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Fun with the Suburban Striders
By Barbara Lehmann and Michael Wyner/ Staff Writers
Thursday, April 13, 2006

You can do it, and they can help.
    The Suburban Striders Running Club, a group of women from Weston, Wellesley, and several other local communities, offers encouragement and coaching to women at all running levels. Started in 2004, the goal of the club "is to be an all-comers club to runners of all abilities," said founder Mary Kachadurian of Weston.
    The running club meets year-round on Wednesday mornings for an hour of training and coaching.
    It all began in March 2004, when a group of women traveled to New York City to compete in the More (Magazine) Half Marathon for Women over Forty. The weekend focused on being with other women and running, and one of the participants was so energized by the experience that she decided to run in the 2005 Boston Marathon.
    Kachadurian then said, "Why wait for April (2005) when we can do a marathon in October (2004)? Let’s get a coach, let’s have a training plan, let’s form a group."
    Two months later, they did.
    Weston resident Hilda Chow, 42, of Weston, was one member of the original group.
    "Everyone can run at their own speed," Chow said. "I think I’m one of slower ones, so it’s nice to have people cheering you on if have a hard time finishing an interval."
    Chow felt especially motivated by the Suburban Striders when a bunch of them completed a marathon in Washington, D.C., last October. It was Chow’s first.
    "One woman in the group saw me at mile 15 and slowed down to run with me because she could tell I was having a hard time," Chow said. "I got through it because I knew group of women were waiting for me at the end so I thought I’d better finish the race!"
    Heather McClurg and Trish Richardson, both from Wellesley, have also been with the club since its inception.
    McClurg was hesitant at first to join, fearing it would be intimidating and too competitive. But, she said, "it’s been the opposite of that - we do coffee, movies, cross-country skiing, power yoga. It’s gone beyond the hour (of the workout) to spending time together."
    Weston resident Allegra Manacher, 49, who has been a member of Suburban Striders for a year, agrees, "I’m not real fast and not so much into doing a lot of races, but it’s great to get out there and set my own goals and improve my own speed. And the friendship is the best part."
    Most of the women in the group are in their 40s, some in their 50s, McClurg said, and all are at a point in their lives where "it’s time to focus on ourselves."
    "It’s something that’s physically hard, but I never want to miss it," Richardson said, referring to their weekly training. "The women in the group are all passionate about running."
    Richardson joined the newly formed running club in 2004 because she wanted to run the Chicago Marathon, and she did, along with McClurg and six other members of the original group.
    Since then, she’s tried shorter distances and found that "I’m a five-miler, a track person" at heart, not a long-distance runner after all.
    The group relies on Cathy Utzschneider as their coach, a world-class runner, professor at Boston University and a mom as well.
    "She’s wonderful. She doesn’t push, she encourages," said Manacher. "We set our own goals and she caters to our individual needs. It’s helpful for me not being such a race person."
    Chow said Utzschneider was invaluable when she got injured training for a marathon.
    "She was so good about setting me up with a cross-training program. There was a month I couldn’t run, and she had me doing aqua jogging and elliptical workouts. She makes time for everyone. If you have a question about a workout, she’s really good about sitting down with you and going through what you should be doing."
    One of the newest members of Suburban Striders is Wellesley resident Stephanie Hawkinson, who joined last October.
    "I really was not a runner," she said. "The first day I was at the track, I was nervous. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But, once I started running I found it was not about that at all. From that first day, I couldn’t wait to go back."
    Hawkinson’s goal when she first joined was to run a marathon - and she’s running the Boston Marathon this year - "but now, it’s more than (the goal). It’s being with the other women running."
    And, she added, "You don’t have to worry about how much you sweat or what your hair looks like," referring to the advantages of an all-women group.
    One of the members couldn’t walk a mile when she first joined, Richardson said, but now she can run three miles nonstop - and the group cheered her on every step of the way.
    "There’s something to be said about that spirit that pushes you harder," McClurg added.
    Along with the passion for running, the members have another bond as well.
    "We all have a common thread ... we’re all moms," Richardson said.
    Manacher said her family is very supportive of her running.
    "They worry about the fact I’m pounding my bones, but they know this keeps me healthy and happy," she said.
    Chow said her family understands that Saturday mornings are "her time" to go out on runs.
    "We’re all different shapes and all of these women are runners," Hawkinson said, dispelling the idea that the women in the club all looked like elite marathon runners.
    Richardson agreed, "We are fit, normal people."
    Currently, the Suburban Striders Running Club has members from Weston, Wellesley, Needham, Natick, Medfield, Sudbury and Dedham. The group meets on Wednesdays from 9 to 10 a.m. for training and coaching. The Babson College indoor track is used in the winter; for the rest of the year, club members run on the Weston High School track. There is an annual fee of $300 to join the club.
    The members range in running ability from runners who finish marathons in six hours to runners who finish it in three hours, and everything in between. Some do a lot of races during the year; others do little or no racing, according to Kachadurian.
    For more information, visit "www.suburbanstriders.com"

Neither rain nor snow ... the Suburban Striders brave temperamental weather at the Weston High School track. Left to right, Mary Kachadurian, Allegra Manacher, Margaret Randall, Sharon Yogel and Hilda Chow. (Staff photo by Art Illman)
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