By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
From hardcore athletes to casual walkers, it’s all about fitness and friendship for this women’s run group
One by one, they pull up to an empty parking lot on an early Sunday morning. Clad in various layers — tights, puffy vests, hats — they greet each other as they stretch and take in the cool winter air. As is their routine, they gather for a prerun selfie, which will be posted on their social media page. This day, there are 15 women of various ages, all members of the Fort Worth Coeur Community Run Club. Organized by Christa Lopez, a certified run coach and veteran of many long-distance races, the club is aimed at helping women achieve fitness goals. But this past year, it has become so much more. Friendships have blossomed, and the Sunday runs have been a way to relieve stress — mental and physical — during the pandemic. Several members are medical students.
Lopez, 47, started the group in 2018. “It always has been open to women of all shapes, sizes, ages and levels of fitness,” says Lopez, who’s a lawyer for the city of Fort Worth. “We had ladies in their 20s and some in their 70s; some women push strollers and others run with their dogs. And yes, walkers are welcome, too. We want everyone to feel welcome and safe as part of our little community.”
Lopez wanted to have incentives for her group and originally partnered with a local shop, which gave out gift cards to members. COVID-19 interrupted that partnership, and she’s now working with Coeur Sports, a manufacturer of performance gear, to provide fun swag such as hats and tank tops. “It’s all part of making everyone feel special and getting excited about being part of the group,” says Lopez. On the run club’s social media page, there’s also the opportunity to take virtual yoga classes or join in rooting for fellow members who are running timed races.
They meet at 7:30 a.m. at University Park Village in Fort Worth, and their route — which includes a few hills — takes them through nearby picturesque neighborhoods. Some of the hardcore runners even get in a few fast-paced miles before the 45-minute run.
“Everyone goes at their own pace,” says Lopez, “but we have a designated water stop where we all regroup and then head back. We then stay for coffee on the patio at Eatzi’s Market & Bakery.”
On this Sunday, the post-run breakfast includes celebratory champagne and cupcakes for one member’s birthday. She’s almost overwhelmed by the pile of gifts, which includes, of course, running accessories.
Lopez says this part of the morning is as important as the run itself. “I used to be all about hardcore training for marathons and triathlons, but I’ve learned there are more important things than getting that personal best in time or distance,” says Lopez. “I’ve made new friends during a time when it’s been hard to get close to people. They’ve taught me coping skills I take with me into my everyday life. Sundays are definitely better after run club.”