Atlanta - January 28, 2020 - It's no secret running can really bring people together. Whether it's finding new friends through a local 5K or discovering a shared passion as a couple, running and walking has a way of simultaneously creating and extending a genuine relationship with yourself and others
With more than 30,000 Atlanta Track Club members, we share a common mission with our runners and walkers to create a healthier Atlanta community. We kick off the month of February with our annual Hearts & Soles 5K, celebrating the love for our sport intersecting with those we love. Rich Kenah, the Executive Director of Atlanta Track Club, even met his wife, Cheri, at a running event.
"We met at the NCAA indoor track championships in Indianapolis in 1990," Kenah said, "So I can appreciate the time you can spend logging miles with those you love."
The following series - "Romance on the Run" - celebrates stories of how running and walking strengthens our relationships and brings us together.
Heather and Kyle Klenke
Atlanta Track Club does not officially claim to be matchmakers, but for Kyle and Heather it proved to be that way. The Klenke's met back in the fall of 2015 during the In-Training for the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon. In reverse order, Kyle met Heather's dad first as his run lead bonding over rival universities.
"I saw Kyle at the Atlanta's Finest 5K that August and he was wearing a Kansas State running shirt," Heather said. "I was wearing my Kansas running shirt that day, too. Based on the coincidence, we took our first picture together and you can say the rest is history!"
After a few years of dating, Heather and Kyle got married last year - delaying their honeymoon for two weeks to run the 50th running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
"We joked early on in our engagement that we should just put up a tent at Armour and have our wedding and reception in the parking lot of Atlanta Track Club," Heather said.
Running and walking isn't just how the couple met. It is how they enjoy life together, pushing each other to be healthier and more active.
"We try and run together a few times a week and take our dog, Coco, for a walk," Heather said. "We make each other better runners. We can hold each other accountable. Kyle is at a faster pace than me, so it pushes me to run faster."
Two people means two paces. Kyle and Heather say it is a challenge running together in longer distance races, but they both enjoy crossing the finish line together.
Kyle will serve as a run lead for the Publix Atlanta Half-Marathon. Both look forward to their first anniversary and the 51st running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
Nick and Cindy Meyer
-How and when did you meet? We met at Georgia Tech in 1986. Cindy was a gullible freshman and Nick was a wise sophomore who now knew that making an impression with a new freshman was the way to go. It worked, and we got married the week after Cindy graduated in 1990.
-How is running/walking a part of your everyday life? Nick has been an almost daily runner for over 40 years. Cindy spent a lifetime hating running and only discovered a passion for it about 10 years ago when she worked with our son to prepare him for high school cross county. Today we each run between 4 and 6 days a week. It is how each of us unwinds, relaxes, and resets.
-What's your favorite part of running together? This is a funny one. We really don't run together. Our paces have changed over the years allowing some more compatibility. We do enjoy running the first mile together at the Cochran Shoals Unit of the Chattahoochee River Park before we head to our favorite routes - Cindy on the flat pavement of Columns Drive and Nick up the hilly, wooded trails to Sope Creek.
-What is you least favorite part of running together? Almost everything! Each of us feels compelled to adjust our pace to keep together. Constantly worrying about going too fast or too slow keeps the run from doing its magic. We've reached a point where we are trying to run more together, but it's definitely a work in progress.
-What is your favorite Atlanta Track Club event to run together? We've been married almost 30 years. You would think we would be compatible by now. Nick's favorite Atlanta Track Club events are the shot put and cross country race. Without a doubt, these are Cindy's least favorite. What we can agree on is toeing the line together (well starting in the same corral) at the Atlanta Track Club Grand Prix events and crossing the finish at our respective paces is something we both treasure.
Scott and Erica Turner
Running wasn't anything new for Erica when she met Scott. She had already finished nine editions of the AJC Peachtree Road Race, several half marathons and countless 5Ks in 1989. That's why inviting Scott on a short run as one of their earlier dates seemed to be a no-brainer. Despite not running much since high school, Scott met Erica to run the loop around Brookhaven Country Club.
