by Stephanie Miller
If you’ve run a 5K in the Asheville area, chances are you’ve seen two ladies dressed in matching outfits with smiles on their faces looking like they’re having the time of their lives. They may be wearing tu-tus and tiaras, glow-in-the-dark running skirts, or the traditional dirndl.
Wherever you see them running, you can bet that Kim Walker, 64, and Melissa Drennan, 49, are bringing the fun.
“You can pretty much run in anything, even a coconut bra,” said Melissa. “Just make sure the costume doesn’t chafe.”
This comment is followed by laughter from both ladies, who have been running together in various costumes since 2014. I myself have seen them at various running events in the Asheville area, and my curiosity about their story has grown with every new costume I’ve seen. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting both Kim and Melissa at the YMCA to hear all about it. Their smiles are infectious as we talked about their ongoing friendship, running, and their love for costumes (and beer).
“I love the camaraderie,” said Kim. “I’ve met so many wonderful women through running that I wouldn’t necessarily have met. I thank Melissa for getting me back into running.”
Melissa convinced Kim to sign up for the Highland Night Flight about five years ago. Kim was a mountain biker and hadn’t been running much, but she loved the idea of a glow-in-the-dark type run …and also the beer at the end.
“We loved the glow in the dark idea,” Kim said, then adds: “What can I say? Beer, darkness, glow in the dark… we’re in!”
After that race, they kept the running and beer theme going and joined Race to the Taps. Then, it was on to the Cooper River Bridge Run, the Trick or Trail 5K, Thomas Wolfe 8K, the Resolution Run, the downtown Turkey Trot, Light Up the Night 5K…They estimate they’ve run about 24 races together.
“About two cases of beer-ish,” added Kim, and they laugh again.
I’m starting to think that I want to dress up in costume and run with these ladies.
“Everyone is so encouraging,” said Melissa. “When you’re in costume, so many people want to talk to you. It’s very supportive and fun. And so encouraging.”
From Couch to 5K
Melissa didn’t start running until she was in her 30s. A former verified couch potato, she started running on her own and signed up for 5ks to stay motivated. The support from others made her realize that not everyone needs to run a 6 minute mile to be viewed as a “runner.”
“Everyone is so supportive no matter what your skill level is,” Melissa said. Kim smiled and nodded.
“The running community is a great community,” she agreed.
Melissa remembers the first time she ran a mile without stopping, and what a big deal that was at the time. Now, her goal is to run one half marathon a year. She has already completed a few, including one full marathon.
Not bad for a couch potato.
“I have come a long way since then,” she admitted.
What’s her advice for a beginner?
“Just do it!” Melissa said enthusiastically. “Sign up. Find a friend. There are so many great running groups around here. So many breweries that do run clubs…”
- Sign up for a race
- Use the Buddy System
“And don’t skimp on shoes!” Melissa added. “My whole world opened up when I bought new shoes. It was like night and day!”
3. Buy GOOD new running shoes.
Keeping it fun
The main reason these two ladies run, however, is because they keep it fun. Kim started running in the 1980s and ran the Chicago marathon in 1985. She completed it in 4 hours, 10 minutes and 6 seconds.
“I was proud of that!” Kim said.
That kind of running burnt her out though, she admitted, and with two little kids and working full time, she took a break from running and rode her bike instead. Thanks to Melissa, she is back in her running sneakers and having a great time.
“It just kept being fun,” she said.
Now, running is more about having a good time and costume planning. Both friends sometimes travel together, and their trips often lead to “vacation races,” allowing them to see the sights while enjoying their favorite sport.
Vacation races are a great way to explore a new city or destination, but both ladies know that running in Asheville is hard to beat. With so many beautiful places to run outdoors, it’s no wonder we have such a strong running community.
Plus the costumes.
“Oh, the costumes make it really fun,”, Kim added, smiling.
“Everyone thinks we’re nuts!”
No, not nuts at all. Just totally inspiring.
Kim will be joining us at the 2020 Frostbite event! Her costume will probably be “warm,” but if you see her be sure to cheer her on! Melissa will be traveling for work at that time, but we expect to see her at another future event.