‘Turtles’ bringing folks off couch to Turkey Trot

Liz Manning, front, and Carole Colbaugh train on the Turkey Trot course Saturday. Photo by Jeff Keeling

Liz Manning, front, and Carole Colbaugh train on the Turkey Trot course Saturday. Photo by Jeff Keeling

By Lance White

Editors note: Members of the Tri-Cities Turtles, an informal running club, have taken several dozen local folks under their flippers for a Couch To 5K journey toward next Thursday’s Turkey Trot. Mark Rowe, a C25K veteran himself, is leading the group and says if he can do it, anyone can. His story is below. 

Mark Rowe’s story begins as an uphill struggle, but support from his family helped to push him off the couch into running distances he never would have imagined. Several years ago, Rowe’s daughter Madelyn asked him to run a 5-kilometer race in Lexington, Kentucky.  Rowe weighed about 400 pounds at the time.  Needless to say, he did not feel like lining up to begin with.

“My daughter was in this group, Girls on the Run, and she came home to me one day and said that I had to run with her,” Rowe said.  “I realized I needed a change in my life because I couldn’t go run with her in that race.”

Rowe didn’t just hop out of bed one day and decide to run. He entered into a Couch to 5K program in Lexington. This is a program designed to assist people living less-than-active lifestyles to ease into exercising.  Rowe was uncertain upon approaching such a task.

“I would go running very early in the day when I started out, around 4 a.m. actually. I didn’t want people to see me and think I was dying,” Rowe said with a grin.

Rowe completed his training, then ran his first race in Lexington and completed the course.  He didn’t place in the top three for his age division, but he was happy to have been able to run the course at all.  His daughters and his wife, Jenn, are proud and very supportive of his newfound love of running.

“My wife will push me out of the house sometimes if I haven’t been running lately,” Rowe said.  “I get cranky if I don’t get those endorphins.  She can’t run all the time because of the kids, but I always have someone to run with if I want in the Tri-Cities Turtles.”

The Tri-Cities Turtles are not all slow.  Rowe attributes the name of the group less to the speed of the animal, but instead to its persistence.  The Turtles’ Facebook page consists of about 400 members, and they’re still growing.  They have several different groups that are rated by how quickly they can run.

People who may want to join the group shouldn’t feel like they would hold everyone up, regardless of their current fitness levels. They can contact a member of the Turtles on their Facebook page.  Rowe insists that if contacted, someone will respond and help to place new runners with a friendly and helpful group.

“No turtle runs alone,” Rowe said.  “That’s something we take very seriously – if you want to run with someone, there will be someone to run with you.”

When Rowe’s journey began in Lexington, his physician scolded him during a routine physical. The doctor was concerned to find that he had been doing so much strenuous exercise considering his weight.  Later, Rowe returned for another physical.

“When I went back, the doctor just said to forget what he had said about the exercise,” Rowe said.  “He told me to keep doing whatever it was I was doing, so I kept running.”



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