RUN FAR COACHES
Midtown Run Far Coordinator
This year makes Jeff’s fifth year being a part of the Run Far program. Over the past four years, Jeff has been a member, an assistant coach, and head coach. Jeff became the Midtown Program Coordinator in January of 2018 and currently still coaches the sub 8:30 pace group as well.
Jeff is an RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) certified distance running coach.
8:30 – 9:30
My running journey began around 2012, when after years of not taking care of myself, started to take a toll on my body. My routine basically consisted of treadmills every day during my lunch break and small runs at Freedom Park over the weekends. Nothing serious until one day in 2016, after an ‘aha’ life moment I decided to step up and do something great for myself. I started toying with the idea of running a marathon, but never really took for the first month. Then randomly one day in April after dropping off some clothes at my tailors, I saw a group of folks gathered around a running store. They were all smiling, giving each other high fives and giving off a vibe that stopped me in my tracks. I immediately felt I needed to be a part of it. The following summer/fall session I joined the mighty “Run Far” group and registered for 2016’s Charlotte Marathon. I was scared I would fail or if anyone would even talk with me. In a nutshell, the training and support I received from this group allowed me to reach my goal of running 2016’s Charlotte marathon and most importantly gave me more of a better balanced life. Needless to say, I then wanted more and since then I’ve run the Chicago Marathon, coupled with 6 half marathons. (And more “Full & ‘Half” races to come!) I am a prime example of how someone who hadn’t run more than 5 miles their entire life, achieved 26.2! I want to pass along what was taught to me when I started and help our folks achieve their goals!
9:30 – 10:30
When I moved to Charlotte in 2014, I volunteered at the mile 16 water station of Thunder Road Marathon (now Charlotte Marathon). After seeing the runners and feeling the excitement of race day, I knew that I wanted to complete a marathon. I remember going for a run after volunteering and then researching training programs in the Charlotte area. I joined the Run Far program in January of 2015 and completed my first full in March of 2015.
I’ve continued to train with Run Far and could talk about running and races and trail running and ultras all day long! Running has brought so much happiness to my life that I want to share that joy with others.
11:30 – 12:30
DeNise Willis Gerst
My first race of any sort was a triathlon in 2009. It was great, I loved it , but I did not continue. In 2014 I ran my first 5K as a support to my husband on his weight loss journey. I liked it so much I set goal to run at least one 5K per month in 2015. This was my way to help keep me consistent. I continued my journey in 2016 completing several 5K’s and 4 milers, two 8K’s , two 10K’s, one 15K and 4 half marathons. In 2017, I set a goal to complete a marathon and began training with Run Far. I accomplished my goal in November of that same year. Running not only helps me stay fit, it also helps me release stress and keeps me energized. I am a natural encourager and I fully believe in the saying “Your race, your pace.” My new lifestyle has encouraged friends, family and co-workers to embark upon a lifestyle change as well. When I am not running or training, I love to write (I’ve written 3 books including one about surviving in the public school system), speaking on educational concerns, encouraging fellow educators, singing and dancing liturgically. I encourage you to get fit, but never quit!
8:30 and Under
In the Summer of 2012, I decided to make a lifestyle change because I was overweight and out of shape. I set out on a journey to lose 40 pounds, get in shape, and never allow myself to look and feel like that again. I started by walking an hour a day, seven days a week. After a couple of months, I decide to try running a mile and it almost wiped me out. I slowly kept increasing my distance and when I was able to comfortably run 3 miles, I ran my first 5k. Over the next two years, I continued to run three to five times a week, gradually increasing my distance and speed. In the Summer of 2013, I decided to train for the Thunder Road (now Charlotte) marathon on my own and successfully completed it. In 2014, I ran a race about every two weeks on average and placed in my age division for the first time at the Greek Fest 5k. In 2015, my goal was to run the same 19 races that I ran the year before and try and place in every one of those 19 races. While I felt that I had done fairly well training on my own, I decided to join the Run Far program in the Spring on 2015 to help me reach my goal of placing in 19 out of 19 races. Because of my success in the Run Far program, my running improved and I ended up placing in 18 out 19 races in 2015. In the Fall of 2015, I decided that my next goal would be to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon. In March of 2016, I ran the Wrightsville Beach marathon and qualified for Boston. A month later, I ran the Kentucky Derby marathon in Louisville and qualified for Boston again. In April of 2017, I ran my first Boston Marathon. To date, I have 15 full marathons and 15 half marathons under my belt. I started coaching with Run Far in the Summer of 2016. I enjoy helping other runners reach and exceed their goals in the same way the Run Far program has allowed me to reach and exceed my goals.
8:30 – 9:30
My running journey began 15 years ago when I made an impulsive decision to register in a lottery for a marathon. Lucky me, it was the first lottery of any sort that I had won in my life. Six long months later, after breaking in my first pair of running shoes, discovering chafing and blisters, learning about electrolytes, and logging miles and miles of run-walk training, I accomplished a full marathon and experienced the indescribable joy of accomplishment. Years later, I proudly classify myself as “a runner” and I am grateful that running is part of my life. Running fuels me with positive energy, and helps me stay centered when I allow my plate to get too full. A fellow running mate often reminds me “80% of life is just showing up” and I subscribe to that. Belonging to the Run Far group has greatly influenced my commitment to prioritize exercise and a healthy lifestyle and I’m so happy to be part of it.
