Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fort Mill woman runs down her dream

Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about taking your love of running to the next level, to one where it wasn't just a hobby, a passion, or a lifestyle ... but also a job?

I've talked to enough runners to know this is a pretty common fantasy. Few, though, make real plans. Fewer still will ever take action.

And then there are people like Jamie Dodge, a stay-at-home mom who had a dream about starting a running club in Fort Mill and turned it into a reality that now sees her coaching more than 30 South Carolina runners of varied skill levels who are training for everything from 5Ks to marathons.

Founded earlier this year, Dodge's icoachurun club is a seasonal running group that is built around eight-week sessions to be held each summer, fall, winter and spring.

"We meet (at 5:45 a.m.) on Tuesdays (at the Baxter YMCA) for some type of running workout that may include anything from tempos, fartleks, intervals, pick-ups, hills, hill sprints, drills, strengthen exercises, and post run stretch," says Dodge, 37, who moved here with her husband and two children from Seattle two years ago. "There also is a long run option on Sundays in the fall for runners building endurance for fall events."

New members pay $35 for the eight-week session, and renewing members pay $20; the long run option is additional. Dodge is a certified running coach, and her runners receive gait analysis and proper shoe fitting from Omega Sports in the Rivergate Shopping Center. The next eight-week training session begins Sept. 14, with the end-of-session race being the Dowd Y 5K on Nov. 6.

Read on for excerpts from a recent interview with Dodge.

Q. What was the impetus for starting this group?

So many reasons -- where do I begin? I love running. I believe it can help people in so many ways. I believe in the power of running to transform physical and mental health. I believe that most people can be runners, and I love helping people to realize their potential and achieve their goals. This is the motivation behind why I started icoachurun. It was clear to me that the Fort Mill area is underserved in runner resources such as running clubs, running shoe stores and coaches. I decide to fill a void with combining a running club with coaching services to help bring in new runners and help people train properly.

Q. What's been the biggest challenge for you so far, as a coach?

My goal is to build confidence, motivation and inspiration along with proper training techniques and sit back and watch them bloom. But I have learned that I really have to hold onto my beginners and provide more motivation early on. I think that beginners can become discouraged easily and life can distract them from their goals. Once the habit is established, then I can let go of my hold. I have learned that I really need a vise-like grib on them in the early weeks.

Q. You ran in high school, is that right? What kind of runner were you back then?

I did run both track and cross-country in high school. It is funny, as I had recently found a box of high school memorabilia in which I keep all my high school cross country statistics. I am actually a lot faster now than I was in high school. I was always pulling up the rear on my teams. I was there more for the social aspect of being a part of a team and cheering on my friends than being a competitor. I remember being bothered when I would have to quit chatting to run an event in track. In my senior year, I was actually an assistant to the coach as I hadn't trained as I was suppose to and didn't run. I really just wanted to be there with my friends. I was and I will always be more of a cheerleader than a competitor. There was no running in my college life.
Q. And you've recently become a pretty avid marathoner, correct?

Yes. I have run seven marathons in 16 months with two of those marathons at 3:46 just seconds shy of my BQ goal. All my marathons thus far have been amazing experiences and each one holds a special place. I think I would say the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon is one of my favorites because I met one of my closet friends at Mile 20 on that course. I loved the after-party on the beach, ease of getting to and from the start, and the course is flat. I loved the excitement, energy and sights at the Marine Corps, but falling sick to too much Powerade sort of took away from my complete enjoyment of the event.

Q. Do you plan to do another one anytime soon?

I will be heading to Chicago in seven weeks to hopefully and finally snag my 3:45. Then if recovery goes well, I will be doing a November marathon (to be determined) and then Thunder Road to complete the year.

Q. How much has focusing on the group forced you to compromise some of your goals as an individual runner?

When I started coaching, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fully concentrate on my running goals as well as help others achieve theirs. I was wrong. Helping others to become the runners they want to be actually fuels me to be the best I can be. I am very fortunate to have a family that loves and support my running adventures. I believe I have found a balance between motherhood, coaching and running.

Q. Quick random question, since a lot of us don't get across the S.C. border very often: Where are the best places to run in Fort Mill?

You all should come visit Baxter Village in Fort Mill. I live and run mostly in Baxter. It is beautiful neighborhood where I can run endless miles in the safety of this community. Recently just five minutes from Baxter in Rock Hill, the Riverwalk Trail opened. I have been running lots there lately. It is a beautiful asphalt trail along the Catawba River that goes 2.25 miles out and back.

Q. And finally ... how has this whole experience changed you as an individual?

What I find the most profound about this journey to becoming a runner and a coach is that you are never too old to follow your passion and turn yourself into what you dreamed. Dreaming of doing or being something isn't just for children, teens or twentysomethings -- it’s really for anyone. Prior to being a stay-at-home mom, I completed college and worked as a corporate recruiter for a large wireless company. I had thought that this career path was the only one I was to follow, and had no idea that I could actually do something else in life. What is exciting is that I have rediscovered a joy of my early life and turned it into something I get to live every day. I've learned that if you dream it, you can do it.

Jamie Dodge, at left, with members of her icoachurun group
after last Saturday's Yiasou Greek Festival 5K.


Anonymous said...

Great job Jamie. Your area of SC really needed someone to step and help support the runners, and your club fits the bill great. Keep up the great work.

willrun4food said...

I have always been so inspired by Jamie's attitude when she visits the office where I work. When she leaves, I'm left with a sense of both calm and excitement about running and achieving the goals I never knew I had within me. She is certainly a gem in our community and we are so thankful to have her! Keep up all the good work!

Lamperski said...

Jamie having just met you, within the 1st few minutes I could tell you were an inspirational person, keep the dream alive!