By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Just before daybreak on Sundays a small gathering of people meet near the Stillwater Country Club.
They aren’t some religious cult nor are they crazy — although at times that’s subject still up for debate. They are the members of the Stillwater Running Club, a group of runners that range from marathoners to novices.
“We have 200 people on our e-mail list, but we usually only have 20 people show up when we have meetings or get together,” said Dan Zeroski, the club’s president and Stillwater High School cross country coach.
It isn’t about the numbers, however. It’s about the people. And while most members of the Stillwater Running Club will train on their own before a race, when the time comes they bond together representing Stillwater in events like the Oklahoma City Marathon.
“You can meet people with the same common interest,” Zeroski said. “We usually get a lot of interest when a race like a marathon comes up. In Oklahoma City we had 47 entries from Stillwater in May.”
Running along with other Stillwater residents in something like the Oklahoma City Marathon is one thing. But this group isn’t just for the runners — it’s also for the pizza lovers.
Throughout the school year, the club will eat at Hideaway Pizza on Tuesdays, sharing slices of a pie so big that they almost defeat whatever workouts the group did earlier in the week.
“We try to meet once a month during the school year,” Zeroski said. “We typically don’t do it during the summer because everybody is gone, but it’s just a way for us to meet and talk about what workouts work and what doesn’t.”
But while pizza is good, pizza with a keynote speaker is better.
Zeroski — using his contacts through Oklahoma State and Stillwater High School — will often bring in people like Oklahoma State cross country coach Dave Smith and former Cowboy wrestler Coleman Scott to speak to the group. The result? An even bigger turnout.
“When we had John Smith and Coleman Scott come in and give a little slideshow, we had 35 or 40 people show up just because they are big names,” Zeroski said. “Most coaches like that try to promote their sport because they don’t get the publicity of maybe some of the other sports. So anytime they get the opportunity, they get out and speak to us like that.”
It might look like it, but this isn’t just a bunch of pizza-loving, runners hoping the miles they run will keep the extra layer of cheese off. They also help the community in any way they can.
“We try to promote any local activities like the Juke Joint Jog and Remember the 10,” Zeroski said. “Even if people aren’t running, we try to go and help volunteer with it. If we don’t help promote those activities and the activities in places like Cushing, Perry and Perkins, then they don’t have them. As a club, we like to promote new activities and support the activities that have to do with running.”
The numbers may be down slightly over the past few years, but when it comes to the club itself, Zeroski is already thinking of ways to make it bigger and better for the upcoming school year — beginning with the first meeting of the year at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
“We’re trying to get more people involved,” Zeroski said. “We may even start having workouts at the (Stillwater High School track) if we can get use of the track.”