Adam Fisher, Naples Daily News Published 5:51 p.m. ET Jan. 15, 2020 | Updated 6:35 p.m. ET Jan. 15, 2020
It takes a runner to understand a runner.
The three-hour runs on the weekend. Going to bed early on a Friday night in order to wake up before sunrise to train. All the fitness and nutritional requirements that go along with it.
All things that someone without a love for running has trouble understanding.
That’s why Justin Moomaw and Holly Kistler are glad they have each other.
The Naples residents met through running, bonded over their passion for it, fell in love while training, traveled the country competing together, and they even had their best race on the exact same day to achieve one of a runner’s ultimate goals – a bid to the Boston Marathon.
On New Year’s Eve, the couple got engaged. Heading into this weekend’s Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Moomaw and Kistler are thankful for the sport, and especially for the avid local running community that brought them together.
“It’s cool because you have someone to wake up with at 5 a.m. and go for a two-hour run, which most people think is crazy,” Kistler said. “You’ve got a like-minded person that has the same goals and is helping you achieve them. It’s so motivating, that commonality we have.”
Coverage from the 2019 Naples Daily News Half Marathon
Since they began dating about four years ago, Moomaw and Kistler have planned trips around big races — a 10K in Maine, a marathon in Chicago and various distances and various cities in between. That includes the largest marathon in the world, the New York City Marathon in 2016.
In October, on one of their running trips, both runners had one of the best days of their athletic careers. Moomaw, 37, ran the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours and 59 minutes, while Kistler, 33, finished in 3 hours and 27 minutes. The times were personal bests and qualified them for the 2021 Boston Marathon.
“That was the ultimate goal,” Kistler said. “Having someone, your partner, your fiance, do it on the same day makes it that much better. You have someone to celebrate with who knows how much work you put into it and how much it means.”
Moomaw is a physical education teacher and cross country coach at Gulfview Middle School. He also owns and operates Elevate Training where he works with youth and adult runners looking to get faster.
Breaking the 3-hour marathon mark was a lifelong dream, Moomaw said, and he owes it to his fiancee.
When he moved to Naples from Ohio after college in 2005, Moomaw got out of running for a while. When he started back up and joined Gulf Coast Runners, he met Kistler in 2015.
Kistler ran at Seton Hill University, a Division II program near her hometown Pittsburgh, and had been running continuously since moving to Naples in 2009. She had completed a handful of marathons when she met Moomaw, and Moomaw said she motivated him to try longer-distance races.
He said Kistler, who was on the Gulf Coast Runners board of directors when he met her, helped him get into the volunteer aspect of the organization. Moomaw and his fiancee now sit on the Gulf Coast Runners’ board.
“The amount of passion she has keeps me pushing myself,” Moomaw said. “A lot of couples train together, but what a blessing to both be able to attain such high standards as qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
“A lot of people train their whole lives and don’t make it. For us to do it on the same day is amazing.”
After Kistler helped Moomaw get into marathons, he is helping her get faster. Moomaw serves as her coach, although they don’t always run together.
Sunday’s Naples Daily News Half Marathon is one of the couple’s favorite events. They love running and they love Naples, and the half marathon lets roughly 1,500 locals and out-of-towners experience both.
However, they won’t be competing this year. As Gulf Coast Runners board members, they’ll be working. Moomaw will help set up the course starting at 3 a.m., while Kistler will be helping with registration.
Even though they won’t be running, they’re happy to continue to give back to the running community that brought them together.
“For us, it’s definitely something that’s important,” Kistler said. “Finding someone you want to be with is great because it is such a big part of your life. It takes up a lot of time if you’re running marathons. It’s not easy for a lot of people to understand.
“That’s a huge part of why our relationship works and continues to grow. We both have the same passion and really want to keep going and get better.”