NRC Runners of the Month – Alfred Eller and Jeff Mucci

There are some pretty amazing people among those rarely spotted on NRC’s Facebook page and behind the scenes of NRC events. This month we’re excited to get to know a little more about two long-time NRCers, Alfred Eller and Jeff Mucci, who have individually done more for the club than you might realize.

Alfred Eller

Alfred was born in Macon, GA and grew up cheering on the Bulldogs every Saturday with his Mom, Dad and younger brother, Adam. He was, and is, a huge Georgia fan and has continued the tradition using his MacGyver-like skills to broadcast games even when on location for running events such as Ragnar, Ragnar Trails and the NRC Holiday Party! Not all of his NRC friends are Georgia fans and there can be some serious smack talk out on runs, but Alfred does his best to stay true to the saying, “Friends don’t let friends wear orange.”

In high school, pretty much the only running Alfred (or Frado, as his friends call him) did was from marching band, jazz band or concert band rehearsal to class, but he could play a mean trumpet! A little hidden talent trivia – he practiced so much that he actually learned how to make a ping pong ball stay hovering over his lips just from buzzing the air! (This could add a whole new challenge to our NRC party games!)

Alfred went from Macon to Atlanta before accepting the offer from his then employer, Publix, to open their first store in Franklin, Tennessee in 2002. Then, in 2006, a girl named Rachel who lived in his apartment complex caught his eye. He asked her out on a date and in his trademark, tendency to over-prepare, he scoured her MySpace page (did I mention this was ’06?) and saw that she liked sushi and well planned dates – so plan well, he did.

He picked a nice seafood restaurant in The Cascades of the Opryland Hotel complete with a live new age band set into the landscape with (I am not kidding) each musician playing on their own lily pad! Awkwardly, dinner was a hit in more ways than one – they were just getting to know each other when they were hit on by a couple of swingers, which ended up being a big laugh!

Then after dinner, they went to the adjoining bar for a drink. They’d been sitting there for a while and Rachel kept giving Alfred suspicious looks, thinking something in her drink was making her dizzy. Finally she figured out, that fancy Opryland bar was rotating! They made it through the first date and became inseparable!

With the historic backdrop of the Union Station Hotel, Alfred and Rachel were married. Together they have two amazingly bright and funny boys, Kingston and Beckett, who represent NRC NexGen at races and events throughout the year. In fact, Kingston completed all of the NRC Grand Prix races this year along with Mom and Dad, to receive a Streaker Award and both boys crushed the NRC 31 day Winter Streaker challenge! They love spending time with their cousins, taking family trips and outdoor excursions from camping to kayaking.

Working retail and all the time spent on his feet used to serve Alfred well as its own training program. He ran sporadically in the past, but in 2011 he got more serious about it. That was also about the time that the running group he and Rachel were meeting with downtown disbanded. As a result of intense Facebook stalking of the NRC page, Rachel decided to show up at Martin’s to try NRC for a run. She quickly got Alfred to come out too and the rest is history.

Since then, Alfred has completed 6 half marathons, tons of Ragnar and Ragnar Trail races and even more 5Ks and 10Ks. Out of all of those races, Ragnar Chicago is way high on the list of must-runs for its part road/part trails course with beautiful scenery and amazing beachfront finish line and tiki bar! Another favorite race is the Heroes in Recovery in Leipers Fork, which the Eller clan took part in as a family. He’s also a pro at spectating races with both boys in tow!

Alfred jokes that he’s Chairman of the NRC Volun”told” committee for social events and races! Alfred enjoys supporting Rachel, who is in charge of organizing NRC events and he is always willing to pitch in when NRC needs a hand.

The NRC Holiday Party is his favorite annual event. Why? It’s one of the only times to hang out with NRCers and their non-running significant others in real clothes! He’s helped with them all, but a special memory he’ll never forget is catching a glimpse of the graceful dance moves of Roy and Dar Tamez silhouetted in front of the white lights of the Christmas tree one year.

As for goals, he touts the NRC Grand Prix as a big help with his current focus, improving his 5K from a 31-minute to a 27-minute time. (Nice work, man!) One day he hopes to travel out west to complete the Ragnar Zion. His positive personality just fits Ragnar, plus he digs the team aspect of the relay and doing his part to make it to the finish line.

Alfred can’t say enough about the good things happening with NRC. Especially coming from out of state to Nashville he appreciates how, through NRC, there is always someone you can trust to help give advice, running related or otherwise. This is not something he takes for granted, and we certainly don’t take him for granted either!

For all the ways you have helped NRC over the years and your ability to help lift up others, we are so grateful to have Alfred Eller as a member of NRC!

ALFRED ELLER – ROTM SPEED ROUND

Favorite scary movie: Rachel and I have seen all the SAW movies together

Favorite Halloween treat: the “taxes” we exact from our kids candy

Hobbies: Golf, sporting events, getting outdoors; I’m also a Cub Scout leader for the boys’ troop and volunteer regularly at their school.

_______________________________________

Jeff Mucci

If this NRCer had to do a marathon down a frozen river in ice skates, he’d probably medal. Born and raised in St. Louis, a city known for its hot bbq and cool hockey team, Jeff Mucci started skating when he was 3 years old and grew up on the rink. He played soccer and baseball, too; but hockey was king. He was on teams all the way through high school, coached for 10 years, and still plays when he can. Even now, there’s a special kind of escape he can only find on the ice rink; one that running can’t cure.

