For one recent arrival to West Orange County, joining the Winter Garden Runners provided a path to stay in shape and get social in a new community.
When Rebecca Young and her husband, Geoff, were scouting areas to live in Florida, West Orange was an easy sell.
When the couple from Baltimore came down to visit downtown Winter Garden on a Saturday, the community — boasting fresh produce in January at the farmers market and dozens of people jogging and cycling up and down the West Orange Trail — sold itself.
The Youngs followed through and moved to Summerport Village in August 2016. Then, the challenge morphed from the logistics of moving from a different state to beginning to integrate themselves into new community.
Fortunately, it didn’t take Rebecca long to find the Winter Garden Runners.
Rebecca had been more of a gym rat when living up north — partly because of the weather in the winter — but she also had some experience with running groups. So, when she came across the Facebook page for the Winter Garden Runners, she sent the group a message asking about coming out and what kind of pace they tend to keep. The response was warm and welcoming: Come on out — we have people at all difference paces.
After that first run on a Saturday morning last fall, Rebecca had planned to simply return home.
“We finished and they said, ‘Aren’t you coming to coffee?’” Young recalled. “And I said, ‘Oh, I guess I am.’”
Indeed, the Runners have provided the newcomer to West Orange County not only with a group of people to stay fit with and be accountable to on the trail but also with a new social network. The Youngs have attended a “Friendsgiving” celebration with friends from the Runners, as well as a Christmas party. After some runs, members converge on Axum Coffee — after others, it’s the Crooked Can Brewery at Plant Street Market.
“I’ve done way more races than I ever used to do. I’ve done five half-marathons since moving here, and I’d only done four in my life prior to that.”
— Rebecca Young
In addition to a network of friends, Young — who is a teacher for Orange County Public Schools — said the group dynamic has made her a better runner. Runners often chat while on their runs, and Young’s desire to remain a part of the conversation forces her to keep a faster pace.
“You get in conversation and you don’t want the conversation to die,” Young said. “I always say I have a little-sister mentality. I’m tagging along and don’t want to get left behind because we’re joking and laughing. So my pace has improved here.”
Not only has her pace improved, but also Young said the frequency with which she formally competes has, as well. The Runners often negotiate discounts for their members for 5Ks, half-marathons and marathons, and members are always encouraging others to come race with them.
“I’ve done way more races than I ever used to do,” Young said. “I’ve done five half-marathons since moving here, and I’d only done four in my life prior to that.”
It all has combined to fulfill the hopes Young said she felt when she first visited the area while still living in Baltimore.
“We went over to brunch somewhere, and everyone is jogging and biking and families are out — I said, ‘This is where I want to live,’” Young said. “I was sold.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].