Online friends will meet for 1st time at marathon

The Team Relay event of the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon with Ivy Funds consists of many different teams. A team could consist of sisters, brothers, cousins, co-workers, running buddies or neighbors. This year, one team will consist of five women who have been friends for almost four years. But what sets them apart from other teams is the fact they have never met face-to-face. They will meet for the first time at packet pickup during the Health & Fitness Expo. Team #RaceTeamNDM consists of Christina Clampitt, Peoria, IL; Heather Hood, Tulsa, OK; Rebecca Kammer, the District of Columbia; Joni Klofstad, Big Lake, MN; and Sarah Nelson, Shawnee, KS.

FriendsThey first “met” on the smartphone app Baby Bump, when they all were expecting a baby in February 2012. The app has different forums for women to join and one of the forums was a February 2012 due date. Since the app wouldn’t put a name or face to the participants, a core group of more than 150 women from the February 2012 forum split off and created a Facebook group. From that group 100 split off to become the No Drama Mommas, a group of diverse women from different backgrounds who embrace their differences and use those differences to share tips and experiences. Of that group, there is a fitness group of about 50. This group shares fitness goals, recipes, work outs and support each other. This is where #RaceTeamNDM started bonding.

One day Heather posted in the main group that she was having a horrible day and received the standard ‘so sorry’ and ‘hope everything works out’ messages. But Joni sent Heather a private message and asked if she wanted to go on a virtual run date.

“She knew what I needed before I did,” said Heather. “We picked a time and laced up.”

It was wintertime and since Joni lives in Minnesota, she hit the treadmill while Heather took to the streets of Tulsa. Soon they were having more “run dates.” Then they started talking about physically running together and decided to meet up at a race. They started looking for races between Minnesota and Oklahoma that would be convenient for both of them.

“We decided on KC because it had a great feeling about it and as we started researching more, we found the relay,” said Heather. “We started discussing maybe running with our husbands on the relay. We then had the idea to post it in our fitness group first.”

Joni-MarekRebecca, Sarah and Christina immediately said yes when they posted in the fitness group to see if anyone wanted to join them. This caused location to be the top criteria for selecting a race. The Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon with Ivy Funds was selected because of the central location to a few of the women and the relay offered different leg lengths so those who wanted a challenge could take the longer lengths and those who were new to running could take the shorter lengths. Heather said the race bling was also a factor.

Once the race was selected, the group started having private chats to get organized and it soon became so much more. They now talk daily through text, email and phone. Besides discussing the race, they have helped each other through the good times and rough patches.

“These four ladies specifically, have encouraged me to become a runner. But more than that, these four ladies would have my back no matter what, in all aspects of life,” said Rebecca. “The mutual respect for all our similarities and differences in life is astounding. I’m grateful this race has brought us closer together.”

Sarah agrees. When pregnant with her daughter Mallory, she joined the Facebook group looking for parenting tips and to see what other babies were doing her daughter’s age. When she first joined, Sarah admits she was a ‘lurker’ but soon was participating in the discussions and started creating friendships within the group. When she was pregnant for the second time she announced it to the group first. Then again, the group heard it first when she announced she was having identical twins.

Her boys were delivered early and while Drew was in the NICU fighting for his life at 1 lb. 13 oz., his brother Ben only lived for an hour. The Facebook group was supportive during this difficult time and sent Sarah and her husband a $300 gift card to help them out. After three months, Sarah decided to get back into shape and joined the team relay group.

“What I didn’t anticipate were the strong bonds and friendships I would form with these four ladies. When I’m having a bad day I know I can turn to them and they will cheer me up or just listen,” said Sarah. “Looking back on the last 6 months, I know a huge part of me getting through this is the stress relief running has provided as well as the support from my #raceteamNDM!”

Rebecca-kidsThe race team was not yet established when Joni had a miscarriage in February but she says each of those ladies on the race team offered her support and a shoulder if she needed them.

“It’s so hard when you are an adult to make new friends, let alone when you have jobs and families,” said Joni. “Now that I have these amazing women in my life, I’m more than excited to be able to finally meet them face-to-face. To hug each of them, and most likely a few tears will be shed, these girls are my rock!”

They will be wearing special dry-fit shirts during the race they designed. The front says “Run like a Mother” and the back says #teamNDM and #throwinembacklikeajoni, which is a group joke. Other women in the big Facebook group will be wearing a matching T-shirt in support of the team.

Besides running the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon, the group doesn’t plan to do a lot of sightseeing, except maybe visiting the Power & Light District and the Plaza. Most of their time will be spent talking and just being together.

Of the group, Joni has been running the longest when she started in 2008 after graduating from college. Christina ran short distances before her daughter was born in 2012, Heather and Rebecca started in 2013 and Sarah is the newest runner to the group starting this year.

“I’ve always been an active person, but have never, ever been ‘a runner’ until very recently,” Sarah said. “In fact, I was the girl who would openly talk about how I was not a runner and how I despise it!”

Sarah-KidsThey all started running mainly to stay healthy, it’s a cheap way to exercise and they can either take the kids in a jogging stroller or leave them at home with their husband. They keep running to stay in shape, challenge themselves and live healthier. For Heather, running became an important part of her life after being diagnosed with Lupus last spring.

“Both my Mom and Aunt have lupus as well. They both let it determine who and what they are,” Heather said. “They are both now mostly home bound and obese. I swore to myself I wouldn’t let that happen to me.”

After her diagnosis, Heather joined an online fitness group that was having a walking/running competition. Whoever walked or ran the most miles in one month would win and everyone else in the group would send the winner a prize. Heather was determined to win and with the help of her husband she completed with 138 miles in one month.

“I started out in June of last year not being able to walk a mile or run 50 feet. Now I have completed a 25k and a half marathon,” said Heather. “The first time I ran one mile straight I bawled like a baby.”

When Joni’s 2012 baby Marek was 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. Joni turned to the Facebook group for support and advice. Her family has now been dairy free for two years so that Marek won’t feel isolated. Marek has experienced several seizures and through it all the Facebook group has been there for Joni and her family with supportive messages, sending flowers and gifts for each of her other kids. Then in 2014 Joni suffered a miscarriage. She says the women again supported her with text messages, Facebook messages and phone calls.

Christina-and-Adalyn“The race group has been there for me more than I think they even know. They don’t know that without them I just don’t think that I would be as committed to running. I love each of these girls and the impact that they have put on my life,” says Joni.

Kansas City will be Christina’s first-ever race. She says she enjoys running but it was Heather that got her started.

“Heather motivates me. She pushes herself so much, inspires me to put down the Reese’s and get my ass outside,” Christina says.

These five women have been a big motivation for the Facebook group that other members are talking about starting other race teams.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that a single virtual run date created all of this,” said Heather. “The women on my team are my best friends now and I’ve never met them in real life but can’t imagine a day without them now.”

Advice for new runners:

Christina Clampitt – Start out slow! It’s a lifestyle change for the better!

Heather Hood – If you run 10 feet or 10 miles you’re a runner. Find the will to push through the wall. Be it .25 miles or 1 mile, because when you do you can keep going forever!

Rebecca Kammer – You aren’t a runner because you are fast but just because you run. Hold your head up high; you will get a little better each day!

Joni Klofstad – You won’t be able to do it over night! Embrace it. It is a beautiful journey!

Sarah Nelson – Even if you think you’re “not a runner,” it is possible to become one!

By Marla Hanover, Communications & Social Media Manager