When Jay Goldstein was 35 years old, he quit smoking. No nicotine patch. No gum. Just a sudden conviction to terminate a 20-year, two-pack-a-day habit.
After crumpling up his last pack of cigarettes, spending a week on the couch suffering from withdrawal, and finally heading back into his work and outside life, he had another conviction; he needed “something to replace” the nicotine. He also wanted to prevent weight gain, get his heart back into shape and repair his lungs – so he started running.
“I always say it was trading one addiction for another,” Goldstein said. “Except this one I love.”
He joined the Northwest Broward Road Runners club, based in Coral Springs, which is one of a few running clubs in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“When I first joined, the people there asked me what my pace was, and I said, ‘I don’t know,'” Goldstien, who is now president of the club, said. The 52-year-old has completed 41 half-marathons and three full marathons since joining.
A comparatively new run club, the Delray Beach Running Company, sees upward of 230 people show up for its three weekly group runs.
“We have seen a marketable increase in membership since January,” said the club’s founder and CEO, Annie Burke. “I think this is due to people learning we are here and having two certified running coaches on staff at all times.”
Though the club is less than a year old, they’ve achieved “national and international exposure by breaking the mold of what specialty running is and should be,” Burke said.
“Running is very popular right now due to the trend toward fitness and living better,” she added.
Friendship, camaraderie, and accountability also draw many people to join running clubs, said Kevin Mason, who is president of the Hollywood Run Club. The Hollywood club has about 300 members and recently celebrated their two-year anniversary.
“We welcome beginners, that’s how we started ourselves,” Mason said.
The Hollywood club, which is backed by Runner’s Depot, has no membership fee to join and offers free items like shirts and raffles to encourage new runners, according to Mason.
Hollywood runners meet on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk on Tuesdays for short, three-to-five-mile runs, and on Sunday mornings at 7a.m. for longer runs. But the South Florida climate can sometimes be a problem.
“We run before sunup, so hydration is key, but a lot of times we take it easy,” Mason said.
Northwest Broward Road Runners stay hydrated on their long runs with water and Gatorade stations set up around their Coral Springs course on Saturday mornings. The group meets early — one at 5 a.m. and one at 5:30am — but that’s because many in their group are training for half marathons, marathons, or even ultra marathons.
“We like to say different paces for different faces,” Goldstein said. “Everyone has a different agenda… I have people who just run as part of their normal fitness program and will never run a race.”
Children can run too as part of the Youth Running Program. Sponsored by the Northwest Broward Road Runners, and coached by vice president Melissa Hinton, the children, ages 7 to 14, can participate in an eight-week course offered in the spring and the fall. At the end of the course, they all race in a local 5K.
“Our program goal is to teach good running form and habits and instill a love of running early on,” Hinton said. “Not all of the kids can run the entire distance, but if they do all their weekly workouts, most of them are prepared to give their best effort on race day. We love to see each child doing their own best.”
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