3 Fun and Fit Ways Adults and Kids Stay Active in the Bull City

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Run with the Young Bulls

Eden Cooper completes her warmup stretches. Photo by Beth Mann

Ellen Moss stretches her arms up toward the high canopy of trees in Northgate Park. As she does, close to 80 kids mirror her movements.

“All right, arms out wide,” she says. “Good. We’re going to start with tiny shoulder circles. And we’re going to make them a little bigger. And a little bigger. And we’re going to make them as big as we possibly can. Oh, my gosh, look at those big arm circles. Great job, guys! And breathe. All right, we warmed up our upper body, now we got to warm up our legs, ’cause we’re going to need them, right? ’Cause we’re running!” 

The director of community engagement at Bull City Running Co., Ellen runs through this warmup at the park every Sunday for five weeks in the fall and spring as a part of Kids Run Durham, a running series for ages 4 to 12. It’s “my absolute favorite part of my job,” she says, and the kids are just as jazzed about being in the club. 

Isaac Bash, Phoebe Broache, Rosie Heet, Joseph Hall, Kareema El-Genk, Keelan Brown and Alejandra Gerardo take off during the 100-meter dash. Photo by Beth Mann

“Every day I look forward to coming here,” says Anderson Kenna, 10, who attends Immaculata Catholic School and is participating in Kids Run Durham for his second season. “I cannot wait until Sunday every week.” 

Will Coward, 13, has aged out of the program, but participated for five seasons. “I love it,” the Durham School of the Arts eighth- grader says. “It’s such a community. It’s great watching the times and seeing everyone’s times improve over the weeks.” Now he gets to cheer on his sister, Eloise Luetzow, 11, a Brogden middle schooler. 

More and more parents have discovered the positive benefits
of the series, now in its sixth year, which is meant to serve as an introduction to running in a safe, fun and encouraging environment. It’s almost a race itself to sign up for one of the coveted 120 spots when registration opens. “We put it on our calendar as soon as they announce it’s open so that we don’t miss it,” says Hussein El-Genk, dad to four Kids Run Durham runners: Zakariyya, 9, Ayyub, 8, Kareema, 5, and Rasheed, 4. “ The coaches do a great job,” adds his wife, Nashua Oraby. “[Teaching] a kid lessons like pacing themselves, stretching, good teamwork and sportsmanship.” 

Ada Huffman sprints across the finish line in the 100-meter dash. Photo by Beth Mann

Kids get personalized bibs and can choose to participate in the 100-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter or 1-mile race each Sunday. They are encouraged to try any and all distances, the only restriction being that the 100-meter dash is reserved for ages 6 and younger. 

“She did all four and adored it,” says Mary Cooper of her 4-year- old, Eden. “I was nervous that she wouldn’t be able to make it for the mile, but she ran the whole thing without stopping. She loved it. She’s been talking about it all week.” Mary and her husband, Patrick, along with many other parents and family members, stand alongside the race circuit, cheering and handing out high-fives. “We like the togetherness of it,” Mary says. “It’s something that we can do together on the weekends that she feels really good about and we can be here to support her.” 

As the kids wrap up their various races, parents congratulate their own children as well as others on runs well done and start to pack up their things. A pair of girls run alongside each other in one of the very last races, holding hands. Kids Run Durham is as much teaching kids the basics of running as it is teaching them other character-building lessons. 

Rhys Lockamy in the final stretch of the mile. Photo by Beth Mann

“He told me, after his first couple of runs, ‘You know, Mommy, I was scared but I did it anyway,’” says Crystal Weber of her 5-year- old, Abram. “And he has fallen down a couple of times and has gotten back up. [We got to see] how that impacted him – to have stuff not go right and see that it’s not the end of the world – and he’s been able to apply that lesson to other things. So this has been super awesome for him personally, too.” – Amanda MacLaren 

Go With the Flow

While Jessica teaches, she walks among the mats, giving out tips on technique to students. Photo by Beth Mann

You might not imagine that exercising and alcohol go hand in hand, but the trend of grabbing a drink post-workout can be found all across the Bull City these days. At Bull City Ciderworks and many other taprooms, yoga classes, pilates, running clubs and more are held right by the bar. No one is drinking a cider while they get their tree pose on. But many are staying afterward to treat themselves to a Sweet Carolina cider, Smooth Hoperator cider or one of the many other ciders.

Every Sunday at 10:45 a.m., sometimes 11 a.m. (they’re pretty relaxed about the start time), yoga instructor Jessica Collette and her husband, Aaron Berdanier, clear the cidery of its wooden picnic tables as participants slowly trickle in. 

“This class has been really special because of the type of people who come,” Aaron says. “It’s a good way for people who are curious about yoga and interested in yoga but aren’t totally into it yet to try it out. It’s a safe place for that. Another part of that is Jessica is a really welcoming teacher, too.” 

