North Texas Daily

Local running club paves the way for fitness and friendship

Local running club paves the way for fitness and friendship

September 21
22:47 2017

On a still, quiet Wednesday night on the Square, the only sound heard is the unified pounding of feet on the pavement as the Denton Area Running Club runs under the fluorescent lights.

With sweat dripping on their beaming faces, the group reconvenes over drinks to celebrate their completed route and times.

The club has made a name for itself in Denton during the past three years. They gather regularly for runs around town while bringing the running community together for local events.

The club’s vice president Ben Bridgeman, 41, is the head of some of the weekly runs and has personally seen the impact the club has had on its participants.

“I think people join for the communal feel,” Bridgeman said. “Many friendships have been forged through this club. You see people that didn’t know each other before [now] spending birthdays together, going to weddings [and] graduations.”

Bridgeman helps coordinate some of the club’s most popular events, including the annual Turkey Trot held every Thanksgiving Day on the Square.

With a strong focus on helping the Denton community as a whole, the club set the bar high for themselves in their first year by raising over $8,000 for the Denton Food Bank.

Inspired by the financial progress, the club has since extended their reach in Denton by adding two more race trails for their members.

Angela Europe, 38, is the current treasurer of the club. She originally began as a volunteer during their first year and was then promoted to secretary before residing in her current position.

The running community is the most “helpful, friendliest group” that Europe said she knows. The encouragement she receives and watches others receive is unparalleled.

“If you’re on the route running, someone will send some encouragement like, ‘We’re almost there’ or ‘You’re doing great,’” Europe said. “Even when races get tough, you’ll have that runner that will stick by your side until finish. The camaraderie is strong.”

This feeling of camaraderie transcends to members of all generations as the club encourages people of any age and running experience to join events.

Rhonda Foulds, 53, said the club is intentionally mindful of being inclusive with events available to runners at every level.

“They are an inspiring group of runners who include everyone,” Foulds said. “Fast or slow, trail or road, there’s something for every runner within the club.”

While many runners go solo, DARC gives the community a chance to meet people with similar interests while simultaneously shaving time off their runs.

Europe used to describe running alone as her “peaceful” time, but has experienced newfound inspiration and motivation in running with a group.

“When you run with a group, you notice yourself trying to keep up with other runners,” Europe said. “My fastest times running have come from trying to pass or keep up with other runners. If I was alone I would not have tried that hard.”

Bridgeman also shares the sentiment that while running alone can be cathartic, group runs have a better chance of ensuring consistency.

“I was used to and preferred the solitude of running on my own,” Bridgeman said. “That is until I met many of the runners in the DARC. I do a lot of group runs now. It helps keep people accountable. Some people need and prefer that.”

While members of the club might share opposing views on life, Europe believes running brings them all together in the end.

“I think people join DARC so they don’t have to be on this run [and] active journey alone,” Europe said. “They receive encouragement, advice, running partners and knowledge about training a variety type of races. We have a very diverse group of members from all walks of life.”

UNT alumna Sharon Jared, 29, believes the club’s community is “completely different” than other running clubs. She credits this to the tight-knit nature of the large group and the time they spend bonding before and after runs together.

“It’s not just about coming to run every week,” Jared said. “You stay, hang out with your friends after and socialize over a drink. It’s a wonderful atmosphere. Other running clubs have tried to replicate it, but nothing comes close.”

Featured Image: The Denton Area Running Club members and other members of the public are joining the Wednesday Night Social Run at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Oak St. Drafthouse in Denton. Brigitte Zumaya

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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