Charlottesville Track Club inspires new runners

Photo: Andrew Zapanta Photo: Andrew Zapanta

Working out before the sun comes up is never easy. But it helps to have the support of some like-minded friends. That’s the attitude of the members of the Charlottesville Track Club, who meet every Wednesday morning at 5:30 for group speed workouts at the University of Virginia’s Lannigan Field Track. It’s just one of many running-based activities and events hosted by the non-profit club, which was established back in 1976.

The group anchors Charlottesville’s vibrant running community and is perhaps best known for its diligent work organizing longstanding races like the Charlottesville 10 Miler, held every spring, and the Women’s Four Miler, which earlier this month hosted 3,500 female racers of all abilities—from avid marathoners to first-time speed walkers—on its Garth Road course.

“We have an amazing local running community,” said Charlottesville Track Club president Debra Gilbert. “If you look at our calendar, it’s always full of races and they usually benefit great causes.”

Indeed, so far this year the ongoing fundraising efforts of the Four Miler have raised just under $290,000 for the UVA Cancer Center Breast Care Program, and the most recent 10 Miler raised $75,000 for lung cancer research at UVA, a figure that was matched by an anonymous donor.

But the club doesn’t just organize races. They also lead new runners to the finish line through a handful of successful annual training programs.

Just ask Gilbert. She’s not only the club president—she’s also a client, personally transformed by the Women’s Four Miler training program. Back in 2004, Gilbert was admittedly a “chain-smoking barfly,” and after completing the program and her first race, she is now addicted to running instead of nicotine.

“I was an over-40 smoker, and after my first race I was hooked,” she said. “The support within the programs is phenomenal. The elite runners in the group are so respectful and helpful to those just getting started.”

The track club’s training programs are conducive to runners of all abilities. The 10 Miler program, which starts in October to get runners ready for the 2013 race, has six different groups ranging from runners who’ve never finished a mile to seasoned veterans who’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon. In addition to annual professionally guided programs for the 10 Miler and Women’s Four Miler, the club also coordinates personalized marathon and half-marathon training programs. Participants do not need to be club members.

“We’re all volunteers,” Gilbert said. “We do this because we love running. It’s a sport that’s changed a lot of people’s lives.”

Get started
The CTC meets at Lannigan Field Track every Wednesday at 5:30am. If that’s too early, the club’s 10 Miler training program starts on October 27 and meets every Saturday at 7:30am. Races are consistently added to the calendar at