Jessica and Aaron have lived in the Lakewood neighborhood for seven years, and traditional yoga has always been a part of their journey in the Bull City. Jessica got certified to teach right before they moved here, and she originally taught at a studio near Southpoint. She left that studio a few years ago and committed to teaching donation-based classes at places like The Durham Hotel and apartment communities. She wanted to keep her classes a affordable and accessible – the Ciderworks class is just $12. But when she was asked to teach this unconventional class more than a year ago, she did have a few conflicting thoughts. 

“I like this class because it’s super laidback, but also rigorous,” Jessica says. Photo by Beth Mann

“The point of yoga is to find clarity and to open your mind and be clear and mindful, and then drinking alcohol is the opposite of that,” Jessica says. “It’s foggy, and it’s meant to soften the blow of the reality, whereas in yoga you’re trying to embrace it. But after teaching this class, the community aspect completely trumped all those negative assumptions.” 

The social component is a huge positive to Jessica, as attendees are encouraged to stick around after class – which purposefully ends right as the cidery opens – and socialize with one another. 

“The opportunity to sit after class and get to know the people that you took class with, just chat and have a conversation, is really unique,” Jessica says. “It’s not something we get to do normally, whether it’s with alcohol or not. at’s what makes this class better than a typical yoga studio class, where everybody just weaves out quickly and gets on with their day.” 

And the regular students agree. Talie Madans and her wife, Clare Evans, are there almost every Sunday. They return “for Jess,” Talie says, “ … and Aaron!” she adds. He calls himself Jessica’s “assistant,” and Jessica jokes that he’s the social one of the two. 

“It’s a vibe that you sometimes don’t get in yoga,” Clare says. “Everybody works at different levels, and you feel so cozy sitting next to one another. I love it. It’s a great way to start off Sunday, and you get a cider!” 

As Jessica says, yoga has been around thousands of years, as have beer and cider, too. It’s really a perfect pairing, and we don’t see this trend fizzing out any time soon. – Hannah Lee 

Mix It Up

Juliette Eck, Meredith Frey, Sophia Simpson, Roberta Drewry, Dena Hanna, Amy Berchuck, Sue Concannon, Ann Taylor and Jennifer Thompson at the Al Buehler trailhead. Photo by Beth Mann

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a chilly Sunday morning, and a group of nine women have gathered in the middle of a parking lot at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, near the start of the Al Buehler Trail. Their ages range from 47 to 67, and their energy is infectious. 

“It’s the morning, we haven’t had our coffee yet,” jokes Roberta Drewry, who used to run track at UC Berkeley, after the women try to answer one of my questions at the same time. 

Running together for the past 14 years (for some, a few years less), as you might imagine, has made these women from varying backgrounds and careers very close. 

“We have a team name,” says Jennifer Thompson, who teaches high school English at the Hill Learning Center. “It’s Trail Mix. It’s because we’re a mix of people, and we run on the trail.” 

“But you told me when I first came, it’s because some of us are sweet and some of us are salty, and that’s why we’re trail mix,” says Ann Taylor, the official walker of the group. 

“I’m spicy,” says Meredith Frey, who recently moved to Indianapolis but comes back every now and then to squeeze in a run with the women. 

“This is our home base. You can always find somebody every morning,” one of the women chimes in. 

“Or after school,”says another. That’s how many in the group met – through their kids who were in class together at Durham Academy

The run also serves as an easy way for the women of Trail Mix to catch up with one another. Photo by Beth Mann

The group is something special – most run, some jog or walk, sometimes it’s for 30 minutes, and sometimes they go 90 minutes – but they’ve developed a bond and sense of trust and comfort with one another, becoming good friends through a mutual desire to stay active. Whether it’s 15 or two women, there is always someone from Trail Mix on the Al Buehler Trail every day, morning or afternoon. 

“You don’t run hundreds of miles with people without getting to understand one another,” says Jeanne Murray, who came late that morning. (Everyone still waited for her before starting out, of course.) 

Juliette Eck, the unofficial organizer, ensures everyone knows where to run and when – usually that’s 7 a.m. in the summer and 8 a.m. during the school year. And when the ladies get there, Roberta is often the one coaching her friends, whether that’s doing sprints or drills, or even checking on their technique. 

Their relationships have grown outside of running, too. Jeanne
is a board member of Families Moving Forward, and others
are board members of Book Harvest and Latino Educational Achievement Partnership (LEAP). They all try to go to one another’s events, raise money and support their causes. 

“I think that the biggest characteristic of the group is we’re always cheering each other on,” Jeanne says.

It’s why Trail Mix continues to grow both in numbers – there’s now almost 30 members – and in spirit. – Hannah Lee 

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Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is the assistant editor at Durham Magazine. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, she attended UNC-Chapel Hill and double majored in broadcast journalism and German.

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