Thursday, December 21, 2017


If you’re an aspiring actor, you’ll likely make your way to Los Angeles. If country music is your jam, Nashville is your place. But, if you want to try your hand at professional running, chances are that you’ll pass through Flagstaff at some point. And for those of us lucky enough to call this place home, we get to reap the benefits that attract runners from around the world – thin mountain air, pristine trails, and a community of runners fostered by Team Run Flagstaff (TRF).

Since 2006, runners of all ages and abilities have been gathering at a local track on Tuesday nights for a low-stress, structured workout led by professional coaches. Coaches like TRF Founder Mike Smith (he also serves as the current Board President), the NCAA National Men’s Coach of the Year of the two-time National Cross Country Champion NAU Lumberjacks. At one time, it was a big deal to get 10 or 20 runners out to a practice, but today, TRF is 250 members strong and has a variety of programs and events. Cristy and I sat down with Mike and our good friend Erin Strout, the TRF Executive Director, to learn more.

Community Program
The bread and butter of TRF, Tuesday night track practices are a mainstay in this community. I love that the workouts are structured by time, which means that if you’re running a 60-second “all out” pace, one person might make it all the way around the track, another might make it halfway, and you just end up where you end up. Running is an activity with a lot of judgment on it, and this method creates a safer environment. It’s just as inspiring to see someone with Olympic dreams fly by, as it is to see the person who is new to the sport chasing their own personal goals.

Kids Run Flagstaff (KRF)
In a town full of runners, it’s only natural that kids would start gravitating to the sport. The year-round KRF program is for 5th-12th graders and is designed to create an environment where kids are having fun running and instilling a lifelong love of the sport. Although KRF is non-competitive, they are committed to supporting the runners who want to be competitive and they are careful not to interfere with the school running programs. The KRF program is relaunching in January with a new coach, so stay tuned. One thing that won’t change….the amazing Under Armour sponsorship that gifts each KRF participant with $400 of gear!

Step into Running 
When I moved to Flagstaff 10 years ago, my lungs and self-confidence were not ready for Flagstaff running. Through the wonders of social media, I “met” Erin on Twitter, and decided to make my foray back into running by meeting her in real life at Step into Running. I am so proud of everything Erin and TRF have done with this program, which is ideal for adult beginner runners, or those who have been away from the sport for a while. It doesn’t matter if you run a 5-minute mile or a 12-minute mile, you are a runner, and Step into Running reinforces that message. It’s offered twice a year in six-week sessions, and includes SO much more than just the running – nutrition, flexibility, strength, etc.

TRF Pro 
These are the runners who come to Flagstaff with a dream, and TRF Pro gives these elite professionals an opportunity to pursue that dream and connect with this community. I’ll never forget showing up to a track practice and having Nick Arciniaga lead us in warmups. He had just placed 7th in the Boston Marathon. How cool is that? There are stories like that all over this town, and these TRF Pro runners are making a mark on our community

Downtown Mile

Lenners Family at the 2017 Downtown Mile
I don’t have a legacy in many things in my life, but this is one that I’m so proud of….I’ve completed every TRF Fourth of July Downtown Mile since the race inception in 2012. I’d be hard-pressed to think of another community event I love more. Our whole family (even our six-year-old) dons our best red, white, and blue to take on the mile race through the streets of downtown Flagstaff. If you haven’t experienced this one, it should be part of your new holiday tradition!

We’re about to put a bow on 2017, and for many of us, it was an emotionally taxing roller coaster that would sometimes slow down, but never really stopped. “It’s a really crucial time for everybody to take care of themselves,” Mike said about the times we’re living in right now. He added, “you can’t do any good in society if you don’t take care of yourself.” So, lace up those running shoes and practice some self care

How to Help:

Membership: Buying a membership is the number one way to support TRF. For just $125/year you get to be involved in supportive and dynamic running community, with professional coaches to boot. There are even some local elite athletes who buy memberships to support the club, but never come to track practice because it doesn’t work with their training schedule.

Cash Donations: Donations will be used for TRF programming, and one of the most urgent needs is a paid coaching position for KRF.  You can easily make an online donation (or buy a membership) here:

Sponsorships: The Downtown Mile is an incredible opportunity to get exposure for your business, so consider becoming a sponsor. Or, if you know a kid whose family might not be able to afford KRF, consider offering them a sponsorship.

Volunteer: Programs like the Downtown Mile and Step into Running are always in need of volunteers to make things run smoothly!

For more information about any of these opportunities, visit, and like their Facebook page!

The Zeller kids leave their mom in the dust at the 2016 Downtown Mile

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