Feel like a sprint? Dart to Youngstown Road Runners

By Natalie Lariccia

It doesn’t matter if you can’t comfortably run a mile or have run several marathons, there’s a local running resource that provides training, helpful tips, support and social opportunities for those who enjoy or would like to learn more about this life-enhancing sport.

Formed in 1975, the Youngstown Road Runner’s Club, is an organization that features weekly club runs, race and training information, said Dan Shields, YRRC vice president of public relations.

An affiliate of the Road Runners Club of America — the national association of running clubs, running events and runners dedicated to promoting long distance running as a competitive sport and as healthful exercise — the YRRC is one of 36 RRCA clubs in Ohio. Shields, who serves as a the webmaster of YRRC’s Web site, is a RRCA-certified running coach and is also the Ohio state RRCA representative.

A 65-year-old Canfield resident, Shields said he thinks there’s a common misconception about the club — that you have to be a very fast or very skilled runner to be a member. Some people may also believe the misconception that YRCC’s members are older in age, he said.

“Yes, some of us are old, but we’re still out there running — we’re staying healthy. It’s [running] is just not an athletic endeavor — it’s a lifestyle. We’re [the YRRC] trying to stay young and trying to stay aware of what life has to offer,” Shields said.

Rick Hart, YRRC president agrees. He encourages anyone interested in running — even someone who has never really run — to come out and give the club a try.

“Statistically, the average runner improves for seven years. It doesn’t matter if you start when you’re 55 and an ex-smoker, or if you’re 15 and a freshman in high school,” Hart said.

The club’s formal runs are at 9 a.m. Sundays from September through the end of April. Beginning in May, the formal runs shift to 6:30 p.m. on Monday evenings. Formal runs are at various locations throughout Mill Creek Park, and runners are offered course options of varying distances.

Informal runs, which are also typically at varying Mill Creek Park locations, are also offered on alternate weekdays and on weekends.

Running with a partner or in a group can be a key motivator in keeping people involved and inspired to keep running. A running partner or group can help push runners to reach the next level and keep up with training and an overall fitness plan, Shields said.

The club also exposes runners to the natural beauty of Mill Creek Park and offers a variety of social opportunities, including a pancake breakfast in November, a Christmas party in December, a chili run in January, a Valentine’s Day run in February and an annual summer picnic.

YRRC also sponsors the annual Mill Creek Distance Classic — a challenging half-marathon course that requires runners to conquer 19 hills during the 13.1 mile course. For those who aren’t quite ready to log multiple miles, the classic also features a 5-kilometer — or 3.1-mile — component.

Shields said the YRRC is a great resource for a runner who wants to refine his or her running skills and try a long race, like a half or full marathon.

The club also is actively involved in the annual Youngstown Peace Race, which is Oct. 4 this year. The Road Runners Club of America has designated the Youngstown Peace Race as the 10K state championship race.

Besides Shields, the club features two additional RRCA-certified running coaches who offer free gait analysis. All three coaches can help develop individualized training plans and advice to help for runners striving to reach another level.

Although running a 26.2-mile marathon can seem like a daunting task, Shields encourages people who are interested to pursue their dream and to not get discouraged.

A retired assembly line worker from General Motors’ Lordstown plant, Shields completed his first marathon at age 60, shortly after he retired. Running, he said, is a relatively inexpensive sport that can greatly improve people’s mental and psychological well-being.

Shields and Hart said the Youngstown area has a solid running community and offers a variety of road races that can be fun ways for runners to experience competitive camaraderie.

Hart, a YRRC member since 1997 and an active runner for nearly 20 years, said he believes Mill Creek Park — which offers runners miles of beautiful, well-manicured roads and trails — is one major reason why running is such a well-received area recreation.

Shields, a member since 1998, says he’d like to see the club continue to grow and continue to attract new runners of all ages, especially younger runners.

If the club grows and increases membership, it can expand integral programs like the YRRC scholarship program, which provides financial support to an area youth who is a member of an area cross country team and planning to attend Youngstown State.

Shields would also like to increase the club’s shoe program which helps provide running shoes to area high school runners participating with Mahoning Valley Suburban league teams who cannot afford them.

“We’re trying to give back to the community. It’s fun to watch the little kids cross the finish line and accept the trophy. You are hoping you can help someone in the right direction,” Shields said.

XFor more information about YRRC, visit http://web.me.com/danrunz/Youngstown_Road_Runners_Club/Welcome_.html.

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