And that's how it all started...

The minutes ticked by but the darkness still remained. An eerie stillness captivated my thoughts as I looked out at the road before me. I wait for the clock to turn over to 5:00AM, signalling the start of the run. It was now or never. I slowly ease into the pace, matching my breath with my stride, and I go. For 2 years this was my life, alone, in the darkness, motivated by thoughts of what would come. Then one day I found someone willing to occasionally sacrifice sleep to join me at an hour when we outnumbered cars on the road. Over time it went from just the 2 of us, to 3 or 4. I had to do what I had to do, so no matter who could join I was out there. On the days when I ran alone I was just thankful to have them at all. This is what it means to be a team. We did what we had to do and that was that. And as this group grew, and our runs became more regular, I had bigger thoughts. We need a real team here. Through the last several years, the Raleigh running community has been a support system to me. It’s kept me going. Raleigh has something real and we see that each year as the Sir Walter Miler gets bigger and bigger. As our group runs became more frequent so did our desire to make something of ourselves. So we did it. And that was how it all started...The Raleigh Distance Project.

I stuck around Raleigh out of necessity and now I just can’t leave. Training here, with the strong running community and beautiful places to run, definitely has it’s perks. Miles and miles of greenways surround the city in addition to Umstead Park, a long run haven with wide bridal trails and single track trials, and tobacco trail, a decently flat old rail corridor running 22 miles between Apex and Durham, serving as a tempo run paradise as each ¼ mile is marked along the way. Then we have Run Raleigh PT, a running specific physical therapy clinic that specializes in things like dry needling, and functional therapy techniques that will not only heal injury but prevent further injury. With their state of the art 3D Gait Analysis lab and VO2 Max Testing, elite runners have some of the best technology at their fingertips. In the heart of Downtown we have Runologie, Raleigh’s only locally owned running store that hosts a number of Running events each year and has been a big supporter of all local runners that come through the shop. We also now have a premier mile race, the Sir Walter Miler, which draws out thousands each year and highlights some of the best up and coming milers in the country. Raleigh is home to NC State, but Duke, and UNC aren’t too distant neighbors. All DI ACC schools with a history of good running, means a lot of good athletes being produced each year. The weather in Raleigh is fairly ideal. We have all 4 seasons so athletes get winter training without too much snow, and humid summer training that can be referred to as the poor mans altitude training. There are a number of elite training groups that train in different places throughout the year so with the funding in place, Raleigh's elite team could afford to leave to train at real altitude for a month. There are so many things that make Raleigh a perfect place to create an elite running team, but how do we make that happen?

We have to find a way to get the funding, sponsors, and the community to believe in what we are doing. We have to find a way to keep the talent that is produced in this area, in this area. When many of the athletes graduate from NC State, Duke or UNC, those seeking professional aspirations often don’t stick around. There is no team in Raleigh to go to, and without a team, sponsorship, or any the necessities needed to run professionally, there is no way to stay. For the athletes that come out of these programs with multiple offers including salaries, bonuses, shoes, gear, and the works, there is no ability to stay in Raleigh without anything. Professional runners are also hard pressed to make a living running. I personally, as many of you may know, worked full time right out of college. The miserable end to my collegiate career, left me without any interest from professional teams. I had to make a living so I started working, running around my schedule hoping I could make something of it. There are few opportunities but with Programs like ZAP Fitness (for example), distance runners with professional or elite aspirations can keep pursuing their dream. It is hard working full time while trying to train, but it’s also hard to train well without having the support and money to pay for what it takes to really excel. For runners who aren’t the top athletes right out of college, good opportunities are hard to come by. So therefore, our goal of the Raleigh Distance Project is to provide support to the aspiring professional and elite distance runners who live and train in the triangle area, foster and uplift the Raleigh running community as a whole, and market to begin to make the Raleigh Track Club a reality.

The Adidas Raleigh Track Club used to be a real option for runners, but the team folded at some point. Not sure of the cause but we are primed to bring it back. The Raleigh running community has certainly grown with the run clubs at almost every brewery or bar in Raleigh, the Sir Walter Miler, Runologie’s position in Downtown Raleigh, and the multiple training groups offered by Runologie, Fleet Feet, Capital Run Walk, and RunRaleigh PT (just to name a few). Our hope is that creating an Elite Running Team in Raleigh will allow us to begin creating a city-wide track club similar to the Atlanta Track Club and the Bowerman Track Club.

So this is our call to sponsors, investors, and supporters. Join us, follow us, and learn about what we are doing here in Raleigh. Help us to grow the sport and bring elite distance running to the triangle. We are small but we know we have something here. I have dreams and certainly a lot of potential I am ready to explore. I’ve done a lot of growing with the trials of this year but as I constantly have to remind myself, I must keep this quote in mind, “be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” And that is what we are doing.

 The Founders of the Raleigh Distance Project: (from left) Sarah Rapp, Tristin Van Ord, Me, Tereza Novotna, Rita Dorry, & Erin Clark.

The Founders of the Raleigh Distance Project: (from left) Sarah Rapp, Tristin Van Ord, Me, Tereza Novotna, Rita Dorry, & Erin Clark.

NOTE: We will be looking to add members to our elite team including a mens team in the coming months. Stay tuned!