Portland Fit starts season with run/walk at new Beaverton headquarters

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A group of volunteer coaches for Portland Fit get charged up for the upcoming marathon training season with a Saturday morning run on the Fanno Creek Trail near the club's new home base at Portland Running Company.Ten years ago, Monique Kellerman was 100 pounds overweight, and by her own admission “subsiding on cookie dough and beer.”

Fed up with her state of affairs, the Hillsboro music teacher sought out WeightWatchers, which eventually led her lighter frame to running.

“Even though I wasn't a fast runner, I found that running was extremely therapeutic for me,” she says. “I participated in a few half marathons, but got sidetracked when my husband and I started a family.”

Portland Fit — a marathon training program that just relocated from Portland to Beaverton — got her back on track. Kellerman liked the marathon-training program so much, in fact, she became a volunteer assistant coach.

“A friend talked me into joining the group in 2011, and I love it so much I keep coming back for more,” says the 35-year-old mother of two.

Kellerman joined a group of coaches and trainers last Saturday at Portland Fit’s new base location at the Portland Running Company, 10029 S.W. Nimbus Ave., suite 100, off of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road. The coaches took a run on the nearby Fanno Creek Trail to get energized and discuss Portland Fit’s 16th training season, which kicks off Saturday at 8 a.m. with a non-competitive 3-mile run or walk from the Running Company.

Hundreds of runners and walkers are expected to turn out to begin season prep for the 2013 Portland Marathon on Oct. 6, as well as the Portland Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon, held on May 19 as part of the Portland Rose Festival.

New horizons

Portland Fit founder and President John Pontefract says relocating from Portland Fit’s former meeting spot, at Northwest 23rd Avenue and Raleigh Street in Portland provides a breath of fresh air as the spring training session gets under way.

“We met in a parking lot,” he says. “There were a lot of changes down there. The route sort of got old. We looked at where most members came from, and most were coming from Beaverton. Our new hosts at Portland Running Company are providing many amenities we've never enjoyed before, like easy access to shoes and apparel, as well as indoor bathrooms.”

Pontefract says the proximity of Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation-managed trails to the new base operation provides significant advantages.

“We're very excited about our new location. Fanno Creek Trail provides a scenic and safe route for our runners and walkers to train all summer. And from that trail system, we are looking forward to connecting to Hyland Park, Cooper Mountain, and other pathways around Beaverton and the Westside,” he says.

Both new and established Portland Fit members will meet each Saturday in the store’s parking lot. The Running Company will open at 7 a.m. to accommodate the influx of marathon trainers during the 30-week training season, to which runners and walkers of all levels are welcome.

“We’re really excited here at PRC to make us their home base,” says Mike Orr, general manager of the Beaverton and Southeast Portland Running Company stores. “The Fanno Creek Trail they’ll be using a lot. There’s lots of space to work with here, and we have a nice, warm store.”

The right fit

Since forming in 1998, Portland Fit has been part of USA FIT. The national marathon-training program is dedicated to training people of all ability levels to challenging themselves to run or walk a marathon or half marathon.

Encouraging runners of all levels to give the marathon training a chance, Pontefract emphasizes Portland Fit’s “secret sauce” of one long run per week with 30- or 40-minute sessions a few more times in the week.

“That’s basically what marathon training looks like,” he says, noting that “25 to 30 percent” of Portland Fit trainers are walkers. “Really, what it’s all about is once a week.”

Mick Byrnes, a Beaverton resident who has trained with Portland Fit for 15 marathons, including the Boston and Portland events, says his buddies at the gym indirectly inspired him to go the distance.

“I thought, if they can do it, I can,” he said. “My girlfriend and I signed up to do the (Portland Fit) program. We followed it in October of 1998 and ran our first marathon. After I finished, I had this incredible range of emotions …I was in pain, but I was so proud.”

Now a veteran, Byrnes, 49, says he appreciates the camaraderie and social aspects of the group as much as the physical fitness and personal fulfillment aspects.

“The people are the reason it works,” he says. “When you are all dressed in running gear, running, sweating and achieving your goal, you have no idea what socio-economic group the person next to you is from.

“I have been able to meet people that I would never have had the chance to meet,” he adds. “These people have become mentors, clients — and most of all, great friends.”

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