Ozark Running Club

OZARK RUNNING CLUB members ran more than six miles on Jan. 4. From left, Gabe Bauer, Marc Reitzner, Josh Kitchin and Ellie Kitchin.

 It all made sense to me after the third mile, but we still ran three more.

I figured the best way to learn about the newly-formed Ozark Running Club was to run a mile or six in their shoes, so that’s what I found myself doing on a cold Saturday morning. I followed along as Josh Kitchin and Marc Reitzner led us all over creation. I’m a regular runner myself, but I am definitely not used to the distances they like to travel. That’s okay, the group still offers options for anyone who is interested, and you don’t have to run six miles if you don’t want to.

I could have stopped, but I decided to push myself. Growth is not always comfortable, nor is the process of making new friends and being part of something bigger than yourself, whether that’s a small club or a big community.

“For some people, running is a lifelong sport. They have a hard time doing it themselves, but if they knew another group of people who were doing it, it just makes all of the miles more fun and easy,” Kitchin said.

So we ran, and we talked about our lives, jobs, families and civic involvement. We also talked a great deal about having fun.

It amazes me sometimes to ask an adult what their hobbies are, and have blank stares come back in return.

“You know, what about hobbies? What do you do when you aren’t working?” I’ll ask.

People can’t come up with answers. If they are parents, it’s usually because all of their spare time is dedicated to watching their kids take part in activities, and shuttling the kids to and from their activities. Whether that’s sports, musical pursuits, dance, scouting, church groups, speech and debate, martial arts or something else, parents are bound to their kids activities.

I want to be clear, I am not speaking out against parental involvement. I think it’s essential for kids who pursue any kind of extracurricular activity to have sources of inspiration beyond their coaches, advisors, teammates and fellow participants. I’m grateful that my own parents showed up as frequently as they did to watch me take part in whatever I was doing throughout my youth, even if that involved making a long drive to watch me sit on the bench in frustration.

What I’m advocating for, instead, is right-sized involvement mixed with big doses of self-care and community building.

It doesn’t have to be running, and it doesn’t have to be a tightly-organized activity. It starts with finding an interest, pursuing it and getting to really know some other people with the same interest. it’s so simple, but it’s almost like we’ve forgotten how to embrace this concept.

—Rance Burger

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