10:30 – 11:30
I was never a runner or had any interest until I reached the age of 60. As with many others of a certain age I had become overweight and basically out of shape. My daughter encouraged me to diet and train for a 5k which I did. I successfully completed that 5k and said I would never do anything longer. Next thing you know I had been talked into a 10k and then a half marathon. I had become hooked on running. I retired in 2012 and made one of my better life decisions in joining the RunFar group to train for a marathon. While my time was not great I did complete it. The next year I was asked to help lead one of the pace groups in training. I was not sure about doing this but agreed. I started those duties in 2013. I believe I have received much more inspiration and encouragement from those in my group than I could have possibly given out myself. With the group’s encouragement I have ran numerous half marathons and six marathons. I particularly enjoy the chance to mentor those training for their first half or full marathon. I consider myself a social runner. Getting to know fellow runners and making new friends is my favorite part of the program.
12:30 & Up and Run/Walk
In May of 2017, I started to set goals to get back into fitness. I found an amazing group that encouraged me to keep working out and also try new things. A lot of them were running races and I signed myself up for the annual Turkey trot in my home town of Hilton Head. For my first 5k, I trained on my own and found that I loved it! I wanted to run more and longer races, but I also found during my training that I had developed Shin Splints. I gave myself a rest and did some PT, but I knew I just wanted to keep going. I found it hard to just train on my own, but for Christmas of 2017, my partner gave me the gift of joining Run Far. My goal then was to just run with the group and eventually find a race to run. During the Winter/Spring Season 2017, I ran two 5ks and a 10K toward the end the season. One of the things I love most about running is that I can escape the chaos of life for a while. I also love racing because of how much encouragement others are always giving. I am a firm believer in that you aren’t racing someone else but yourself and on race days, I love to see that others are just saying “keep going” and “good job”. I love cheering others on to accomplish their goals and have success in their running.
8:30 and Under
I joined the Run Far training program (called USA Fit at the time) in 2008 at the age of 41 to train for my first marathon. My oldest son was 9 years old at the time, and as I walked up the 2 flights of stairs to my office one morning, I was out of breath and it struck me that I hadn’t really exercised very much since my son was born, certainly not consistently.
I decided to run a marathon that year because I wanted to do something that was challenging enough that I couldn’t fake my way through the training. I was pretty active for most of my life and was always able to pick up and go run 5 miles, even after months of no training. But my experience running a half marathon in 2001 taught me that the marathon and half marathon distance is no joke. I joined the Run Far program because I didn’t really know how to train for a marathon, and I knew that I wouldn’t stick to a training program on my own. I wanted and needed the accountability that comes from telling other people that you will meet them for a run.
The group of people I ran with that year, and the almost 10 years since have been much more than that. Not only did I have great coaches helping me through my initial struggles with getting back in shape, but I have met great friends who not only helped to hold me accountable to my goals, but also supported me on the bad run days and cheered me on when I crossed the finish lines. I ran a 3:31 in my first marathon that year and was hooked. I started as an assistant coach with the program the following year and was a head coach for a few years after that.
Since running my first marathon in Charlotte, I have completed 11 marathons in total. I ran a 3:17 PR in 2011 and achieved my goal of qualifying for the 2012 Boston Marathon. I’m excited to be coaching with the Run Far program and look forward to seeing you out on the roads of Charlotte.
9:30 – 10:30
I first started running as a way to stay active during my senior year of college in 2010. After I graduated, I started participating in races, mostly 5Ks. I did not even consider running long distance until December of 2017. I made a new year’s resolution to start running again after falling away from it. My goal was to train for the Charlotte Half-Marathon by signing up for Run Far’s 2018 Winter/Spring and Summer/Fall programs. By the end of the program in April, I was ready to enter the RaceFest Half-Marathon.
Finishing my first half-marathon led me to a conclusion I never thought I would reach: I wanted to run a marathon. As a result, I signed up for the 2018 Charlotte Marathon and used the Run Far Summer/Fall season to train for it. The encouragement and training I received from my coaches in the program (shout out to Katie, Kim, Holly and Ron) helped me over the finish line to achieve a feat I never thought I would overcome.
2019 will be my first year as a coach and I really look forward to helping other runners achieve their race goals!
Outside of running, I am active in the community as Vice President of the Plaza Shamrock Neighborhood Association and as a volunteer for different local political campaigns. I really enjoy reading, listening to music and writing.
11:30 – 12:30
Sports were not something I grew up enjoying or participating in. I had nightmares about high school gym class track days and I did not even run a full mile until I was in my 20s. The Couch to 5K training program was the path to my first official race (Charlotte Greek Festival) which I completed as a challenge with my dad. I got back into running briefly during graduate school as a means of stress relief and afterwards continued to jog on and off, but not in any kind of focused way. In 2017 my partner encouraged me for my first 10K (Twin Cities) and I got hooked on the feeling of fulfillment that comes from setting and achieving goals. I joined Run Far in 2018, after suffering alone to train for my first half marathon (Asheville). I fell completely in love with the Run Far community and now can’t imagine training any other way! Outside of running, I am a clinical social worker. I enjoy practicing yoga, cooking, and going to hear live music. .
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