Clinton Running group blends fitness with encouragement

Originally published September 2017

Early in the morning they gather. Men and women. Various ages. Some are teachers, accountants, real estate agents, engineers, business owners. But they all have one thing in common—their love of running.

Clinton Running is a group of about a dozen Clintonians that share a desire to stay active. They meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30 a.m. at the Baptist Heathplex and on Sundays at 6 a.m. at the South Trace parking lot.

Amanda and Jonathan Pennington discovered the Clinton Running club six years ago when they moved to Clinton. Amanda was training for a race at the time, and she and her husband instantly fell in love with the welcoming group.

“There are all sorts of personalities,” says Pennington. “It’s a great start to your day.”

Some train for races or marathons. Others walk or simply meet to catch up with friends. But no matter what the pace, Amanda says everyone has someone alongside them.

“We have a motto: ‘No runner left behind,’” she says. “We always make sure everyone is well taken care of.”

Amanda says she loves being a part of a group of runners that won’t judge her if she has to take a couple weeks, or even months, off. “It’s a group you know you can always fall back on,” she says.

The group gathers around the coffee pots in the Heathplex foyer and spends time catching up and welcoming new members before hitting the pavement. The route varies, but is usually 3-5 miles. Afterward, they move to Starbucks to continue their conversations and hang out before going their separate ways for the day. They also congregate at the coffee shop if the weather keeps them from running.

Clinton Running is made up of a variety of fitness levels, but they all encourage each other. Some members act as guides and share their training knowledge. Pennington says they’ve helped each other achieve things they never thought possible. She says she started biking and eventually completed a triathlon because of the support and advice from the group.

Meg Anderson joined the runners when she was a student at Mississippi College and says the group made her the runner she is today. “They helped me see that running doesn’t have to be competitive, but a sport to socialize,” she says. “Clinton Running isn’t just a club, but a part of my family.”

The group also runs in races together, such as the Magnolia Marathon and the Viking Half Marathon.

“I’ve come to appreciate it on Saturday mornings when there is a run I want to go to,” says member Mike Morgan. “The ride seems shorter when there’s a car full of runners that like to talk about running.”

Several members have completed triathlons or Iron Man marathons, but Pennington says it’s a very low-pressure environment: “You don’t have to be the fittest person to be a runner at all.”

Pennington says the accountability is what she loves the most about the group. “Running is often a solo activity, but some days you need to know that someone is there for you.”

“When you know people are waiting for you at 5:30 a.m., you are less likely to roll over and go back to sleep,” adds Morgan.

Greg Gearhart, who runs with the 6-miles-at-6 group on Sunday mornings, says that there are numerous running groups throughout the city. “Clinton has a long tradition of having people run together.” He says The Mississippi Track Club got it’s start in Clinton decades ago, and he’s glad that the Clinton community continues to promote an active lifestyle.

Anyone is welcome to join the Clinton Running club, says Pennington, and she adds you don’t have to be a member of the Baptist Healthplex to join.

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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