PORK looks to provide welcoming atmosphere for runners and walkers
The Prineville Oregon Running Klub, or PORK, has been around since 2009, yet few people in Central Oregon even know of its existence.
Former Crook County High School distance star Chuck Coats, who is now an assistant cross country and track coach at the high school, is looking to change that.
"So many people see running in our name and maybe that scares them off," Coats said. "I want to make sure that they know that it's all inclusive. We all walk, so if you can walk, you can go out there and join us. We don't care if you run or jog, or walk — we just want to keep everybody moving. It's a family oriented deal."
Coats added that the club is for anyone from individuals looking for someone to jog with, to runners who are training for elite races, to individuals who just want to walk to start improving their overall fitness.
When Mark Rhoden started the group in 2009, most of the individuals who participated were distance runners who were training to run half or even full marathons.
Although there are still that kind of distance runners involved in the group, Coats said that now the emphasis in on holding each other accountable and getting people active rather than solely preparing for races.
The group is open to anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.
For several years, the group only met on Sunday mornings for a long group run.
Now the group, which has no membership fees or requirements, has opportunities to meet multiple times a week.
Sunday mornings at 7 a.m., the group meets in the Starbucks parking lot. From there, runners and walkers are free to work out together, in a workout tailored for the individual runner or walker.
There is also a group that meets on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. However, that group is on a temporary hiatus until the weather cools.
Tuesday evenings, the group meets again, this time at Ward Rhoden Stadium. Individuals are asked to be there at 6 p.m. to warm up before taking part in a track workout.
Coats said that the workouts involve mostly interval training, but individuals who wish to just come out and walk laps are welcome.
"It's kind of a generic workout," he said. "We have a workout for 5K or 10K runners, and then if you are training for something longer, then you just add to the workout."
Coats added that he talks to everyone who comes and tailors the workout to their specific need.
"I will chat with everybody and find out what their goals are and what their basic fitness level is," he said. "We don't want to see anyone get hurt. We try to make it kind of fun, even if intervals are no fun. That's the thing, when you are done with it and you are on your cool down, then you are going, wow, that was great."
The group meets again on Wednesdays at 5:45 p.m. in the Ochoco Brewery parking lot.
From there, the group leaves on two-, three-, four- or five-mile loops.
"Whatever you feel comfortable with," Coats said. "If you have young kids, we encourage you to bring them and have them ride their bikes beside you. It really is for anyone."
Once done for the evening, individuals are free to stay and socialize. In addition, they are asked to keep a log book of the distance they run each Wednesday. There is now a 50-mile, 100-mile, 150-mile club, and so on.
"You can get a little swag for each milestone as you go more miles," Coats said. "The big thing is I want to stress that it's not just for running. It's for overall fitness. We don't want to have people intimidated and thinking it's a bunch of elite runners. There isn't really any major goals per se, it's more of just keep people active and living a more healthy lifestyle."
Coats said that part of the reason for the group is to hold runners accountable. It is also intended to help runners get ready for races, or to provide workout partners, as well as to encourage beginners to work on their overall fitness.
Coats added that he wants the group to be welcoming for anyone, including individuals who are coming in from out of town and don't know where a good place to run might be.
The group is also branching out.
Coats said that a couple of months ago, PORK met in Redmond with the Redmond Running Club, the Madras Running Club and CORK (Central Oregon Running Club) from Bend for a group run.
"When you go to a race in Central Oregon, or even if you travel farther for an event, we don't want you to be alone," Coats said. "By meeting with the other running clubs that way you will know someone."
Last Saturday, several members of the group competed in the Ochoco Trail Runs, mostly in the 10.5-mile event. Those who finished early stayed near the finish line, waiting to cheer for others as they came in.
As Coats is quick to point out, it isn't a club for elite runners.
"If you can walk, we want you to know that we will be there," he said. "Eventually you may start running, or maybe not, and that's just fine."
Coats added that interested individuals can just show up for one of the weekly scheduled events or they can check out the club on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/prinevillerunners. He added that if you type in Prineville Oregon Running Klub into Google, the Facebook page will show up.
The club currently has 300 members on Facebook, but Coats said that most days, fewer than 30 people meet up for the weekly runs. However, the club is out to change that.
"I need people that we don't meet up with to give me some time options," Coats said. "Give me some days that you would be willing to go out for a walk or for a trail run. We will find someone to go with you and then that group is going to grow, and it will start to happen."