Sports Columns

February 3, 2013

Doug Hawley: Zimmerman has major goals for running club

Erica Zimmerman has made a strong impact in a short time with the Carpet Capital Running Club.

In less than two years as part of the organization, Zimmerman already is its new president. She took the gavel from Jennifer Cooley during the club’s annual banquet, held recently at Dalton Golf and Country Club.

“Increasing the membership and getting more people involved in the community are my primary goals,” said Zimmerman, a senior credit analyst at Oriental Weavers. “We want to promote more healthy lifestyles.”

Heading into the new year, the club has 180 members.

“We certainly can get 200 members,” Zimmer-man said confidently. “Maybe 225.”

She is seeking to reach a more diverse group of people, in particular the area’s Hispanic residents. As evidenced by area racing results, there certainly are quality Hispanic runners, who have done well both within their age groups and overall.

All club members will be motivated once again to seek Runner of the Year honors, which are given in several different divisions. Points are accumulated by way of 14 designated events that range from 2 miles to the marathon. That competition starts on March 14 with a 2-mile event, the 26th annual running of the first (and maybe only) St. Patrick’s Day Race; the competition starts and finishes at Christ Church Presbyterian in Dalton.

“Those honors would not be possible without the hard work of those that give their time to volunteer,” Zimmerman said. “Therefore, we again will give Volunteer of the Year awards.”

Zimmerman saw good things from club members last year.

“Participation in the various weekly morning runs, monthly ice cream socials, quarterly adopt-a-mile, as well as our fall dinner was tremendous,” Zimmerman said. “I hope that everyone continues to be involved in our fun social events this year as these are great times to meet other members and enjoy nonstop running/talking.”

She will be surrounded on the board of directors by three former presidents — Greg Bruner, Randall Godfrey and the aforementioned Cooley.

A 1990 graduate of Dalton High, Zimmerman did not compete as an athlete for the school. She was in the marching band, though.

“I had been running off and on for several years before participating in my first race, the Silver Bell Sprint (5K) in 2005,” said Zimmerman, who was 32 at the time. “I was hooked. I started checking the CCRC website’s calendar for future races.

“I really didn’t have many friends that ran, so I often ran solo but was always looking for running companions. Running several local 5K races, I started recognizing faces of others that seemed to be regulars as well, made some friends and accepted invites to run the much recognized ‘Loop.’”

With her training now including the 4.15-mile “Loop” on Tibbs Road, Walnut Avenue and College Drive, and after running some 5Ks and 10Ks, Zimmerman decided to lengthen the distance.

“I took the plunge and ran my first half marathon, the Chickamauga Half in June 2009, to be followed by several more half marathons,” she said. “That included all three Dalton Half Marathons. During the 2012 Dalton Half, I ran as an ‘angel’ alongside Mike Andersen and Alan Haigler and our captain, Rick Davis, for the My Team Triumph organization.

“That is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience events such as triathlon or road races.”

She also joined the marathon club, tackling a 26.2-mile race for the first time.

“After training with an amazing group of friends, I ran my first marathon in 2011, again making Chickamauga my first marathon,” Zimmerman said. “Last year, our training group traveled to Washington D.C. to run the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.”

She has logged personal best times of 4:27 and 1:59 in the marathon and half marathon, respectively.

After she and her husband, Chris, joined the Carpet Capital Running Club, they created a Facebook group known as the Dalton Area Runners in 2011 to help bring the local running community closer.

“Members of this group post questions, concerns and announce upcoming running events,” Zimmerman said. “Occasionally we maybe choose a race in Atlanta or Chattanooga, car pool and make a day of it. What started as 10 to 20 friends has grown to more than 300 members who support and encourage each other on a daily basis.”

She and her husband also enjoy cycling.

“We enjoy participating in group rides with friends that we have met through Dalton Area Cycling,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a Facebook group that has benefited the bicycling community. We borrowed their idea to create the DAR.”

In the midst of an anticipated busy year as president of the CCRC, Zimmerman plans to compete this year in her first triathlon, which includes running, cycling and swimming.

Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at dhawley@optilink.us.

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