to participate in as many as four training sessions – two in the morning, two in the evening – every week of the season. Many of these sessions take place at Tweed’s Park, a great place to train runners of different skills and speeds. Sometimes, training takes place in other areas both inside the club and even out in the community. Coach Andrea and Coach Jen put a lot of effort into planning a range of training activities throughout the season to keep members engaged. “We have fun runs like scavenger hunts and workouts with the firefighters at Hockessin Fire Hall. We have guest trainers to help with yoga sessions and pool workouts,” Jen says. Member Jim Altrichter recalls one of his favorite memories of such activities:
“In my first season, when I was going from couch to 5K, I remember the first time we did an estimation run. In an estimation run, you take off your electronics and try to estimate your time for a given distance. I think I was the last runner to finish that day, but I came in 15 seconds under my estimate to win the challenge. Those are the kind of fun activities we do in the club. They force you out of your comfort zone while allowing runners of all levels to play together.”
Activities like these keep it fun for the members, and every activity is planned with running in mind, resulting in a well-rounded training schedule. Whether you’ve never run a 5k or you’ve run dozens of half and even full marathons, coaches Jen and Andrea aim to challenge everyone and help them improve.
Novice runners start with the “Road to Running” program during their first six weeks with Run HAC. This program takes an individualized approach and provides beginners with the appropriate training and confidence they need to stay the course of the sport. What is equally valuable, though, is the club’s extensive efforts to support its runners for hitting personal goals rather than celebrating the quickest run times. Run HAC member Theresa Kauffman expresses her appreciation for the club’s attitude towards success:
“As a competitive runner, I admire the fact that HAC Coaches do not emphasize race times in any communications….they praise the age group winners as well as the runner who finished a race for the first time. I think this really keeps the group relaxed and helps to foster a wonderful team spirit. Of course, [there are] big victories we celebrate, but its more about reaching a race goal and being dedicated to the long hours of training.”
To Run HAC members, effort speaks far louder than numbers. As a result, new members can more easily recognize their value and potential and develop the drive to keep running. Members like Elizabeth Perry have been hugely impacted by the encouragement they received from fellow runners when they first started running:
“When I first joined [Run HAC], I felt slightly intimidated by the Wednesday morning crew. I didn’t feel like I was a “real” runner or that I belonged there with my 12-minute mile (at its best). That feeling diminished quickly when teammates would cheer me on as we passed on the course; it was just a natural method of encouragement for everyone on the team. I have been a member for three seasons, and I can attest to the fact that any differences a newbie might feel WILL disappear quickly.”
For more advanced runners, it can be hard to find a group of equally dedicated and skilled athletes to train with, but Run HAC provides a space for them, too. A handful of Boston and New York Marathon qualifiers call themselves members of Run HAC. These top-performing athletes come back to the club season after season because of the social environment the club offers and all the friends they’ve made over the years.
“I look forward to seeing people at the Run Club sessions,” says triathlete-turned-runner, Mark Hopkins. “This is a social network for me (sorry Facebook). A highlight of my week for sure. I check in with some of the other runners on email or SMS, but mostly it’s the face-to-face communication at Run Club that I value.”
For both beginners and expert runners, there’s also an incredible motivating power to suffering through demanding training in the company of others. “On those days when you’re just not feeling your best, seeing your teammates going through the workout convinces you to grind through it,” says Jim. Fellow runner, Krissy Knowlton, concurs:
“Typically I would not go out for a run after a long day at work. But knowing I made a commitment to the group pushes me to get there. It’s great to have some friends by your side, too, when getting your miles in! And it is fun!”
Over the last decade, Coach Andrea and Coach Jen have cultivated a running community like no other. They’re looking forward to even more wins, PRs, first races, and new faces in season ten of Run HAC. If you’re interested in joining the camaraderie, you can learn more on the HAC website or contact Jen Besten at firstname.lastname@example.org.