Playmakers in Okemos, just east of MSU, is a running store that doesn’t simply sell the apparel and the footwear; they also help you do the training. “Any Distance Any Pace” is one of their training groups — a title they truly embody. Team members range from fast to not-so-fast; there are sub-six minute milers and 20 minutes per mile walkers, ultra marathoners and 5k racers. There are seasoned runners and first-timers; there are young teens that come with their parents, and then there is Don, an 83-year-old gentleman who completed the 10k at Bayshore last year and is an inspiration to the team.
The smiles, laughter and warm embraces of Team Playmakers are enough to make anyone excited to run, even on Saturday mornings. At 7:30 a.m. team members start to trickle into the Playmakers facility. Despite differing abilities, team members have a lot in common. They care about setting goals, helping each other and building friendships — all integral to establishing the group’s sense of community.
Johnson, a 40-year-old health and fitness coach and proud mom, first joined the team in 2011 to train for a race. She went on to become a pacer, then an assistant coach and is now a head coach for the team. “It’s about helping people get to whatever goal they want to get to. For some it’s completing a 5k, but for others it’s getting faster at a specific distance, or increasing the distance. We have, myself included, Boston marathoners on the team, ultramarathoners, and we have a group that is so encouraging—they meet separately on Sunday mornings to run trails.”
Corey Baker, a 47-year-old child and family psychologist, joined the team in 2007 to train for a half-marathon. Now he is a pacer and particularly enjoys racing the 50k (about 31 miles). Why does he keep coming back?
“The camaraderie and the people. Once you get up to a certain physical level, you can train anywhere, but you can’t always have the people around you,” said Baker. “And there’s a great bunch of people that run here.”
The sense of community doesn’t disappear after practice. Baker helps out his teammates during their races too. Runners who need a boost will often pay the entry fee for Baker so he can pace them.
“That is one of the most rewarding things,” said Baker. “It’s so neat to see someone doing their first marathon or half marathon, ultra distance or whatever distance they’ve tasked me to help them with,” said Baker. “You get to know people really closely when you’re working with them for up to 18 weeks.”
Janet McDuffey was fairly new to running when she joined the team in 2010.
“I wanted to meet other people that ran as slow as I did, and become a better runner,” said McDuffey. “I love the people, I love the encouragement of the group, I love what playmakers is doing in the community.”
Johnson, Baker and McDuffey all joined at different times and with different abilities, but they all stayed for the same reasons: the motivation, the accountability and the camaraderie.
Emily Reyst is a senior majoring in professional writing. Outside of writing for ing, she interns for the Broad College of Business Marketing team and the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. She was once hit by an airborne pizza box while driving her moped. Follow her on social media for updates in real time. Twitter: @accio_avocado Instagram: emilyreyst