Runner Profile

Profile on Julie Sibley

Profile on Julie Sibley

How many years have you been running?

Technically I started running in 1993 when I was a junior in high school.  I joined the cross country team because I wanted to try to be “sporty” and they didn’t cut anyone from the team.  I couldn’t run a mile without stopping that first summer.   I usually tell people I started running in 1998 – that was the year I ran my first Chicago Marathon.

Who inspired you?

I really didn’t have any outside inspiration.  I had never played sports growing up and I thought it might be nice to be a part of a team and make new friends.

Why did you join the Lake Run Club?

I graduated ISU in 1999 and instead of returning home to the suburbs like all of my college friends I decided to stay in BloNo.  I joined the LRC as a way to meet people with similar interests.  I think Kirby Cheek is primarily responsible for making sure I attended as many events as possible.

Tell me about your first race.

I definitely don’t remember my first cross country race or any of my early 5Ks, but my first Chicago Marathon will always be special.  I raised money for and trained with Team in Training –  I ran with the group downtown on the Lakefront and also in Normal.  On race day both of my parents were there and I finished in 5:35.

What makes your favorite race your favorite?

This might get a little repetitive, but the Chicago Marathon is my favorite race.  I love every step:  the neighborhoods, the crowds, all of the familiar faces.  I have run it 19 times from 1998 to 2017.  I would have a 20 year streak but in 2015 I missed it so I could go spectate a local legend (a.k.a. Dennis Killian) as he completed the Ironman World Champship in Kona.

Julie celebrating after her Boston qualifying performance at the Illinois Marathon

What race really sticks in your mind (for one reason or another?)

Marathon to Marathon in Iowa this past June will probably be one of my top memories for a very long time.  I finished my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states and over 20 friends from BloNo made the trip with me.  I also turned 40 the same weekend – so it was a great a party all weekend long.

*Just a quick author’s note because Julie’s being way too modest here…but yes, you are reading that correctly; she did just say she’s run at least one marathon in each U.S. State (although I’m pretty sure she’s run way more than that). Julie is a member of the exclusive 50 States Marathon Club. 

Do you have a favorite route that you run?

We have a route from Fleet Feet Sports Bloomington that we call the “W.”  I don’t have a great sense of direction and I love that after four years I could probably run it with my eyes closed.

If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?

A few years ago I recently completed my bucket list race:  The Madrid Marathon.  I’m a part-time Spanish teacher and I spent four summers studying

Julie running the Indy Marathon. Anyone who says running isn’t fun clearly isn’t doing it right.

in Madrid while I earned my Master’s degree.  I had always wanted to go back to run the marathon.  I’m currently booked to run the 2019 Antarctica Marathon.

Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?

I really enjoyed volunteering at the We Care Half Marathon finish line.  I loved putting medals around the necks of runners as they finished – especially our training program participants that had just completed their first half marathon.  I love sweaty hugs and seeing their smiles.

What are you training for right now?

Depending on when this is published, I’m running the JFK 50 Miler on November 18th and doing the Dopey Challenge in January.  If you can’t tell I tend to gravitate towards the longer distances – I really enjoy long, slow, distance and the feeling you get when you get to the finish line after challenging your body in an incredible way.

Do you have a friend who would make a great profile, or do would you like to be featured? If so, let us know in the comments below!

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Profile on Ryan Leuty

Profile on Ryan Leuty

How many years have you been running?
Started running in high school.  I have been an off-and-on “runner” for most of my life. In the last year, I’ve been training diligently for the first time ever.

Who inspired you?
I read Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It over the winter.  The book covers the psychology of sports and recounts several experiences of professional and elite athletes overcoming challenges.  It highlights the mental aspect of endurance sports and when things start to get rough, I always remember that your mind will give up way before your body will.

I’m inspired by so many of our local runners and LRC club members – too many to mention really.  I will mention Andy Williams though.

