Outrun the winter blues
By Kimberly Dunbar
’Tis the season when darkness falls at 5 p.m. and motivation to work out drops to an all-time low. Luckily, you can battle the winter-weather blues ~ and stay in shape ~ by participating in one of the area’s weekly runs, hosted by Sneakerama or Marathon Sports.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Vanessa Genatossio, Sneakerama store manager. “It’s like a big party. We always have balloons and cookies.”
Sneakerama, which has been a Worcester staple for 36 years, started the weekly Fun Run event in March on Thursdays to accommodate the running community. “People would always ask us about local running clubs,” Genatossio said, adding that there are clubs like Central Mass Striders, but members have to pay to join and the club usually goes for longer runs.
The group now meets every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Sneakerama’s Fun Run is free for all ages and paces (including walkers). Runners gather at the Lake Avenue store and loop around Lake Park for a 3-mile trip. According to Genatossio, the newly redone Lake Avenue is safe, as is the park, with no significant hills along the way.
Genatossio’s father and owner of Sneakerama, Steve Genatossio, is almost always at the weekly runs, as are professionals who can offer training tips and advice. One of Sneakerama’s employees is a 28-time marathon finisher, and the store works closely with therapists and podiatrists who often attend runs. “It’s a great place to go and get feedback and ideas,” she said, adding that the store also invites vendors to the runs.
However, the health and wellness ends after the run, thanks to Steve. “He always likes to have freeze pops or pizza or something like that afterwards,” Genatossio said. “If we don’t have a vendor there, he makes sure he does something.”
In addition to the free snacks and advice, first-time runners get a free T-shirt. There is also plenty of camaraderie ~ the group averages about 40 runners a week from different backgrounds. “You’ll never be running alone or by yourself,” Genatossio said.
Lake Avenue is also part of Marathon Sports’ Tuesday Fun Run route. Many know Marathon Sports as a Boston-area running store, but the family-owned chain moved into White City Plaza in May due to popular demand. “There is a big running community in the Worcester area,” said Store Manager Tricia Wiseman.
According to Wiseman and Susie Walton, a sales associate and Fun Run coordinator, Marathon Sports started its Tuesday night running club in September to get to know the community and to honor the company’s core value of keeping life in motion. “One of our biggest goals is to inspire people to want to run,” Walton said.
Marathon offers incentives to running club members, awarding discounts and gift cards to visitors for attendance and mileage. Like Sneakerama, it also offers snacks and drinks after runs and brings in vendors to help educate the community. “We want to spread the word about running in a positive way,” Walton said.
Marathon has hosted many events in the store, but the most successful one has been the Pub Run. After the 3-mile run, participants were treated to a free beer and apps at Jimmy’s. Although Pub Runs are for those who are 21-plus, the weekly Fun Runs are open to all ages and paces. “Whether you run a 6:50 or 16-minute-per-mile pace, it’s fun and social and a great way to meet people,” Wiseman said.
Both Sneakerama and Marathon Sports will host runs through the winter. Check their Facebook pages for updated information.