August 2012 – NRC RUNNERS OF THE MONTH – Rachel Eller and Steve Kraft

What’s John Travolta without Olivia Newton John?  Stranded at the drive-in, of course – and in the spirit of leaving no runner left behind, NRC is once again doubling your pleasure and doubling your fun with not one, but TWO runners from here on out.  NRC website aficionados will note that this was the original format and since NRC has been growing so fast, this will be a great way to learn about your fellow runners from Wed, nights and Sat. mornings in half the time.  Consider it our 2 for 1 special at the NRC malt shop of running love.  So, enjoy your last days of “summer lovin” and these two awesome NRCers!

Our female NRCer of the Month has no need for interrogation.  In fact, she is, dare I say, an open book and a hilarious one at that!  Born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, Rachel Eller went to a very small high school, with only 1000 kids in the whole district. A self-proclaimed “band geek”, she never really liked sports or exercising, but did join the Flag Corp senior year.  Her unmistakable beauty, inside and out, led her to be voted Homecoming Queen and I can imagine that there wasn’t a classmate she didn’t know by name.

From high school, she started at Marshall University, but being used to a smaller campus, she decided to finish up at Morehead State University.  After graduation, she moved to Louisville for work.  Life led her to Nashville, but through another turn of events just as she had resigned to move back to Louisville she found a whole new reason to stay.  Thankfully, she accepted an invitation from friends to hang out at a local watering hole.  There, she met a great guy who just happened to be her future husband, Alfred, and they hit it off immediately.  In fact, it’s a funny story (there are lots of those with Rachel).  After their introduction and a bit of getting to know each other, Rachel went to the restroom.  Once alone with his friends, Alfred told them, “Now that’s a girl I could marry.”  Without knowing the impression she had already made on Alfred, Rachel returned and jokingly opened up to say, “I want you to know I’m jobless, homeless, and could possibly have a warrant out for my arrest!”  Well, obviously, Alfred wasn’t fazed and the two are now happily married and parents of two young boys, Kingston and Beckett.

Now working in Human Resources for an engineering firm, Rachel loves the company she works for and the wide variety of tasks she takes on with her position.  She also enjoys the diversity of her office and has learned a great deal from the head of her company, who is from India.  They have two offices in India, as well.

During life before running, Rachel (and Alfred) spent most of their nights going out with friends playing bar trivia.  Even through her pregnancy, Rachel would be out with the gang stunning everyone with her trivia knowledge.  Once they had a newborn in tow, they found the late nights and noisy nightspots were not conducive to parenting.  Plus, you know, most people frowned upon bringing a baby into a bar.  So when a friend at work suggested they do a Muddy Buddy race, they took on the challenge as a new, baby-friendly hobby.

Okay, so here’s another funny story… Rachel remembers how it all started.  They had just finished their first training run.  It was really hard, she was exhausted and she was convinced that she had run 5 miles upon completing her route.  But, this being prior to her Garmin-wearing days, she got in her car and drove the route and couldn’t believe it only came up as 1.1 miles!  Seriously, she was tempted to opt for the couch only version of the Couch to 5K, but she didn’t give up, although she’ll tell you she didn’t really train for that first, 2-person, tag-team relay.

Not only a race, but an incredibly messy obstacle course, Rachel was even brought to tears during the run.  She had pretty much decided she was never going to run again, but while they were there someone told them about the Bourbon Chase Relay which is held in Kentucky.  Rachel had never run more than 4 miles in her life, but something about this race intrigued her.  She couldn’t get anyone to get on board with it at that point, but she kept it on her list.  She found a running group and kept running, though.

When she was pregnant with Beckett, she got an email from a friend about Ragnar TN, which they explained was like the Bourbon Chase race she had wanted them to do.  Totally inspired, Rachel printed out her first ever, training plan from the Ragnar site and dove head first into the running deep end.  Leading up to Ragnar in 2010, she prepared for her longest leg of 6.4 miles by building her base and speed gradually up to a 6-mile long run.  It paid off, and she finished all 3 legs feeling great and it was an awesome experience that she wanted to definitely do again.  She has completed 4 Ragnars to date – 1 in Tennessee, 2 in Chicago, IL and one in the Florida Keys.  Their Chicago trips are probably her favorite since they have a friend and teammate in Chicago who doesn’t just have a place to crash, but offers a bluegrass family jamboree, Chicago trifecta – Chicago-style pizza, hot dogs, and Portillo’s!

Her sister, Amanda, has run 3 Ragnars with her and is set to run Ragnar TN 2012 with her, too.  She and her husband, who also runs, live 6 hours away, so they have a good time bonding on those 24 hour van rides.  She still has not gotten the stars to align for the Bourbon Chase, but she’ll keep trying.

Her most recent self-induced gauntlet is Ultra Dirtbag 50K Trail Race Training with Fleet Feet.  Before this, she has run a 9.3 mile trail race and has been on trails about 6 or 7 times.  She decided after running her first full in Birmingham that she just wasn’t done yet. She’ll be taking this on with her good friend, Jill and they plan to finish side by side.  We’ll just have to wait and see if her race in Chattanooga will get her to that “done” breaking point, but luckily she’ll have a week in Savannah with family to relax and reward herself after that one.

