Monday, February 24, 2014

The Towpath Turtles and The Ohio Runners Network

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Stephani Itibrout to share her passion for a local running community and organization, the Towpath Turtles.  Stephani Itibrout is a mother, wife, teacher, runner, and blogger who likes to focus on all the cool opportunities for runners in the Akron area.  Look for her posts at and follow her on Twitter @itibrout.  If you are involved with a local group and would like to guest blog about them, you can contact us through here.  Many thanks to Stephani for sharing with us today.

TORN members running the trails. I'm showboating in the back.

"Let go your heart; let go your head, and feel it now."  These are the words I sang along with David Gray on my playlist on a frigid winter morning.  I touched my heart, and I touched my head, and I pictured the pain, grief, and fear I had been feeling float away into the air I left in my wake as I ran to the finish in my ten-mile run in the sun that morning.

Towpath Turtles and TORN at the Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler, 2013

Had you told me two years ago that I would be running ten miles in twenty degree weather in order to experience catharsis, had you told me that I would have willingly awakened early on a Sunday morning in order to do this, had you told me that the tears I shed were of joy, not sorrow. . . Well, I would have sarcastically laughed, poured another drink, and asked you if a bear would be chasing me when I did this.  I wouldn't have believed you because I didn't believe in myself.  Running can help.  Running changed my life for the better, and I almost didn't allow myself this experience if it hadn't been for The Towpath Turtles.

Towpath Turtles, Jim Klett 10k, 2013

In February 2012 I joined the Towpath Turtles, which is a group associated with The Ohio Runner's Network (TORN).  If you are ever walking, hiking, running, or biking around Akron,  I guarantee you will see or hear us.  We are the runners who are following the Akron Blue Line on Sunday mornings while sane people drink coffee and eat bagels.  We are the runners who chug up the gigantic hills in the Valley, hoping we won’t hurl when we get to the top.  We are the runners who are laughing and singing our way along the Cuyahoga River, having so much fun that we forget that we are training for the Akron Half Marathon.  We are the runners who are cheering on every runner in the race before we even get to the treats at the end.

TORN members, Medina Half Marathon, 2013

It is through the Turtles that I was able to break most of my mental and physical barriers to running. The day that I was able to run four miles without stopping was pretty significant for me, and I owe it to the Turtles.  One of the most empowering moments (besides childbirth) that I've ever experienced is when I ran the Akron Half Marathon, and I owe this to the Turtles, too.  They are extremely supportive and knowledgeable, and they are just good people.

Towpath Turtles, Munroe Falls Mother's Day 5k, 2013

Do you think you are too old to run?  We've got mothers, fathers, and grandmothers--people of all ages running with the Turtles, and they are having a ball.  Do you think you don't have the body of a runner?  What is that anyway?  Many of the Turtles don't look the way we envision runners, but I assure you that we ARE runners.

Do you worry that you are the one person in the world that won't be able to experience the fun of running and the thrill of a runner's high because you aren't worthy, aren't capable, or just CAN'T?  No?  Good.  I'm sure it's just me.  The Towpath Turtles and The Ohio Runner’s Network helped me to overcome that kind of negativity.  Besides, you can't NOT have fun in the middle of the long run.  The goofiness has to emerge at some point.  We've had our fair share of weirdness on the Towpath; it takes the form of top-of-your-lungs singing, train-whistling through tunnels, acrobatics and surprising stunts, and REALLY dorky jokes.

Look, Ma, I got a medal! Lyndhurst Perfect 10-miler, 2012

The motto on our club shirt says, "Fear the Turtle," and I really like it because deep down I would love to believe that there is SOMEBODY who comes to the race, sees us, and thinks, "Oh crap.  The Turtles are here.”  A more appropriate slogan might be, "Be Inspired by the Turtle."  I ABSOLUTELY hope that there are people at the races or on the road who look at us and think, "Wow, if they can do this, maybe I can."

Mission Accomplished! I completed the Akron Half Marathon! 2012

Do you think you wouldn't do well in a running club?  You might surprise yourself.
Believe me, these Turtles are worthy of emulation.  A healthy dose of fear certainly wouldn't hurt our egos, though.

Want to join The Ohio Runners Network?  Follow the link and contact information for the website. Hope to see you on the Towpath!

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