Why did you join the Lake Run Club?
Lake Run Club is just one more way that Rachelle Leuty, my wife, enriches my life.  She became an active member of the club and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of our family membership

What makes your favorite race your favorite?
My favorite local race is Park to Park.  It is so cool to take off running down Main Street first thing on July 4th.  The course saves all the fun for the last few miles.  And the Corn Crib finish is so cool!

What race really sticks in your mind for one reason or another?
I ran the 800 and 1600 in high school as a freshman.  While I can’t remember my first race, there was one that was quit memorable.  Our track team had a Sub-5 Minute Mile Club and there were truly awful t-shirts that came with membership – orange shirt with baby blue print.  There was one shirt left.  A senior and I were both competing for the shirt.  The team hung up flyers around school and we had a very good turnout for the meet.  After 4 grueling laps I squeaked out a 4:52 mile and out kicked the senior in the last 200.  Several team members told me I should give the shirt to Matt since he was a senior.  I told them he should have been able to beat a freshman.  I still have the shirt.

Do you have a favorite route that you run?
I primarily stick to Constitution Trail.  It is so convenient and shielded from traffic.  However, AP Prescott took for a 10 mile run all over Normal and Bloomington.  We ran through neighborhoods and along roads.  It was terribly unorthodox.  But it reminded that it’s ok to wander a bit and I’ve incorporated that philosophy in to several runs since then.

If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?
Well, I love my local races so much, that I’ve not had much incentive to look elsewhere.  But I just searched great races and the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica sounds awesome.  I’ve never run a marathon and would like to visit Jamaica – Irie.

Ryan during the run portion of the Route 66 Half Iron Man in 2017.

Do you have a “you’ll never believe what happened on my run today” story? 
Not really.  Just the usual run-ins with cool animals [baby skunks was my favorite] and narrowly missed bowel-related disasters.

If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve ever taken part in, what race is?
Chilly Chili is definitely an unusual one.  I can still hear Dennis Killian yelling at me, “You’re doing it wrong!”  as I ran past his Spam stand.  One day I’ll run it just for fun..probably.   Race the Dead is another unique one that I really enjoy.  I’m a Halloween nut anyway, so the costumes, firepits and Fireball are right up my alley.

Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?
I’ve helped out at the Kid’s Run for Fun several times.  It’s such a great opportunity for kids to be introduced to the sport of running.  It seems to grow each year, too.

What are you training for right now?
I’ve been focused on triathlon and just completed my A race for the year – Route 66 Half Iron in Springfield.  I’m certain that triathlon is one of the most absurd sports out there.  I just love it though.  Even though triathletes are the b*stards of all three disciplines, the good folks at Often Running still let me run with them on Thursdays.

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Profile on Paul Bliss

Profile on Paul Bliss

How many years have you been running?

I started running track and cross country in ’78 (39 years). I was in 8th grade and our PE teacher made our class run around the entire campus, maybe a mile, because a few 9th graders were misbehaving.

As we finished I found myself in the top five and my ego/confidence soared. I started running on my own in the mornings, a half mile run to the end of the street and back. I had no idea what I was doing but in my mind at the time I thought I was doing something important.

I wore my school clothes on these runs. Track season was just around the corner and I joined the team running the 660 yards on cinder tracks.

Who inspired you to start running?

Even though it was my PE teacher that was the catalyst to start me actually running, it was in the back of my mind that I recalled seeing the made for television movie The Loneliest Runner (’76) by Michael Landon. Landon used to run home from school every day racing to beat the bus because his abusive mom would hang his pee soaked sheets out of his top floor window for the world to see as punishment for wetting his bed.

He went on to be a successful collegiate track star. I thought I remembered he went on to run in the Olympics but I can’t find anything to verify that now.

Why did you join the Lake Run Club?

Runners join running clubs. When I came out to Illinois to house hunt in May ’15 part of my checking out this community was to discover Parkside JHS hosted the IESA State cross country meet, Constitution trail, and meeting Heather and running with Merlin at Green Gables for the Thursday night run.

