University City

University City club laces up with runners of all levels

Katie Rose started running to quench her thirst for competition after her college soccer career ended.

Denise Derkowski first laced up her sneakers in order to run a marathon before she turned 40.

Holly Townsend runs because, with a hectic family and work life, she wants to remain sane, or at least – in her words – relatively sane.

Each Saturday, the three women join scores of other northeast Charlotte runners – each with their own reason for pounding the pavement – for University City Road Runners’ regular 7 a.m. run that begins and ends at Caféccino, a coffee shop off West Mallard Creek Church Road.

The running club, now in its 12th year, has more than 100 members of all ages and continues to grow.

“It’s not just a running club,” said Townsend, who joined five years ago. “It’s a group of great friends.”

Townsend, a marketing consultant and mother of two who lives off Mallard Creek Church Road, began running to give herself a break between carpooling kids and campaigning for clients. Each week, she gives herself 25 miles’ worth of time that’s just for her.

“It actually is an incredible stress reliever,” she said. “I can go out and think the entire time I’m running, and get a lot off my mind.”

And Townsend said running alongside others is a benefit.

“It’s so much nicer to run with others. We all run different distances, different times, different paces – but it’s great,” she said. “I always know on Saturday I have a running partner, and they give me the challenge to push myself.”

For the past two years, Rose has traveled the short distance from her Oak Park neighborhood in Concord to the University City coffee house for the Saturday runs, where she can count on at least a dozen people stretching to warm up.

“We’re normally out there every Saturday,” said Rose. “Even in cold weather, we still have a good group. But when it’s really nice weather, we have a really big group.”

A typical Saturday run draws between 15 and 45 members.

Rose, a marathon and ultramarathon runner, began running shortly after graduating from college.

“I’ve always been a very active person, and I’m very competitive against myself,” she said. “I didn’t have team sports anymore, so running became my competition.”

Seven marathons and two ultras later, the club’s runs still play an important part in her race training.

“It helps hold you accountable, especially if they know you have a race coming up,” she said. “They give you a lot of support and encouragement.”

Derkowski can attest to that. One of the original members of the club, Derkowski said the group helped her train for her first marathon many years ago.

“So many who have joined have improved tremendously just from being around experienced runners in the group,” said Derkowski, who lives in University Place. “I mean, I didn’t think I would run a marathon myself, and I’ve run 14 of them.”