Suburban Striders: Women Supporting Women – The Swellesley Report

Suburban Striders: Women Supporting Women  The Swellesley Report

We’d been told during the peak of the pandemic by one of our readers that the Suburban Striders Running Club really helped sustain her and other local runners by maintaining regular human connection. We invited the club to share its story:

Spring is here, marathon fever is running rampant, and the Suburban Striders Running Club (SSRC) is inviting new members for the 2022-23 year! The outfit is celebrating its 18th year as the only USATF-certified women’s running club in the Wellesley/Weston/Needham area. The group was founded by Mary Worthington of Weston and some of her running friends who were looking to build a supportive program for women that offered weekly track sessions with a coach.

The group meets at the Wellesley High School track every Wednesday from 9-10am. Coach Kathy Fleming designs four unique workouts each week, including long, short, fitness, and fartlek options, ranging from one to three miles of intervals. Runners choose their workout and complete it at any pace they feel comfortable with. Indeed, runners always find time to chat during the rests, as the social-emotional exercise is just as important as the physical. The workouts are designed so that there’s something for everyone and for every experience level, whether you are preparing for a marathon or 5k, or simply trying to increase speed and stamina or improve your health.

A typical Wednesday morning starts with warmup drills led by Sue McNatt, a lifelong runner and physical therapist from Needham. She takes members through a dynamic warm-up of stretches, skips, and strides. Next, the group takes a few minutes to announce upcoming events, recognize recent race participation by members, and discuss anything else that’s going on in their running world. Coach Kathy then explains the day’s training options, offering further clarification regarding the specifics of the workout and suggesting modifications to anyone recovering from an injury or training for an upcoming race.

What members say

The club became particularly important in members’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic as outdoor activities became the main means of social engagement. Although the pandemic disrupted the group’s usual plan of holding winter sessions at Babson College’s indoor track, members still found the motivation to gather for their Wednesday workouts even on the coldest mornings. When snow and ice made outdoor track workouts impossible, members continued to meet for fartlek workouts on quiet neighborhood streets or for group runs on the Carriage Road in Newton. Kathleen Woodward, a board member, praised the group for demonstrating “how a supportive community has sustained its members during COVID through human connection and a shared love of running.” 

Member Shana Frank has two young children and was running recreationally on her own when she moved to Weston from Washington, D.C. in 2020. “I had never been part of a team before and was slightly intimidated by the whole idea of running clubs. I had done a few races here and there but never properly trained or set actual goals for myself,” she said. “Wednesday mornings are the highlight of my week now!” The workouts helped Shana improve her 5K personal record by almost two minutes and she has even placed in some local races. 

Wellesley resident Martha Cooney ran a little bit of track and field in high school but never realized her potential. Now as a mom of two school-age children, it’s the camaraderie of the sport she enjoys the most: “The best thing about being a part of the SSRC has been getting to know so many strong and supportive women who share a love of running. I look forward to meeting on the track every Wednesday even on those cold New England days.”

Every year,  members either qualify for the Boston Marathon or run for a charity.

Monica Gonalez de Wuff of Natick ran the Boston Marathon in 2021 raising funds for Dana Farber. Monica moved to Natick from Caracas, Venezuela. “We learn from each other since we have different backgrounds. Going to the Wednesday workout is my favorite time of the week that helps me connect with friends and share our experiences as moms, giving support to each other.”

Coach Kathy, also a Natick resident, has been coaching members for nearly 10 years. She brings a wealth of experience stemming from her career as a professional middle-distance runner and a college-level coach. Kathy reflected back to when she first started coaching SSRC: “I remember thinking that I had never experienced a team where there was such a dichotomy of social running and competitive training all woven together in one hour. Some women would chat to each other through their intervals and some would concentrate on every split. Invariably, the Wednesday track sessions are always fun and fresh while also being so effective for gaining speed and endurance. Today, the energy, social connections, and community spirit we gain from our weekly workouts give us the motivation that we need to get through the rest of the day.”

The club also hosts a monthly post-workout coffee gathering at the track, an annual party, and various other team activities through road races and running events. Additionally, members often arrange to run together other days of the week.

If you are interested in joining, just show up on Wednesday morning. Hope to see you at the track!