Go running with the Coulee Colleges Running Club

By Kim Wroblewski
Contributing Writer
Ramon Martinez is no stranger to running. Martinez, a senior Spanish major at Viterbo, started running for cross country his senior year in high school as a way to stay in shape for wrestling. Although he did not like running at first, stating laughingly that it “takes more work than meets the eye,” Martinez grew to love it. Now, he has run countless miles and participated in numerous races.
Recently, Martinez helped found the Coulee Colleges Running Club. The club is open to students, fac-ulty, staff, and alumni of the three area campuses, Viterbo University, the UW – La Crosse, and Western Technical College. It is open to run¬ners of all speeds and skills.
The club holds three group runs each week, one starting on each campus, said Martinez, who is also co-president of the club.
The first run is held on Wednes¬days at 6:30 a.m. and starts out at the clock tower at Viterbo. The run is 3.4 miles and takes an average of 30 minutes to run.
The second run is held on Thurs¬days at 4:30 p.m. and starts in front of the Lunda Center at WTC. The run is 3.1 miles and takes an aver¬age of 25 minutes to run.
The third run of the week is held on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and starts at the UW – La Crosse clock tower. The run is 4.3 miles long and takes about 40 minutes to run.
The club’s goal is to “promote a healthy lifestyle and fitness,” Martinez said. The club “tailors to all levels of runners, beginner to advanced,” Martinez stressed, “you don’t have to be super fast, [the runs have] a laid back pace.” By running as a group, members are more motivated, as they can sup¬port and encourage each other.
The club also works to help keep students, staff, faculty, and alumni connected to their schools while forming connections between the three colleges, as well. Besides the three group runs each week, the club also provides running tips and helps runners prepare for races.
The club encourages minimalist running, which helps the runner “run naturally,” Martinez said. The runners are encouraged to wear minimalist footwear, not the “five-finger shoes,” but shoes that offer “protection but do not modify the running form” Martinez explained.
He said that many running shoes sold today modify the running form, which is bad for runners.
The club first started out in the spring of 2012 and was mainly open to runners at Viterbo. However, during the recent winter break, the club decided to be more accessible to runners from other local colleges in the area. Ramon Martinez, Travis Pernstiener (a UW – La Crosse grad student), and Bobby Miles (a West¬ern student) are the co-presidents and founders of the Coulee Col¬leges Running Club.
As the club is now open to the three colleges in the area, the co-presidents are hoping that there will be more members. There are currently about 20 members in the club, but Martinez says that there is a “new face on each run.” Martinez predicts that even more runners will join in the springtime, as the weather gets better.
Emily Zuccarelli, a senior Spanish major at Viterbo, joined the run¬ning club last fall, before it turned into the intercollegiate club. Zuc¬carelli, a former runner on Viterbo’s Cross Country team, joined the club because running is one of her major hobbies. She said that what she likes most about the club is that she can “run with a group, but without the time commitment,” referring to the short amount of time it takes to complete the weekly runs.
Zuccarelli said that she also enjoys the “upbeat people” in the club, who are “always very nice” even if it is 6:30 in the morning. She said that she also likes getting the chance to talk to the members of the club and grab some coffee with them after the morning runs, saying that the club is a “good commu-nity.”
Some members of the club participated in the YMCA Heart Throb 5 Mile & 5k race on Feb. 9 in Onalaska. Members of the club are not obliged to enter into races, but are encouraged to enter them Martinez said.
The races are “better when people are cheering you on or you are cheering [people you know] in after the race,” he added. He also explained that hanging out before and after the race with fellow club members is also beneficial for the race as well as enjoyable.
Some members of the club are currently preparing to run in the Chi Town Half Marathon & 10 k which takes place March 24 in Chi¬cago. Martinez said that club mem¬bers are welcome to ask for advice as well as more advanced training sessions for preparing for races.
When asked for advice on run¬ning, Zuccarelli said to make sure one remembers to enjoy running. “You don’t want to get to the point where you stop enjoying (running) because of training” Zuccarelli warned. “Don’t be afraid to start small,” she also advised, saying that a runner can start with short runs, and build up to running lon¬ger distances. Zuccarelli hopes to run a triathlon in the spring, or run a half-marathon.
Martinez has participated in many races. He said that his two most memorable races were run¬ning in the Boston Marathon in 2009, as well as 2012. Runners ar¬rive from all over the world to run in the Boston Marathon. Martinez said that he felt “privileged to be a part of the race” due to the history of the race and the community cre¬ated by the race. The Boston Mara¬thon is the oldest running race, and crowds of people gather to cheer on the runners. Martinez said that running in the marathon was both “challenging and amazing.”
Martinez plans to run in a mara¬thon in Colorado in April, as well as participate in two events that take place in La Crosse in May. Martinez said that he will be entering in the Grandad Running Time Trial on May 3, a race from the bottom of Bliss Road to the Alpine Inn on Gra¬dad’s Bluff. He also plans to partic-ipate in the Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon on May 4. Martinez will also run in the Chi Town Half Marathon & 10 k on March 24 with some of his club members.
Offering some advice to runners, Martinez said that they should “enjoy the run” and “be thankful because of good health” that allows one to run. Martinez said that in a race, one should, “try to give it your best . . . but at the same time, enjoy the event.”
“Don’t be intimidated,” Martinez encouraged potential club mem¬bers, saying that if runners learn the right technique, they will be able to run faster, longer, and without pain. Club members are happy to help out fellow runners and answer any questions. And do not forget, most of all, to enjoy the run.
For more information on the club, Google “Coulee Colleges Running Club.”

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