The Lake Run was that weekend but I left Friday, just missing my first possible local race. Park-2-Park ended up being my first local race just weeks later.

Steven Laning, Jamey Whitlow, Paul Bliss, and Gary Savage hanging out at a race in Nashville.

What makes your favorite race your favorite?

New York City Marathon (’87 and ’88) is my favorite marathon experience. The experience was so grand on every level.

The 3 million spectators through all five boroughs was beyond epic. It was such a great experience I came right back the following year to do it all again.

What race really sticks in your mind for one reason or another?  

There are so many but Boston ’16 was quite special because I got to share the experience with Andy Williams and Steve Laning in our almost daily training regimen, our travel group of Carol Pratt, Mitch Hobbs, Amber Ferre, Gene Harding, and so many others back home that followed us.

Do you have a favorite route that you run?

I did in Washington State. My daily go to course went along Deschutes river (5 minutes from my house) and park, home of the now closed Olympia/Rainier brewery, down to the Puget Sound where I’d run along the waterfront boardwalk and marina and around Capital Lake.

I’d often see bald eagles, deer, and a wide variety of birds and critters. The run was 6 miles and could easily be made into shorter/longer as desired.

If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?

Tokyo Marathon. Running is a great excuse to travel.

Do you have a “you’ll never believe what happened on my run today” story?

I did see a bear at close range on a bike trail run in town while I was running with my cross-country kids. I thought it was a dog at first and didn’t think much of it. My lead kid went by the bear before I realized holy smokes there’s a bear between me and my lead runner (50 meters or so)!

The bear took off in the bushes and we kept running as if nothing had happened. It took a while for it to sink in but the adrenaline eventually kicked in and I realized my disbelief.

If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve ever taken part in, what race is?

When I lived in Guam (’84-’86) they had a race that still runs to this day called The Perimeter Relay, an eight-person team that goes around the entire island (8 x 26 miles) with exchanges about every 200 yards for 60 miles. That’s 7.5 miles and 60 x 200-yard sprinting legs for each runner.

Every exchange ridiculously chaotic as the van must floor it every time to get to the next exchange. Use your imagination to figure out how we took our potty breaks! Priceless. Excruciating leg pain the next few days but we all could hardly wait for the next year’s run.

Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?

I used to supervise a water station at mile 10 of the Capital City Marathon and Half in Olympia Washington aka the ’84 women’s Marathon Trials course. My cross-country team got $750 for handing out replenishment for two hours.

I really enjoyed watching the 2,000 runners go by but enjoyed even more watching my kids get excited helping other runners survive their running experience.

What are you training for right now?

My daughter graduates from Oregon in June then I’m taking her to Guam for a week where I served two tours in the Navy for 2 ½ years in ’84-‘86. There is a 5k there we plan to run. When I return Park-2-Park is my next race I’m training for.

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Profile on Erin Dwyer

Profile on Erin Dwyer

Don’t you love it when people make excuses as to why they can’t run?

“I would love to run, but I’m just so busy.”

“I have bad knees.”

“My feet are messed up.”

“My back hurts all the time so I had to stop running.” 

Well, my friends, this is a story about someone who didn’t make excuses.  Her name is Erin Dwyer.

About two years ago, Erin discovered that her friend, Pam Walden, was helping to run a program called Catch the Wave designed for newbie runners (or people who haven’t even started running yet) who want to get started.

The goal at the end of the program is to complete the Lake Run Club’s signature race held the first weekend in May, which features a 7k, a 12k, and a half-marathon.  The Catch the Wave program helps runners work up to completing the 7k along the scenic inner loop of Lake Bloomington.

Erin was intrigued, but had some reservations. A year earlier she was sidelined by two bulging discs in her back and couldn’t walk for more than 30 seconds without pain and numbness in her foot. She sought treatment, and a year later (2014), the Catch the Wave program announcements caught her eye.