"I was determined to make a good impression," Scott said. "I showed up in a polo shirt, Bermuda shorts, tall socks and worn out sneakers. Somehow, I managed to get through the 3 mile loop without giving up."
That day, Erica kept a tight lid on Scott's unusual running apparel. 31 years later, Scott and Erica are running, walking and hiking almost constantly. The trickiest part is getting out the door.
"The hardest part of running together is agreeing when and where to run," Scott said. "Surprisingly, we prefer cold weather races."
The couple said their favorite event is the Hearts & Soles 5K for the fairly flat course and scenic wooded section runners pass through twice.
"I like running to get away from the house and enjoy nature together," Erica said. "It gives us time to talk without distraction."
As much as they love running, they've also incorporated hiking into their regular routine and travel schedules. Erica still runs more regularly than Scott does, but they hit the road or trail together at least two or three times a week.
Bob and Grace Freeman
-How and when did you meet? We met in Louisville, KY in graduate school over 30 years ago. We are both from the metro Atlanta area and realized we had some common connections with family and friends.
-How is running/walking a part of your everyday life? We both are committed to getting 30-60 minutes daily exercise, either running or walking. This is usually first thing in the morning (5:00 AM) when we wake up - sometimes exercising together but usually individually.
-What's your favorite part of running together? When we run, it's not together. We both have different paces and it frustrates each of us to try to keep pace with the other. Instead, we cheer and celebrate the other as they work to achieve their best. We do enjoy good walks together.
-What is you least favorite part of running together? See above.
-What is your favorite Atlanta Track Club event to run together? Without doubt, it is the Peachtree Road Race. Bob ran his first Peachtree in 1977 and introduced Grace to the Peachtree in 1992. We ran the Peachtree together on July 4 and got married a week later on July 11 - it was a great way to launch our week of wedding celebrations…and then we wore our t-shirts to our wedding day breakfast the following Saturday, the day of our wedding. We have been married for 27 years.
- What's your favorite part of being a part of Atlanta Track Club? I speak for both of us when I say the opportunity to meet and develop friendships with a diverse group of people across the city that we never otherwise would know - people outside our previous circles of friends from school, church, community. We regularly have dinner/drinks with people we have met through Atlanta Track Club. We have attended and been part of their weddings (Christy & Jeff Herle), participated in hands on cooking classes together, travelled to out of town races together, watched sports events together. The Atlanta Track Club community is more than just running/walking, but a healthy and active lifestyle is at the core of our mutual interest.
Jeff and Christy Herle
Jeff and Christy Herle's favorite part of running together is finishing together. You've probably seen them crossing the finish line at almost every Atlanta Track Club race holding hands. For the couple, it's how they can spend time together.
"We enjoy staying fit. We like to run three days a week - training for a race or not," Jeff said.
Not only is it how they stay active and spend time together, it's how they met and eventually started dating.
"We met at a rogue run in Ansley out in front of the CVS at 5:45am on an August morning. Christy was already a regular member of the run." Jeff said. "We were running friends for six months before we started dating."
For most on the road romances, the challenging part comes with coordinating different paces and making them work. It certainly does not get in the way from them heading to their favorite event every year, the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
"We get to wear patriotic outfits and have a tradition of going with friends," Jeff said. "We especially love the cold towels at the end."
Nicole and James Lock
Nicole and James Lock didn't meet at a road race, but they literally met on the run. In 2002, James went to the same church where Nicole was the Youth Director. In an effort to meet Nicole and maybe slightly impress her, James signed up to volunteer with a junior high lock-in.
"We were expecting 30 kids to attend; we ended up having 80 kids at the church," James said. "I guess you can say that's when our running journey began - by chasing junior high kids all night!"
Years later, running and walking is an active part of their everyday life.
"We love supporting and encouraging one another to get out there," Nicole said. 'We want to be good stewards of our bodies, physical abilities, and just overall to be our best selves."
