Doing several kinds of good simultaneously

FITNESS PROFILE

Exercise: Covering quite a few bases at one time is the Running/Walking/ Eating/ Volunteering Club.

Health & Fitness

May 07, 2000|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,Special to the Sun

It's a sunny Saturday morning at Loch Raven Reservoir, and the Running/ Walking/Eating/Volunteering Club is admiring the scenery as they gather at Sander's Corner restaurant.

Some members of the group are training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and will run a nine-mile course. Others will walk anywhere from two miles to nine miles. After that, they will return to Sander's Corner for brunch.

The group was started more than a year ago by Mark Brody, 32, who lives in Mount Washington. Every week, he picks a different locally owned restaurant that serves breakfast, maps out a walking/running course and sends an e-mail to 450 people.

Usually, at least 30 people show up, and the group's members vary from week to week. About every six weeks, the group undertakes a volunteer project, and often 100 people turn out to help.

"The first week we did this, I put together a six-mile course," Brody says. "I had to throw it in the trash -- not a person could run six miles."

Almost everyone walked in the beginning. Brody asked the group how far they could run. One member said she thought if she had to, she could run to her car. Now, a few couch potatoes have become avid runners.

But even as some train for marathons, others are attracted to the group because they can ease into fitness -- and meet new people along the way.

Brody observes, "The best way to meet people is when you're sweaty."

Although he's a runner, Brody says he had an ulterior motive when he started the club.

"We're a volunteer organization masquerading as a running club," he says. "I always wanted to volunteer, and I thought, 'How can I get into it?' "

He started the club in October 1998, and the first two months focused on exercise and brunch. The third month, he picked Movable Feast (now Maryland Community Kitchen) as the gathering spot, and after running or walking, the group returned to volunteer, preparing food for homebound people with AIDS.

Since then, the group has done volunteer work for the Associated, Habitat for Humanity and Share Baltimore, which is part of Catholic Charities.

One problem is finding a volunteer event that needs so many people at once, Brody says. A soup kitchen may be overwhelmed by 100 volunteers.

Brody used to have an insurance and investment business, but now he is working as a consultant under a grant for the area's Jewish community.

"I'm 32 years old and single and Jewish; so that's who I know," he says. "But I wanted to expand this," he adds, explaining that he is eager to recruit people of all faiths and backgrounds.

There are no fees to join the club, and Brody eventually would like to gain nonprofit status.

"I'm absolutely amazed by what we've been able to accomplish on a budget of zero," he says.

Club member and runner Steve Rifkin says, "I never thought I would be running until I joined this thing, and now I'm training for a relay in a marathon."

The Running/Walking/Eating/ Volunteering group meets every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., no matter what the weather, at locations around Baltimore. A volunteer project takes place about every six weeks.

"If the weather's terrible," Brody says, "show up and eat."

To get on the mailing list for the club, send an e-mail to Brody at brodymark@yahoo.com.

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