NRC Runners of the Month – Cindy McGarvey and Victor Neilson

Somehow, before our eyes, June has melted into July.  Summer is now in full, sweltering swing and just as we all are starting to get burned out on picnics and patios, opting for more air-conditioned activities, I’m here to save the day with an NRC Double Feature!

Slide1That’s right.  Curl up in the comfortable confines of your own couch and get ready for two back-to-back tales, each worthy of the big screen in their own right.  Tune into your inner FM dial and imagine our soundtrack as we follow first, the country girl turned warrior walker, and then, the “wild ‘n’ crazy”, northerner who now runs the roads of Tennessee…

Who are the stars of our double bill, you ask?  Well, they’re none other than Cindy McGarvey and Victor Neilson!  Now you’re really intrigued, right?  So, grab your popcorn and settle in for double the danger, double the excitement and double the NRC love!

Cindy McGarvey

3 – 2 – 1… Action!  Our scene opens on the picturesque town of LaVergne, TN where our star was born.  An only child, Cindy McGarvey always wished for a brother or sister.  Although she was little, she remembers the letters her church would occasionally mail to her mom about opportunities to adopt orphan children.  Whenever these arrived, she would seize the opportunity to use the free visual aids and plead her case, but to no avail.  Nevertheless, in spite of her only-childhood she grew humble and generous, not solitary and spoiled.  When it came to sports, her game was basketball, which made her mother ecstatic!  She was good and played several years into high school, but decided to stop her Junior Year knowing she wasn’t the competitive type.

Back in those days there was no Facebook or texting, so Cindy and her friends would keep up with each other on their CB radios.  (Yep. 10-4, good buddy!)  Cindy’s handle was… wait for it… “Country Girl”!  Radio waves also brought her the voice of her first and only true love.   One time while spinning her CB dial, Cindy found Tommy McGarvey, a.k.a. “Double A”.  She could tell he was a nice guy and they kept in touch throughout school.

McGarvey family Speaking of school, Math was Cindy’s favorite subject, but she didn’t want to be a math teacher.  Her senior year of high school, Cindy took a class in computers and loved it!  (Actually, that is a major understatement.)  She pursued her education in computers at Nashville Tech and went on to become a computer programmer.  As technology evolved from CB radios to mobile phones, so did her and Tommy’s relationship.  It was around this time that they finally took the plunge and got married.  Their love story is still going strong and they’ll be together a whopping 31 years this year!

Since graduating, Cindy has worked for big corporations and small start-ups.  At one point, she faced a difficult decision.  Her employer for over a decade told her that, not only was she going to be laid-off, but that they wanted her to train the people who would be taking her job in another country.  She had never been so torn.  Her initial anger had her wanting to leave them in the lurch, but her mind and the financial benefits of aiding in the outsourcing of her job, won out.  Down on her luck and the job market bleak, Cindy says she couldn’t have done it without Tommy’s support.  Now, she loves her current job and enjoys keeping up with technology.

Here’s a tasty scoop: A little bird told me that the McGarvey’s are some of the best cooks around.  Friends have been telling them to open a Nolensville restaurant for years.  Sausage and Peppers, Spaghetti Sauce, any smoked meat that Tommy makes and Cindy’s banana pudding… so good!  (Mmmm, we need a NRC potluck?!)

When she’s not cooking, walking or working, Cindy likes to read (Kristin Hannah books lately) and watch marathons of reality TV!  Nashville… Survivor… Food Network Star… 19 Kids & Counting… Shipping Wars… they’re all set to record at her house, so she can watch any time.  In the movie of her life, she would cast Jennifer Garner to play her.  I totally see it – the innocence of 13 Going on 30 mixed with the strong-jawed toughness of Alias and the drive of the actress herself, fit Cindy’s leading-lady persona well.

Cindy started walking regularly one year ago when NRC launched their Couch to 5k Program.  Fellow NRCer, Wendy Mucci, mentioned it to her at church one Sunday.  She thought to herself, “I can walk and do it.”  And she did.  In her NRC C25K story, she wrote, “At first I felt like I wasn’t doing enough or that I wasn’t good enough by walking instead of running, but then Scott said that all that is important is that we are traveling and it doesn’t matter how you are doing it. At least I wasn’t sitting on the couch!”

Cindy was a solid member of the C25K 2013 Walker Texas Rangers!  She loved the positive encouragement she got from her friends and mentors; NRCer and mentor Diane Taylor, in particular.  Although she admits walking makes her feel like she can do anything, it honestly doesn’t make her want to run!  Instead, Cindy focuses on being a motivator for NRC walkers through her consistent presence and get ‘er done attitude.

