Runner Spotlight: Eric W.

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This runner spotlight introduces Eric W. from the “burbs”. Eric is a 46-year-old dad who has been running for the last 12 years. He has quite a few races including 4 marathons under his belt, and even qualified for Boston last year! Along with those races Eric has completed a year-long running streak.

Find out a little more about Eric…..

What was your first official race? What do you remember most about it?

Even though I’d been running for a few years at that point, my first official race was the 5K Run for Clean Air put on by Philly’s Clean Air Council in 2009.  I remember being nervous about it but happy with my time of 23:27 – I had just turned 40 and placed 13th in my age group.  I also remember that it was my 108th day of running in a row, in a year when I ran every single day (averaging about 3 miles a day).  I also remember running behind a Students Run Philly Style kid for most of the race, finally passing him within the last quarter mile or so, thinking I couldn’t let a kid outrun me – my competitive side was starting to show itself!

What made you start running?

I went to graduate school at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and while most of the town was out running and cycling, I was studying, drinking and eating a lot. I put on at least 20 pounds over 3 years, and when I graduated I decided it was time to do something about that.  A couple of other friends were starting to run at the same time, so I got out on a few short trails with my dog from time to time, and started feeling better about myself (my primary reason for running). When my wife and I moved to Philly in 2004, I kept running with my dog (just a mile or two at a time) and we bought a treadmill so we could both stay in shape. I can still remember the first time I ran 3, then 5, then 7 miles, and how good it felt to accomplish that.

Your favorite race so far? Why?

My favorite race so far was the 2014 Steamtown Marathon, and not just because I qualified there for Boston. I most liked that it was a family event for me – my wife and kids were there to support me, and we had a fun time the day before the race – swimming in the hotel pool and hanging out at the expo, where my kids got to keep leftover medals from 2013.  They also participated in the kids’ fun run and had a blast – I think it really helped them appreciate running.  It was in Steamtown where I also spent the bus ride to the start sitting with a 75-year-old man who was running something like his 70th marathon!  That was really inspiring to me, and made me appreciate even more what running has done for me and hope that I can keep it up as long as he has! The race was fun, too, making the experience just an all-around joy!

What run is still on your bucket list? Why?

I have a bucket list full of runs, including the NYC, Chicago, and Big Sur Marathons (I’m checking off two marathons in the next year – Marine Corps and Boston, hopefully).  I’d also like to run some international races, but that is probably going to have to wait until my kids are older.  And someday I’d love to run an ultra – maybe start with a 50K and see how I feel before getting into even longer runs.  I’m hoping to run the Rocky 50K Fat Ass Run in December. (Editors note: we think Rebecca Barber can help with this)                

What do you like most about the Running community in Philly?

Being from the ‘burbs and busy with young kids, I spend a lot of time living vicariously through the Philly running community’s Facebook pages.  I do love that there are so many positive, friendly people who are part of this community, and that there is a group run that can be joined almost every single day.  There are also sooooo many runners giving back to the greater community, including groups like Back on my Feet, Monster Milers, ACS Determination, and others that give runners opportunities to make a huge difference in other people’s (and animals’) lives.  The multiple opportunities each week to drink beer with other runners is also a good thing!

Philly (and the ‘burbs) are full of so many beautiful places to run, so it’s nice to have seen this community grow so much over the last 10 years.

What does running mean to you?

Running is my spiritual practice, literally.  When I run, I tune into my body and mind more than at almost any other time (other than in sitting meditation, which I practice much less often).  I notice my thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, with greater perspective than during the regular course of my day.  Running helps me let go of the things that don’t matter.  Running gets me outside, gives me alone time (or social time if I choose), tests my physical and mental endurance, and gives me an opportunity to strengthen my determination, which carries out across everything I do.

What is your proudest running accomplishment?

I was going to say that qualifying for Boston in 2016 was my proudest accomplishment, but I’m not registered yet, and I think it’s actually my second proudest.  My proudest was running for 366 days in a row in 2009 (including New Year’s Day 2010 in solidarity with anyone doing a running streak during a leap year).  That year, I posted a lot about my running on Facebook, and heard from quite a few people that I was inspiring them to take up running or to run more.  It felt so good to be able to inspire people that way, and was really my first experience of that feeling – it’s probably part of the reason I am so into running now, that I know I can inspire healthy lifestyles in others and maybe help them change their own lives in positive ways.

What’s the best thing about your local running community?

I already mentioned the beer, right?

I already wrote what I like so much about the Philly running community, but I want to give a shout out to the Elkins Park running community as well.  Even though we are obviously much smaller than Philly, there are quite a few friendly, community-oriented runners who are having a great time running in our neck of the suburbs.  And a lot of them are older parents like myself, so we try to schedule runs around our family time, which is very helpful.

Where can people find you online? 

I am “Dharma Runner” on Facebook, and people can see my website at www.dharmarunning.com.  I am also a wedding officiant (I have done over 150 weddings) who would LOVE to do running-themed weddings or weddings at races – runners can find out more about that at www.finishlineweddings.com or www.waterlilyweddings.net.

Learn more about our Runners Spotlight series, where we promote local Philly runners!

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