Like other couples, they say they have gone through seasons where one person is able to train more due to work, travel or life. Early wake up calls can be a shared couple's weakness for James and Nicole making race day morning an interesting battle of wills. However, it's not hard to get them up early on July 4.
"The AJC Peachtree Road Race is our favorite event," Nicole said. "We've each run eight editions of the Peachtree and can't imagine any better way to start the holiday than by celebrating our freedom to run."
Along with growing together as a couple, the couple says they've met incredible friends through running, too.
"We've developed some amazing friendships through Atlanta Track Club," James said. "The sense of community keeps us coming back for more miles and smiles."
Dung & Kathy Nguyen
For Dung and Kathy Nguyen, Valentine's Day isn't just another holiday. It's also the day they started dating in 1993 as co-workers at Center Stage Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland.
"We both worked backstage and I had to start the second act under the stage," Kathy said. "He snuck in and left flowers and candy with a valentine for me. The rest is history."
The Nguyen's closed the curtains on one hobby to hit the ground running in another. Dung is a streak runner, running at least one mile every day for the last 2,238 days. Equally as passionate, Kathy gets up every day at 4 a.m. to run before work 6 days a week.
"It is essential to our lives," Kathy said. "We use weekends and vacations to run together."
This year will be Dung's 10th and Kathy's 8th consecutive Grand Prix Series David Jordan Awards. The couple also coached a Kilometer Kids team. Dung and Kathy's shared passion for running perfectly represents their relationship.
"It is a great metaphor for our marriage. We both have to be in sync to run side by side," Kathy said. "Sometimes, you push and motivate the other and sometimes you have to slow down and support them."
Despite sacrificing their own race times, Dung and Kathy commit to running every race together. One of their favorites is Atlanta's Finest 5K where they like to thank all the officers and watch the cadets run.
Jessica and Adam Rudd
For some, the Publix Atlanta Marathon is a mark on the calendar to hit a personal best. For others, it's an exciting opportunity to try their hand at a longer distance for the first time. For Jessica and Adam Rudd, it's an anniversary.
"Based on the pictures from that day, you could say I was a bit surprised!" Jessica said. "I didn't actually decide to run the marathon until two days before the race at the expo, so his whole plan was relying on me to run the race."
It was mile 22 of the Publix Atlanta Marathon (then the Publix Georgia Marathon) in 2014. Like other participants, Jessica was feeling the fatigue as they took their strides into Piedmont Park. All of sudden, Jessica found Adam kneeling down - thankfully not out of exhaustion, but to propose to Jessica.
Staying true to form, the couple met four years prior on a bike tour of sustainable buildings in Atlanta. They ended up losing touch after the ride, but reconnected two years later and started dating in 2012. After a back injury, Adam sticks to the bicycle now while Jessica continues to be an active volunteer and member of the Club.
"Adam is a great cheerleader, crew member and sometimes reluctant travel companion on many of my 'run-cations,'" Jessica said. "I still persuade him to run the AJC Peachtree Road Race though."
After saying yes and crossing the finish line six years ago at the Publix Atlanta Marathon, it's still their favorite race every year.
"Even though we don't run the race together, I'm a pace team volunteer and Adam is a bike escort volunteer," Jessica said. "We ride our bikes together to the start of the race. I run the race as he rides with the elite runners. Then, we usually celebrate with dinner and wine that night."
Today, they share a commitment to creating a healthier and active lifestyle through running, walking and cycling.
"Even though most of our miles together are now on bikes, my favorite part of both running and cycling together is knowing that we're staying healthy together for life."
Angelina and Jerry Stasulis
It's pretty simple the way Angelina and Jerry Stasulis see it.
"We went to Clemson University together and started dating there," Jerry said. "We got married, moved to Atlanta, ran a bunch and had kids."
Another simple fact for the couple is their love for running, whether it's running on the treadmill while their kids play nearby or early morning runs with friends they met at the Track Club.
"Most of our social groups revolve around running," Angelina said. "We have a lot of friends that volunteer with us at the In-Training programs and we take our kids to as many of the Kilometer Kids events as we can."