In addition to being a relay master and runner, Rachel is all about her family.  She’s always on the go, planning trips to the big city as well as the local campsite.  She is also a frequent traveler of the “Blogosphere” and just happens to be a Facebook ninja (my term for those who effortlessly navigate this demanding site).

This brings me to yet another funny story… Rachel is NRC’s original stalker!  That’s right, before Rachel began running with NRC, she scoped us out to make sure that we weren’t crazy (well, you know what I mean).  Thankfully we passed the test!  Having gone from stalker to NRC Social Director, Rachel has put together great events for the club, including the 4th of July Picnic and Family Bowling Night.  (Watch for the latest on NRC get-togethers from Rachel on our website and Facebook.)  You may be surprised to hear their family also enjoys Geocaching.  Geo-what, you might say? Geocaching (pronounced Geo-cashing), which is like a scavenger hunt, but with GPS coordinates.  They have found lots of hidden gems, some even right in Nolensville.  Well, we’re glad that when she was hunting for a running club, she found us.  Be sure to say congrats to Rachel at our next run!

“Why am I nervous?” laughs Steve Kraft one of our NRC Members of the Month.  We’ve just finished an early Saturday morning long run and despite the early start the sun is already warming us as we sit outside Nolensville’s favorite coffee shop.  Little did he know that I’d been brushing up on my interrogation techniques, so be afraid, Steve, be very afraid!  J

Steve was born in Pennsylvania, but I’m not exactly sure where to say he was raised.  Seriously, though, take a look at Steve’s travel itinerary over the years and your head will spin.  He has lived at 23 different addresses in his life, and he is only 38 years old!  His Dad being in the Navy, his family moved a lot – first Virginia to North Carolina to Minnesota then back to North Carolina and then to Charleston, South Carolina, the town Steve considers his childhood home.

After college, he started working at RGIS, an inventory company which is part of the Blackstone group (how’d ya like to count all the items in a Wal-mart?!  Yikes!).  Feeling the need to make his next move, he took a position in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he met his wife, Andrea.  Then together they moved to London, England for two years (where their daughter, Anna, was born) to Montreal, Canada (Eh?) to Toronto (hoser) to Cary, NC to Roanoke, then back to Toronto (parkade), then back to Roanoke, then to Tallahassee and finally to Smyrna, TN in June of 2011 and he hopes to stay put for a long while.

Working in inventory, Steve has learned to perfect the art of moving. They have collected multiples of their favorite things, since oftentimes boxes get left unpacked.  So if you need a spatula or toaster, he’s your man.  At one point he figured out they had 19,000 lbs. of household goods.  After consulting Google, he learned that if he was a 4 Star General in the Army, they would only pay for moving 17,000 lbs., so he has those General’s beat!

As you can imagine, their house stays very busy with their youngest, Seth, who is 6 years old and Anna, who is 9.  You can see them at NRC on Wednesday nights and if you’re lucky Andrea may even bring a homemade cake!

Not only is Steve relatively new to Tennessee, but he has only been running for about 18 months. His first motivation came when his then, 5 year-old daughter needed him to run with her in a 5K, but in October of 2010 it was officially on.  Steve, who had never enjoyed running in his sporting years before, did 4 halves and a full in his first 14 months of running and he hasn’t slowed down.  He has done two more halves in 2012, one of which was with NRC in Carmel, Indiana!

In his training for the full, he found his stride and running became automatic for him.  It was around this time that he crossed paths with David Dye, a now fellow NRC runner, on a 15 miler and they struck up a conversation that lasted about 5 miles.  David told him about NRC, but Steve admits that he (like our other NRCer of the Month) did a little Facebook stalking before deciding to finally come out for a run!  Afraid that we might be one of those running groups that takes itself too seriously, he quickly realized that NRC likes to laugh as much as we like to talk lactic acid, and has now become a regular.

When he wants to have some fun, Steve likes to travel with his family.  In fact, he’s only 3 states away from being part of the 50 state club.  His family recently took a 17-day road trip out West and visited 9 National Parks seeing Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Grand Teton and more on what sounds like a truly epic journey.  He has a passion for photography and the other thing you may not realize about Steve is that he is a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  (Oh, so that’s why we see him eating a salad at Uncle Bud’s!)

He continues to train even when traveling and when his demanding schedule allows.  He admits that this year has brought fewer miles per week than last year, but that’s all right by him.  He’s running for fun and is glad to have found kindred spirits through NRC.  Steve will be representing our crew on one of the teams heading to Chattanooga in November for the TN Ragnar.  Plus, his wife Andrea, who has also started running, will join him for the Space Coast Half in Cocoa, FL over Thanksgiving weekend.  Congrats, Steve and happy running!

We hope you think these two Runner’s of the Month articles “go together like rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong, remembered for ever like shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yipitty boom de boom, Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop” because “that’s the way it should be.

Wha oooh yeah!”  ‘Til next time… 

– Amy Owsley



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