Mt. Pleasant Striders
by Ron Marinucci, Dec. 1, 2009
Mt. Pleasant Striders
“We’re not the biggest running club,” said Harry Plouff. In fact, the Mt. Pleasant Striders may not be one of the biggest running clubs in Michigan, but in terms of enthusiasm and activities, they take a back seat to nobody.
Plouff (pronounced “pluff”) is on the MPS advisory team, serving as club historian and “Web master of the club Web site.” He was on the ground floor of the Striders’ birth, 26 years ago. He recalled that beginning, “At an early Mt. Pleasant race, too many people showed up.” Well, “too many” wasn’t bad and the race went off, but the outcome left much to be desired. “Some of us realized we needed some kind of structure” for more organized and manageable events. “A lot of us had been running for a while and had participated in races all over the state.”
“Oh, probably eight of us met at my home. We talked about [forming] a running club. But we didn’t want to compete with the big races around the state.” To gauge interest, they decided to hold “a public meeting at the local junior high.” Plouff hesitated for an instant before finishing with a bit of a chuckle, “More than a hundred people showed up!”
Now, those 26 years later, Plouff said there are “180 active members” of the Mt. Pleasant Striders. “But,” he added, “those are just heads of households. Including other family members, we have over 250 members, close to 300.”
The Strider Web site lists 18 events that are sponsored by the club. The recent Run the Mt. 5K attracted “over 200 people.”
“We wanted a family-oriented group,” he stressed. Although the fun runs are competitive, each race has an accompanying walk. For instance, he noted that the annual Dickens Run at Christmas includes the Candy Cane Crawl.
In warmer weather, on the second Wednesday of every month, the Striders host the Doozy Ice Cream series. “It’s free for Strider members and a buck for nonmembers. Everyone gets a ‘Doozy buck’ for an ice cream. It’s low-key,” Plouff explained, “but there’s some serious racing, too.”
Many of the fun runs are simply timed, with a big clock at the finish. After a race, “we sit around for hours and talk. It’s a social activity.”
The Striders organize some group runs, too. A long run, from six to twelve miles, on Sundays will attract a dozen or more people. Once a week, Monday or Wednesday, some Striders will show up at 7:30 AM for a “Max and Emily run,” the local coffee shop serving as the post-run gathering spot.
To encourage members to run in the harsh mid-Michigan winters, there is the “300 Mile Club.” Striders who run 300 miles from December through February get special recognition at the spring banquet. There is also a Winter Running Series at Max and Emily’s, where, Strider president Tracy Collins noted, members will find “running…fellowship, great coffee, and piping hot scones.”
“We have a neat relationship with CMU [Central Michigan University] and the [Chippewa] Tribe,” Plouff added. There’s a CMU representative, Kennen White, on the Strider Advisory Team.
The Chippewa Tribe also has a representative, Walt Kennedy. “We work with them to put on two races a year,” said Plouff, the Human Race and the Run on the Reservation. The Reservation Run includes 1-mile and 5K races “and then a huge meal afterward. One of the tribal members makes awards in the shape of a huge feather; he carves them by hand!”
The Striders have their fun, but also have a more serious side, a solid commitment to running. Earlier this summer, when the heat hit Michigan, Plouff said, “We, a core of people, ran halves [at the local high school track] in 92-degree heat. We have people willing to do that.” And, the next morning, some of those runners met to get in a trail run.
Some club sponsorship comes from The Runner’s Store, known locally as “Runners.” “We wear their shirts at different races,” often running as a team at events such as the Great Lakes Relay and Dances with Dirt.
“We used to run the Randy Step races, Port Huron to Mackinaw and Novi to Mackinaw. We’d take kids’ teams from Mt. Pleasant High School. We still do Dances with Dirt and the Great Lakes Relay.” With the age handicap at Dances, “one year we finished second overall, out of more than 300 teams.”
Plouff noted, “20 or 30 of us do a lot of marathons.” As of June, he said, “I’ve done six this year.” Several Striders are aiming at two elite marathoning groups, “The 50-State Club” and “The 7-Continent Club.” Stan Curtiss (72), Brian Doty (61), Plouff (61), and his son Ben are now “working toward ‘50-States.’” There are some others, but injuries have hampered their progress.
“We travel a lot; we’re fortunate to be able to do that. We went to China and Africa together [for the ‘Continents Club]. We’re in this together. It makes it nice, especially with my son.”
Plouff, for instance, recently returned from the Inca Trail Marathon in South America, with the finish at the ruins of Machu Picchu. “It was grueling, starting at 8,000 feet [elevation] along a river. Within the first six miles, we went up to 14,000 feet. The winner, from New Zealand, finished in 6 hours and 3 minutes.” He added, “I’ve got two to go, Antarctica and Australia. I’m on the waiting list for Antarctica.”
The Mt. Pleasant Striders, all 200-300 members strong, seem to be getting it right, finding the perfect combination of fun and commitment. As Plouff echoed, “We’re not the biggest running club, but we’ve been around for 26 years.”
Strider information, including events, can be found online at HYPERLINK www.edzone.net/~mphsstr/ or by Googling Mt. Pleasant Striders.