In the words of her friend, Wendy Mucci, “Cindy McGarvey is one of the most inspirational people I know.  She shows up when most people would stay home.  I have seen her out in crazy hot temperatures and with snow plowing down.   Sometimes I will hear someone say that they can’t run because of the weather or because they aren’t feeling up to it and I just want to introduce them to Cindy.”

To be honest, Cindy will tell you she doesn’t always feel up to it either, but the cathartic release keeps her going.  In her C25K story, she also opened up about her personal experience with cancer.  Two years ago. Cindy had a GIST tumor (Gastrointestinal stromal tumor), which was cancerous, removed and underwent treatment with some miraculous medicines.  Last summer, she learned of a new spot and changed her medicine to one that has been successful in shrinking the tumor; however, the treatment makes her feet hurt horribly.  Even though, she hasn’t been able to walk as far or as fast due to the pain, she is determined to not let GIST take that away.  She’s lost 54lbs in the last year making no other changes, but walking.  She has taken on these challenges like a true warrior, never backing down, and is an inspiration to so many.

“What I am most thankful for on this walking journey have been the friends I have made in NRC. They are always so inspiring and friendly,” she added.  “We walked all last summer and winter long in the heat & freezing cold. I don’t think I could have kept up the walking if it wasn’t for my friends’ encouragement.”

After completing the C25K program, she participated in the Change for Chance 5K and had a great experience.  She had never walked 3 whole miles in her life and it felt really good crossing that finish line!  Later that year she did the Franklin Classic 5K and then got together with friends, Jessica Boely, Catherine Hartsfield and Cathy Perizzo, to get messy in the Color Run 2014!  Her future race plans include the 2014 Franklin Classic with NRC.

Cindy and friends

This past C25K season, Cindy was a mentor for the walkers and she said it was awesome being able to support others in their goals.  Her family has picked up on the walking thing, too.  Her teenage son, Michael, signed up for the 2013 C25K, but was not able to be consistent.  This year, he participated with his father and both have been making forward strides.  Her older son, Matthew, gets lots of walking in around campus, at Harding University.

When it comes to walking on Monday and Wednesday nights, I asked her how she manages to stay consistent.  She looked me square in the eye and said without missing a beat, “This is high priority for me.”  Mostly, it’s the positive encouragement that keeps her lacing up her Brooks Glycerin and coming back to NRC.  To people on the NRC fence, she says in the nicest, sweetest voice, “Just do it!” and walks confidently into the sunset.

We’re all just traveling.  Whether you’re running or walking, or a mix of both, its companions like Cindy that make NRC the best running club in the world. So come out to NRC and be sure to congratulate Cindy on her NRCelebrity status!

Victor Neilson

For this feature presentation, we leave the countryside of the South and head north to Buffalo, NY where the winters are bitter, but the football fans are not.  Our male NRCer of the Month, Victor Neilson, was born and spent the early years of his idyllic youth with his younger sister in the western New York town not far from the famed Niagara Falls.  When he was 6 years old, his family moved to Angola, IN, but they stayed die-hard Buffalo fans.  His fondest childhood memories are times he spent with his father watching Buffalo Bills or Sabres games and cheering them on together.  His own participation in sports started early, too; he was playing golf at 7 years old and took up tennis in his pre-teens.  He was never a runner though, that came later.

Victor NeilsonWhat’s more country than Nolensville?  Angola, Indiana, according to Victor!  As the county seat of Steuben County, which is well known for its 101 lakes, Angola had no shortage of farming and fishing. Victor and his friends spent much of their time on the lakes where he learned how to water-ski at an early age, a tradition the Neilson’s continue now on their family boat.  Victor still remembers “Tractor Day” at Angola High and cheering on the Angola Hornets at high school games.

In a twist of fate, Victor met his future bride, Mindy, while still in middle school. Mindy had just moved to Angola and the Neilson’s were the first family they met in town.  While their fathers were best buds, Victor admits his boyish charm was more than lacking at that stage of his life or as he puts it, “I was a jerk.”  He must have made a pretty strong impression, because Mindy still remembers to this day what he was wearing when they first met – a light blue I.O.U. chambray shirt and I.O.U. dark denim jorts!!!