The not so simple part of running for Jerry and Angelina Stasulis has nothing to do with pacing. It's the logistics of having a four-year-old and a five month old. Squeezing a double stroller into their car and finding races with a distance for everyone is what their everyday looks like and they wouldn't have it any other way.
"While some parts of a healthy lifestyle might be 'hard,' the long-term rewards are very worthwhile," Jerry said. "The best part lately has been showing our children how they can take care of their bodies through good exercise and dietary habits."
For the Stasulis family, the Resolution Run 5K, Mile and Dash is their favorite Atlanta Track Club event with something for everybody.
"With separate races, one can run the mile and one heads out on the 5K while the little ones can do the 50m Dash," Angelina said. "It's a great way to start our New Year."
Brian Westlake and Ria Aiken
Ria Aiken and Brian Westlake don't run every mile together. Almost always, they stick to their separate paces. However, you'll always find them supporting each other at an Atlanta Track Club event.
"Ria is very motivational. She's good at motivating other people," Brian said. "She's gotten me to run more."
Ria will cheer Brian on at his start line in an earlier wave and Brian will wait to congratulate Ria as she crosses her finish line.
"We decided as we were both moving into this next stage of our lives, being healthy and active while doing things together would be a big part of that," Ria said.
The couple got their start six years ago on an online dating app. Today, they've been married for three and a half years.
"We both swiped right!" Ria said.
Ria's love for running started before her love for Brian. She ran her first marathon in 2000 with several other races to follow. After running into a few health roadblocks in recent years, Ria started getting back into a running and walking routine.
"My favorite time of day is the morning and nothing is more exhilarating than starting my day off with a three to five mile fast paced walk," Ria said. "It helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle."
Brian picked up running more recently. It was Ria who encouraged him to give running a shot a few years ago. For Brian, running clears his mind and keeps him fit, but he likes it even more when Ria joins in.
"It was probably last year when she started running more, and I really enjoy when we run races together," Brian said. "I love the whole experience; it's something that we do together."
Their least favorite part of running together doesn't have much to do with running at all. Both agree the most challenging part is to pick out what clothes to wear with the race day weather. Brian said it's even harder when Ria isn't there to help him out.
"I love seeing Brian get excited about improving his times, commit to his training plan, and watching his love for running grow with each event," Ria said. "I also love how he encourages me."
Together, they ran the AJC Peachtree Road Race for the first time in 2019 celebrating not only the 50th Running but Brian's 50th birthday, too. In no time, Ria and Brian took online dating to an on the road romance, continuing to hit their stride with the Track Club in 2020.
"Being a part of Atlanta Track Club community and knowing that it doesn't matter if I'm in Wave A or in Wave F, we are all there to celebrate being healthy and running and walking together," Ria said. "I think it's a big part of who we are as a couple, so we are thankful to always have a place to be with other family."
Phil and Carole Limonciello
Everything started for the Limonciello's at the finish line of the Charles Harris Run for Leukemia 10K in April of 1988.
Carole ran the race alone. Phil went with friends who left early. The two met at the awards presentation and immediately hit their stride.
"He offered to drive me to my car and that's when we exchanged phone numbers," Carole said.
They will celebrate 30 years of marriage in June as they continue their standing Saturday morning date running together.
Both Carole and Phil are fans of logging their miles with an early morning run to start the day. Despite both hitting the pavement about four times a week, most times they run separately.
"Sometimes it's a challenge to make our pace work for both of us," Carole said. "But we still motivate and support each other."
If it's not a relaxed jog for the couple's Saturday morning date, it's an Atlanta Track Club road race. Most notably, the couple has run a combined 84 editions of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
Phil has a streak of 46 while Carole has run 38 of the last 39 races of the Peachtree.
One of their other Track Club favorites is the Hearts & Soles 5K.
"We love the team competition at the Hearts & Soles 5K," Carole said. "We are Team Lemon Jello!"
As they head into 2020, they hope to keep their Peachtree streaks going as well as their love for running.