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Thursday, May 27, 2010 04:27 pm

Bike and run for fitness and fun

See the city with pedal power and foot force


Riders in the Capital City Century can pedal between 10 and 100 miles in a non-competitive environment, with food, fun and fellowship to boot.

There’s no better way to blow off steam and stay in shape than running or biking this fair city. And whether you need a little help working the winter kinks out of your joints, or you’re simply looking for a way to dissipate some of your boundless energy, Springfield’s biggest running and biking groups have something for you. Even if you’re not a seasoned veteran sporting the fanciest gear, even if you’ve never laced up a pair of running shoes or your only bicycle still has a basket and streamers, these groups offer training to fit your level of skill and fitness. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re genuinely helpful and encouraging as well.

The Springfield Road Runners Club, formed in 1980, now has about 1,100 members and helps runners get moving with training groups and races throughout the year. Summer runs include informal evening meet-ups at Washington Park and Sacred Heart Griffin track during the week, as well as longer morning runs taking off from downtown spots on Saturdays.

“If you set a goal to run a race, you’ve got something to shoot for,” says Tim McCaughey, president of SRRC. “If you’re just running a little bit here and there, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of that. The idea is to run that first 5k, then a second 5k, and if your second time is faster, you know you’ve accomplished something.”

All of that preparation and training should be put to use, so the SRRC has races throughout the summer to test your mettle. Abe’s Amble, a 10k road race, is run Aug. 22, the last day of the Illinois State Fair, preceded by a 12-week training course for SRRC members. The training course, called Abe’s Army, is already underway, but it’s not too late to start training on your own. The SRRC can plug you in to other summer races as well, from the two-mile Women’s Distance Festival July 10 and the Sizzling Mile on July 21 to the 15k Steamboat Classic in Peoria on June 19.

Racers at the Women's Distance Festival run two miles through Springfield's Washington Park.

“It’s a lot easier to train with a group than to train on your own because of the friendships you develop,” McCaughey says. “They help you keep motivated. The camaraderie is unbelievable. Heck, I started running 10 years ago, and some of my best friends are in the road runners club.”

If cycling is more your speed, the Springfield Bicycle Club will keep you pushing the pedals this summer. They offer group rides nearly every day of the year, from leisurely jaunts to tougher long-distance rides.

“It can be a lot of fun,” says Karl Kohlrus, SBC president. “You make a lot of friends, because it’s really a social club. Once you get out on the quiet country roads, you can ride side-by-side and talk. It’s a fun way for everybody to enjoy the outdoors.”

There’s the Morning Geezer ride in Washington Park at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday or the 25-mile ride from Lewis Memorial Christian Village (3400 W. Washington St.) at 5:45 p.m. on Thursdays – among many others. Some rides have leaders and set distances, while others operate on a “show-N-go” basis – whoever shows up decides pace, distance and route. Both styles are good opportunities to get out and enjoy the weather while getting some exercise with your fellow cyclists. SBC also teaches novice riders the rules of the road, safe cycling and how to get the most from their machines.

Once your legs (and bottom) are used to cycling, you may want to check out the Capital City Century. It’s the main event in Springfield cycling, drawing more than 720 riders in 2009. Planned for Sept. 12 this year, this non-race recreational ride features 10-, 25-, 40-, 62- and 100-mile routes over flat to slightly rolling terrain. There are food stops along the way, with shower facilities available and a “Post-Pedal’n Party” following the ride.

“Most people are not doing the Tour de France,” Kohlrus jokes. “You get some people that do drafting and that ride really fast, but it’s really just a fun way to get exercise while socializing.”

For membership information plus training and event schedules, visit the Springfield Road Runners Club at www.srrc.net and the Springfield Bicycle Club at www.spfldcycling.org. Both groups can be found on Facebook as well.

Get out there and enjoy the weather on bike or on foot. You’ll have some fun, challenge yourself and meet some new people – the perfect way to spend your summer.     

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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