Central Kitsap runners won't let winter break their stride

Carol Jackson, Gaylord Jackson, Ruby Moss, Audi Darden and Dee Tuttle don’t let cooler temperatures get them down on Nov. 2 in East Bremerton. The runners are members of Shake Your Tail Feathers, one of two running groups at the Bremerton Family YMCA. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Carol Jackson, Gaylord Jackson, Ruby Moss, Audi Darden and Dee Tuttle don’t let cooler temperatures get them down on Nov. 2 in East Bremerton. The runners are members of Shake Your Tail Feathers, one of two running groups at the Bremerton Family YMCA.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Valerie Nau of Silverdale began running eight years ago as a way to stay healthy and to shed a few pounds. Now she can’t stop.

But even though the days get darker earlier and the rainy weather is kicking in, many Kitsap runners like Nau aren't letting it discourage them from pounding the pavement and hitting the trails.

“I hate running indoors and on tread machines,” said Nau, 38. “They drive me crazy.”

Nau uses running as a stress reliever where she plugs in her headphones and has time to herself. Setting goals also keeps Nau from not stopping. She completed her first half marathon at the Poulsbo race last month and is slated for one in Las Vegas in December.

Although Nau runs solo, there are Kitsap running groups that keep others motivated during the dreary months, including the Shake Your Tail Feathers group at the Bremerton Family YMCA and the Original Slug Club in Port Orchard. A Silverdale running group also meets weekly at the Silverdale Waterfront Park.

For many runners, winter means the end of the momentum they built up over summer months. But for Nau, it is actually a break from overpopulated trails and sidewalks, where she has to dodge dogs and walkers.

“I quite like running in the dark,” Nau said. “It's a little more peaceful and quiet. You're not worried about anyone else.”

Dee Tuttle, program director for the Bremerton Family YMCA, created Shake Your Tail Feathers in 2005 for those who don't know where to begin with running. And now is just as good a time to start because of the cool weather, said Tuttle, 40. She said motivating people to do something new is always a challenge, but tells new runners to focus on the sense of accomplishment after a run rather than dwell on the cold or wet conditions. And to just enjoy the beauty of their surroundings — especially the fall colors.

"Most runners agree they prefer running outdoors during the cooler months," said Tuttle. "It's easier to layer with extra clothes, rather than fight the heat in the summer."

Back when she started the group, Tuttle was just becoming a runner herself with the encouragement of a friend. She never runs alone because she enjoys the camaraderie that develops through the runs. And her group goes out in the rain and snow – only once has she canceled because of ice on the roads.

“You live in Washington, if you let the rain stop you, you'll never get anything done,” said Tuttle.

Aside from running in practically any weather condition, Tuttle said it is not uncommon for runners to schedule weekends or lunch breaks around running. Running has turned into a way of life for her, as it has with many local runners.

The Port Orchard group runs on Beach Drive every Saturday morning. Brian Begley, 43, who has been a member for about 25 years and is the club's president, said there are always up to 15 active members at any given time. They participate in at least one relay race together, a year aside from other races they sign up for individually.

“Knowing that some of my other friends are out there, it motivates me,” Begley said of staying in shape during the winter. “I want to be out there with them.”

A retired Bremerton couple, Carol, 62, and Gaylord Jackson, 70, have been running with Shake Your Tail Feathers since its inception but have been running since the early 1980s. Their solution to early sunsets is to beat the rush and run in the morning. Each month they do one race and have accumulated a slew of shirts over the years, commemorating their outings. Their distances range from five kilometer races to half marathons.

“Early in our running days we were competitive, but now it's more social,” said Gaylord Jackson, adding that they "run into" familiar faces even when they race in Canada or Eastern Washington.

Besides the social aspect of running, it helps keep them fit and cuts back on the couple's asthma episodes. The two are always out with the running group every Tuesday and Thursday mornings but Gaylord Jackson said they get out and exercise one way or another every day.

"It depends on how much we've eaten the night before," he joked on the distance of their runs.

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