Jeff says the camaraderie of hockey is a lot like the close friendships he’s made through the running club.  Whether it’s the road or the rink, all different personalities come together to support each other and do good things for the community. But not all running clubs are as philanthropic as NRC.

“It’s great that the club has a focus on charity work,” says Jeff. “The generosity of NRC is overwhelming. Plus, where else can you run through a high-five line of 20-30 people and have members who are not even running a race come out to spectate and volunteer, like at the Flying Monkey and our local NRC races!”

Prior to moving Nolensville, Jeff attended Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) in Springfield, MO. While earning his degree, he also earned a special place in the heart of the newly crowned Apple Butter Queen, Miss Wendy Cook. Jeff just happened to live in a co-ed dorm where Wendy was R.A., as well as a reporter for their school paper. Little did Jeff know that his favorite column (the one he was clipping and sending in the mail to his long-distance girlfriend) was written by Wendy.

Not until the paper started adding headshots of their writers did he piece it all together and get the nerve to call out to her as she was passing by one night in the stairwell of the dorm. It would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship and his words will forever go down in Mucci family history: “Hey, Miss Apple Butter Queen!”

Jeff and Wendy have four amazing children who each excel in their endeavors! Maddie (24), Josh (21), Nick (19) and Max (12). When Jeff’s not running, he loves to camp and boat with the family. One of his most memorable family trips was when the whole crew flew to Vegas, then hit the road to sightsee their way to San Diego and up the coast and back. It was 14 days of pure, Mucci family hilarity and quality bonding. Now, with their older children out of the house, they will have even more reasons to hit the road and explore along the way!

By trade, Jeff is a retirement planner and enjoys helping people attain their future goals, but you may not know that it’s his neighborly voice you hear in every local Financial Engines commercial on the radio!

For the last 8 years, Jeff has been Race Director for the Change for a Chance 5K, working with a dedicated team of volunteers. Eventually the race became the goal race of the NRC Couch to 5K Training Program, and just this past year, was officially adopted by NRC! The now NRC Nolensville 5K has raised over $60,000 for individuals in need. That’s not including this year’s $7000 donation to the Nolensville High School.

“At first we thought it would be cool to make the 5K course hilly, like a badge of honor,” laughs Jeff. “After the feedback from the first race year, we learned pretty quick we were wrong. So, we changed the course to make it flatter and then, of course, NRC and the C25K was a big reason we were successful.”

As for his personal running story, there was a time when a 5K would have totally ruined Jeff Mucci’s day. Like literally, he would run 3 miles and be sore and exhausted the next 24. He’d been running off and on for 10 years before he decided in 2012 to really get in shape and get serious about running.

Wendy, who continues to be his biggest motivator, had been running with NRC and encouraged him to join, which may or may not have involved pushing him out the door on a Wednesday night. He loved the social aspect of it and since he knew Scott and other NRCers through his work with Change for a Chance, he took the opportunity to learn from their knowledge and experiences to help him improve.

He has run with lots of inspiring NRCers through the years, including Jimmy Stitt who kept him laughing through his first half marathon and Ray Sadler who braved early dawns to help him get his miles in prepping for Chicago this year.  Jeff is also famous for his part in the amazing NRC baby Scott photo (see right).

In 2015, Jeff ran his first ever marathon, the St. Jude’s Marathon in Memphis, TN. He still remembers the incredible feeling of achieving his goal and how moving it was seeing the cheering faces of the children of St. Jude’s as he passed through the hospital section of the course.

He just recently completed his second 26.2, the Chicago Marathon, and in spite of the heat had an amazing time complete with a PBR break and selfies! Just a week after, he piled into a van to run Bourbon Chase 2017 with 11 other NRC over-achievers. As races go, Jeff holds the Heroes in Recovery race in Leipers Fork in high regard. He has done it every year, even getting his oldest, Maddie, and youngest, Max, to run with him.

Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon is a Mucci tradition. Jeff and Wendy have been meeting long time friends from AL and SC at Ridgecrest for many years for this race (well food and laughter too!) Then, started sharing it with NRC, because of it’s beauty and location. Now, NRC takes quite a few podium spots at this race!

While he has played hockey his whole life and has never lost a tooth or broken a bone, in his 10 years running he’s had two surgeries! A foot surgery, he jokingly calls the Kelli Alexander foot surgery, and a repair of his MCL. What he learned is that it is critical to take your time and to not push it getting back into running.

“Every time, you will come back stronger,” says Jeff. “But, it’s easy to run too much with all the NRC Kool-Aid being passed around.”

Belied by his cool, calm and collected attitude, he admits rarely does he NOT look like death in race pictures! Jeff says he’s looking to do more destination races, from a half marathon in Vegas this April, to just picking a cool city/race and having fun.

More than anything, he plans to keep his base up, stay injury free, and give back to other NRCers by helping them train for their big races. He may just join you on a run, so be sure to congratulate him on NRCer of the Month!

JEFF MUCCI – ROTM SPEED ROUND

Favorite Scary Movie: JAWS, it still affects me

Favorite Halloween Candy: $100 Grand Bars

Hobby: Golf, my handicap has gone up with each kid, but my Dad and Grandfather taught me growing up and it’s a tradition

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