Huntsville running club helps students stay active

Every year before the ball drops to signal the changing of the calendar, many people make themselves a promise. “This year I will get in shape,” they say, but rarely do they actually keep this promise. For those who actually plan to keep their word this year, the 7 Hills Running Club presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

Made up of runners from Huntsville and surrounding areas, the club provides a way for avid or amateur runners to work out together and support one another while pursuing the sport of running. A wide variety of people of all ages and levels participate in the group, including many Sam Houston State students who either ran in high school or picked up the sport once they got to college and needed some outside motivation to stay in shape.

“I got involved because I love to run,” 7 Hills Running Club Vice President and SHSU soccer player Niki Swearingen said. “There are lots of benefits besides just the physical. There are spiritual benefits and many friendships too.”

The organization was founded in 1985 “to promote running as a means of achieving and maintaining physical fitness in Huntsville and its surrounding communities,” according to the group’s official website, http://www.7hills.us.

Since its establishment, club membership has been directed at runners and potential runners.

“Even walkers and inexperienced runners are welcome. We just want to get people out there and going,” Swearingen said.

According to the Web site, “Members do not have to be fast runners or marathoners, nor are they expected to participate in all of the club’s activities.”

As a part of its many activities, the club holds a 5k race each month as well as weekly runs at the Huntsville State Park.

“The trails are short and long distances so you can run whichever you want,” Swearingen said.

The club hosts its major event, The Huntsville Half Marathon, every October. The race, which was first hosted by SHSU as the Quarter and Half Marathon races, was dropped in 1997 after 19 years due to low racer turn out. Less than a year later, the 7 Hills Running Club decided to take over and in 1998, added the 5k race to attract more runners.

While the addition of the 5k initially worked, the success of the race was diminished by the death of Houston Police Officer Gary L. Price due to a heart attack 12.5 miles into the 13.1 mile race.

The following year, the marathon was dedicated to the memory of Price and participation rose to 440 runners, an increase of 75 runners from the previous year. That record was broken in 1999 when 579 runners participated in the event and in 2000, the members of the club decided to drop the quarter marathon because of the increased participation in the 5k.

In addition to their own races, the club also organizes and volunteers at many other races including the SHSU Raven Run (5 miles), the Texas 10k Run, the Great Escape (10k) and Charity Mile. According to the Web site, the profits from these events are given to charity and used to purchase race equipment.

For those interested in becoming a part of the 7 Hills Running Club, membership is $7 a year per individual or $10 per family. All members receive a monthly newsletter, the Hill Peak, and membership into the Road Runner’s Club of America.

This Saturday, the club will host a 5k race entitled “Frost Your Fanny” at 9 a.m. at the HKC. The event will be open to all runners, members and non-members.

For those in the classroom, teaching or learning, the 7 Hills Running Club provides a great escape and a great excuse to finally maintain those resolutions this year.

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