When Skip Brand opened the Healdsburg Running Co. in Healdsburg in December 2014, he saw the company expanding to help the town become “one of the healthiest towns in the nation.” And then, he started hearing from the women.
“I spent time listening instead of talking,” said Brand, “and what I heard was that women wanted a night of their own.”
Now the Healdsburg Running Ladies has more than 200 members, with their own group runs and their own Facebook page. They meet and run every Tuesday at 6 p.m., starting at the store at 333 Center St. Each Tuesday has a theme, such as “retail therapy,” foot massage, henna tattoos and a local restaurant meal. The last Tuesday of each month is a “Pub Run,” during which they run to a local winery or brewery. The pub run includes all the running company’s groups.
Last month’s runs included a scavenger hunt and live music from Speed of Sound, a “Run Pink” for breast cancer awareness and a run in demo Hoka One One shoes, followed by massages from Nomadic Massage by Teresa. Members ran in costume during the monthly pub run, stopping to trick or treat at Comstock, Mauritson and Wilson wineries on their way to the Dry Creek General Store.
All runs are free, but costs may be involved for the events afterward.
Each week, 50 to 60 of the 225 women show up for the run, and walkers are always welcomed. They take different routes developed to get them to the runners’ destination at roughly the same time.
Kim Aganon Neal, 46, spearheads the group. Her high energy and running background make her a perfect fit.
“Kim is a long-standing local, with great fitness credentials,” said Brand. Neal is a soccer player, runner, personal trainer and fitness boot camp leader.
“Women want to get away from home, get exercise and have a good time,” she said. The group also includes women training for races. On the evening runs in the waning light of fall, the women wear headlamps and carry flashlights.
“A lot of the women have become fast friends,” said Neal. “I’ll see them out riding bikes together and getting together socially.”
Patty Donatiello, 45, runs and walks with her friend, Penny O’Dell. Both have 4-year-old twins.
“I joined because the Healdsburg Running Co. had an event at our place in June,” said Donatiello, whose husband owns C. Donatiello Winery at 320 Center St.
At the other end of the spectrum is Tiffany Bellize, 39. She’s a coach and physical education teacher at Alexander Valley School.
“I started when the store opened,” said Bellize.
Members of the Tuesday ladies’ group represent all paces, strengths, shapes and sizes, all of whom support rather than compete with each other. Bellize is working to run “40 races by 40,” she said, starting three years ago with marathons and half-marathons.
So far this year, she has run 26 races.
Bellize said she runs for “stress relief,” favoring the trail runs at Lake Sonoma or over Fitch Mountain.
While members have not yet run as a team for Healdsburg Running Co., Neal does not rule that out in the future.
The Healdsburg Running Co. hosts two weekly events in addition to the Healdsburg Running Ladies: a Thursday Family Fun Run that includes picnics, barbecues and ice cream runs; and trail runs that start at selected trail heads at 8 a.m. each Saturday. Well-behaved dogs often walk and run on leash with their owners.