Fitness, friendship inspiration for woman's group

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Dolores Scott and Swapna Gajjala enjoy the scenery during a recent walk with the Sole Sisters.This spring, hundreds of women will take over the streets of cities around the Portland Metro area every Saturday morning.

The women are the Sole Sisters, an informal group of women who meet for several months to train for Wilsonville’s Queen of the High Road half-marathon and 10-kilometer run/walk in May. Founded in Wilsonville in 2008, Sole Sisters has since spread to nine cities, having added three more — Tualatin, Canby and Newberg — this year.

“People just kept coming and coming,” says Jules Moody, a fitness coach who is one of Sole Sisters’ founders. Moody adds that the non-competitive atmosphere — and the fact that there is no cost involved — are draws to many women.

“We just gave the women encouragement, and motivation and accountability. I think they kept coming because they were building relationships,” she says.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Jules Moody, right, and Julie Duvall give course  instructions to Sole Sisters.

Sole Sisters started as a group of three women who had become friends at church. Moody and two of her friends began to meet on weekends in spring 2008 to train for a half-marathon — something Moody had never done before, but which was on her bucket list.

It wasn’t long before other women were drawn to the weekend meet-ups as an opportunity to exercise and be held accountable. By the time the friends ran their first half-marathon that summer, their number had swelled to around 50.

The group decided to host a small half-marathon event themselves that fall. It was the first Queen of the High Road event, which has since become the yearly inspiration for months of training.

It wasn’t clear that the group would continue until the following spring approached, however, and participants began to ask whether Moody and company planned to start meeting once more for workouts.

Then one of the Sole Sisters — who had been driving to Wilsonville from Sherwood every Saturday morning — asked Moody and her friends whether they would mind if she started her own group. Nobody was bothered by the idea, and so the second Sole Sisters group was founded.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Jeri Bohard leads a group of runner and walkers as it heads down Rose Lane in Wilsonville.

Last year proved a big one for Sole Sisters. One of Moody’s cofounders moved away, and the other returned to working full-time, leaving Moody to organize the event herself. Then the group spread to three new cities. And at the Queen of the High Road event, a new 10k route was added. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Sole Sisters founder Jules Moody is ready for one of the group's Saturday morning outings in Wilsonville.

“I was a little worried about whether I could manage it on my own,” Moody says. “But I still felt called to do it, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make it happen.’”

She says that she hasn’t ever felt overwhelmed by the responsibility, however, even though “it is kind of a lot of work.”

“After nine years, I kind of know the way it works: working with the City, getting the vendors, getting the sponsors,” Moody says — that, in addition to being the point person for the 31 other coaches who now organize Sole Sisters groups in nine towns.

Like Moody, Beverly Just came to Sole Sisters with no running experience and the intent to take running a half-marathon off her bucket list. Just had an additional difficulty to overcome: she was 66 at the time that she joined Sole Sisters in 2013.

“I was trying something new,” Just says. “Running at my age, and I wondered if I would be able to do it.”

Just’s daughter, who had joined to the Army, proved inspirational, and Just told herself that if her daughter could make it through the rigorous physical requirements that must be met by soldiers, she could make it through a half-marathon.

She also became close friends with another new Sole Sister, with the two providing inspiration and encouragement to one another.

“We just kind of shared the running, and somehow our friendship developed through that,” says Just.

Just completed her first half-marathon that first year. The last two years, she has continued to work out with the Sole Sisters. She skipped the half-marathons, but took advantage of the new 10k course last year.

As Just approaches age 70, she’s considering giving the half-marathon one more go next year. She says she keeps running partly to be able to inspire her two young granddaughters. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Jules Moody, left, and Julie Duvall give instructions to the Sole Sisters.

“I would like them to say ‘My grandmother did this,’” Just says.

Sue Duemling joined Sole Sisters in 2008 after hearing about the group from one of its three founders. At the time, there were only 10 women in the group. She says that she’s been surprised by how rapidly the group has grown.

“It’s incredible,” she says. “I think it’s because Jules (Moody) is so selfless. It takes a lot of time and energy to coordinate this.”

Duemling is a chiropractor at NW Wellness Center in Wilsonville. Although she has exercised in one form or another for her whole life, Sole Sisters added a new element to her fitness regimen. Sole Sisters has affected other parts of her life, too: it’s not uncommon that women she treats at her practice find themselves with the Sole Sisters early on a Saturday morning. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Jules Moody, left, and Julie Duvall greet each other before a walk with the Sole Sisters.

Nor is it uncommon for Sole Sisters to be treated at Duemling’s clinic, whose trainers give free wellness talks to the Sole Sisters every spring.

“It’s so rewarding to see people have success,” Duemling says. “We love seeing that light turn on when people see how their lifestyle affects everything.”

Moody says that she, too, loves to help women change their lifestyles for the better. But even as Sole Sisters spreads across the state, Moody intends to keep her focus on Wilsonville, and to keep walking with the Sole Sisters on Saturday mornings.

“My heart is for fitness and women in the town of Wilsonville. Those three things together — that’s a big part of my life,” Moody says. “It was a natural fit for me to keep this thing going, because it meets all those things I’m passionate about.”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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