Erin making her way to the finish of the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k.

Erin making her way to the finish of the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k.

With a little encouragement from Pam, she decided to join. “She (Pam) promised that it wouldn’t kill me, so I joined Catch the Wave, and thus the Lake Run Club in February of 2014,” Erin says. “I survived it (the Lake Run 2014) and haven’t stopped since.”

While the Lake Run remains her favorite race, Erin has aspirations to run an international event. She mentioned that Run Disney Paris may be on her bucket list. “…I like international travel, I like Disney, and I want an excuse to go back.”

Erin has several races on the docket for the spring, including the Christie Clinic Half Marathon and a number of local races. Her next big event will be the Disneyland Half Marathon in September.

Since her debut race in 2014, Erin has become an active member of the running community these past few years, participating in local events or volunteering at events like a local glow run. You may see her out running on the peaceful North side of Bloomington-Normal’s Constitution trail.

 

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Profile on AP Prescott

Profile on AP Prescott

How many years have you been running?
A little more than three years.

Who inspired you?
I don’t know if anyone inspired me to start running, but I can say that my motivation was strong. I was 300+ pounds and incredibly out of shape. I wanted to change. I wanted to get healthy. I didn’t want to die young. I’m a pretty stubborn person, so I kept trying. I didn’t like running AT ALL for quite some time, but I knew it was a necessary evil. The progression from hating to loving running wasn’t fast – and it definitely wasn’t easy – but I’m so glad to be where I am today. I love to run and I love what it’s done for me. I am a totally new person because of it.

AP starting the run during the TriShark Triathlon in Jun 2015.

AP starting the run during the TriShark Triathlon in Jun 2015.

Why did you join the Lake Run Club?
I moved to the area in January 2015 and wanted to get serious about running. I was excited to find a group of people that could motivate me and help me make improvements with my running.

Tell me about your first race:
The 2013 Maple Leaf Half Marathon during Oktoberfest in La Crosse, WI. I had been running for a little over 10 months but I genuinely had no clue about running at that time. I was a newbie in every way possible. I had lost about 90 pounds in that same 10 month period and was just so excited to even be thinking about running – let alone running a half marathon. My goal was to break two hours and I only missed that goal by 1:02. Looking back, finishing this race was one of the best moments of my life. I didn’t realize it then, but this race changed my life!

What race really sticks in your mind (for one reason or another?)
The Hixon 50k in La Crosse, WI. The course is two breathtakingly beautiful (and ridiculously challenging) 25k loops through the Grandad bluffs along the Mississippi River. With an overall elevation change of 8000 feet, this one was not for the faint of heart. This was my first successful ultramarathon. A few years ago, I couldn’t run one kilometer, let alone 50 at one time. This was a huge accomplishment for me on my journey to a life of fitness. More than anything, I was so thankful to be able to spend the weekend and run the race with my fellow LRC runner and friend Tanya Giannotti.

Do you have a favorite route that you run?
My all-time favorite route to run is a series of trails through Eau Claire, WI. That’s where I trained for my first Chicago marathon. Here in BloNo, I really enjoy running through and around the campuses. They’re full of energy and always have something interesting going on to grab your attention.

If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?
I’m not picky – and I love to travel! One of my goals is to run a race in each state. I’ll run anywhere as long as there’s an adventure to get there!

If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve ever taken part in, what race is?
My favorite unusual running event is the Nearly Naked Mile put on at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The run starts off with an event called “strippin’ for a reason.” How it works: wear as many clothes as you can to the start line, strip off the clothes into the donation bins, and then run a nearly naked mile as fast as you can! The Chancellor even runs too! The run boasts approximately 800 participants and 2000+ articles of clothes donated each year.

Rachel Wells (left), Meghan Gardner (middle), and AP (right) showing off their hardware at the TriShark Triathlon in 2015.