This is the part of the film where our leading man must prove his enduring love to gain the affection of his soul mate.  (Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.)  Due to their fathers’ friendship, their families hung out regularly, but it wasn’t until after high school that they tested the dating waters.  Little did Victor know, Mindy was a little skeptical that he could change his bad boy attitude, and it would take a long time for him to break down that wall.

Their first date was December 16, 2002 (yes, he remembers this date all on his own!)  He had it all planned.  They’d go to the nicest restaurant in town and he would wine and dine her.  He called to give her the big news and she sighed, “Oh.”  “Would you rather do something else?” he asked.  “Well,” she confessed, “I was kind of craving Guinness and wings.”  So, of course, Victor obliged and every year to celebrate their first date anniversary they go out for the same pub fare.

Victor attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN and graduated the same year, and same major, as a then future player for another black and gold team – New Orleans quarterback, Drew Brees of Super Bowl fame!  Victor minces no words when he says he hates Indiana University, Purdue’s archrivals, with a passion.  After graduating college, Victor took an opportunity to work with U.S. Foods, which eventually brought him and Mindy to Nashville.  During his 13-week training and sampling the different foods offered by the company, Victor gained 38 lbs. and learned quickly the perils of his new job.  Now, he’s careful to not grab a handful when passing by the French fry bowl in his client’s kitchens.  Above all, he feels fortunate to be one of the lucky few who actually loves their job.

Victor and Mindy moved to Nolensville about three years ago and love the community.  They have an adorable son, Robert, and Victor hopes to make a Buffalo Bills fan out of him someday.  Earlier this year, their entire family took a trip to Disneyworld where Victor and Mindy ran their first ever marathons and Robert ran his first race, as well.  Before his son’s race, Victor leaned down and asked, “Do you want Daddy to run with you?”  Robert looked him in the eye and said, “Daddy, I got this!”  NRC NextGen has another member!

This marathon trip came not long after Victor and Mindy started running consistently.  Before than, they would make jaunts out when they could.  He recalls, back then, Mindy had a worse time of it than he did and would get the runner gripes after about a mile in.  That being said, Mindy was the first to start running races.  It was about 3 years ago, when Mindy came home and said she was going to run her first half marathon.  Victor was suspicious.  His doubts only ended up spurring her on to finish her training and he had to eat his words one mile at a time when she completed the Women’s Half!  Five months later, she paced him to his first half at the New Orleans Half Marathon.  Victor has great memories of that race and it was there that he got bit by the running bug.

Neilson Family 2014

One of his other favorite races was the 2014 Carmel Half Marathon, because of the enormous NRC support and our epic finish line!  He first heard about NRC from his wife.  She kept telling him he should go meet up with the club and he finally did about two summers ago.  Now Mindy is also a regular.  He was struck by the friendliness and camaraderie NRC extended to newcomers.  The friendships he has made are what it’s all about to him.  He laughed, “It could be called the Nolensville Sitting Club and I would come, because of the people.”  Victor doesn’t have any specific running goals.  He simply runs for fun and the companionship, and… to eat.  His favorite meal is pepperoni pizza and ice-cold Pepsi, not beer or Coke, Pepsi!  (It is the choice of a new generation.)

More than anything, he enjoys encouraging others out on runs.  He loves taking the time to talk with and urge on runners in races who have started walking and need support.  It is a great feeling when he can help someone to keep on going and he says that almost always those people will see him after the race and thank him for giving them the boost they needed.  He ran the Middle Half for himself and got a sub 2:00, but he would rather pace Mindy or others to meet their goals.

Looking into the future, Victor sees no more than one marathon a year.  When not training, he runs to maintain his mileage and stay Half Marathon ready.  When he’s not running, Victor has been working on his bucket list.  He was able to check off “See a European football game” when he traveled to Barcelona recently.  He’s gotten into Formula One Racing a lot lately and so he wants to drive a racecar one day, plus he’s fixing up his high school wheels, a 1970 El Camino, which will be appearing on Wednesday nights before long.  He also plans to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and hopefully, one day, see the Bills play in the Super Bowl.

If he had to pick an actor to play him in the movie of his life, Victor would choose Jim Carrey.  A joker himself, Victor admits he’s almost never serious, sometimes a little raunchy even, and always the first to go “there” in a conversation amongst friends over a few beers.  He’s a breath of fresh air and a sip of cold water (a cooler of ice water welcomes NRCers by his mailbox often on Wednesday nights) and we are blessed to have him!  Be sure to congratulate Victor on his newfound stardom the next time you see him at NRC!