Rachel Wells (left), Meghan Gardner (middle), and AP (right) showing off their hardware at the TriShark Triathlon in 2015.

Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?
I love to volunteer for any race. I get the most joy out of cheering on the back-of-the-pack runners. I was there once and got so much energy from the volunteers that wouldn’t quit celebrating. Running is all about paying it forward.

What are you training for right now?
My goal distance for the year is the half marathon. I’m looking to greatly improve my PR at the Grandad Half Marathon on May 7th. In that process, I’m also hoping to shave some time off my 5k and mile PRs.

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Profile on Josh Smith

Profile on Josh Smith

How many years have you been running?
Since 1991 (7th grade).

Who/What inspired you?
I started running ‘distance’ in 7th grade because I couldn’t jump, couldn’t run fast, and wasn’t strong enough to throw the shot put or discus. I remember one of my track coaches asking “Do you think you could run around the track twice without stopping?” This was the beginning of my running career.

By high school, I still wasn’t convinced that I enjoyed running and had every intention of playing Freshman football. However, I fractured my clavicle during PE class in 8th grade and wore a brace the entire summer between 8th grade and freshman year. During my last check-up, my mom asked if I should play football and the doctor said “I wouldn’t recommend football but he could run cross-country”.

I ended up running cross-country and won “Most Improved Runner” my Freshman and Sophomore years (I was really slow) and MVP my Junior year. At the time, I was not happy that I couldn’t play football but 20+ years later I am still running and have no ‘old football injuries’. I should thank that doctor (and my mom).

Why did you join the Lake Run Club?  
I had met the legendary Mike Fazio several years ago and he encouraged me to begin running w/ the LRC marathon training group. I have met a diverse group of people in this group (and the LRC in general) that all share the same passion to run.

Josh and his wife, Whitney, at the Jingle Bell 5k in 2013.

Josh and his wife, Whitney, at the Jingle Bell 5k in 2013.

Tell me about your first race.
My first non-school race was the Bloomington Jingle Bell Run in 1993. Back then the race finished at Jumer’s and involved a post-race buffet that was amazing! As a high school freshman, the idea of running a 5K and then having a buffet of food available afterwards was very appealing. I was hooked!

What makes your favorite race your favorite?
Chicago Marathon. It was the first marathon I ran back in 2002 and I have since ran it twice. I work as a physical therapist and most recently I have been making the yearly trip to Chicago to track the various runners that I have found their way to my workplace. One runner commented after the race on social media “I couldn’t find my wife in the crowd but I did see my physical therapist”. I genuinely get as much (and likely more) joy out of watching a patient be able to finish his/her race than if I ran it myself.

Do you have a favorite route that you run?
My favorite route recently has been any trail out at Lake Evergreen, the best kept secret in McLean County.

If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?
The Memphis St. Jude Marathon is on my short list. The race takes you past the St. Jude’s Hospital and the children are along the course cheering on the runners. Also, my dad has run the race every year since ’07 and has promised a rib dinner to anyone that runs with him.

Do you have a “you’ll never believe what happened on my run today” story?  
My runs are usually pretty uneventful and that is fine with me.

If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve ever taken part in, what race is?
The most unusual race that I ever completed was in Fairbury, IL. Our cross-country coach, Doug Roberts, organized a race in the mid-90’s in which we had to pick up plastic inflatable dinosaurs and each dinosaur was worth a time reward. You had to make the decision if picking up and carrying the dinosaur was worth the time deduction. This race is no longer in existence but may have been the original ‘obstacle race’.  

Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?
I love seeing all of the 1st time runners finish races like The Lake Run, Evergreen Park 5K, and the We Care Half-Marathon. Often I am at these events working and it is great to see someone that a few months ago couldn’t run more than a couple of blocks be able to finish a 5K.

What are you training for right now?
I will likely run the Champaign Half-Marathon next Spring.

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