New Port Richey running club promotes fitness at Gasparilla

The Gasparilla Distance Classic played host to numerous charities and running clubs, including a New Port Richey-based running group.

NPR Running’s founding members, Tammy Carr and Jaana Jala, started the group to help family members and their kids stay active in the New Port Richey community.

“We are an all-level, all-ages, fitness and running group from New Port Richey, Florida, and what we emphasize is that all levels get out there and just keep moving,” Carr said.

Today, NPR Running participates in marathons across the country, which was unthinkable to Carr and Jala given the adversity that they experienced nearly five years ago.

“I was just getting bigger and bigger so I decided it was time to make a life change,” Jala said. “I quit my job, moved to Florida, came down here with a suitcase. But the weather down here is beautiful and it was kind of like jumping off a cliff and changing your entire life.”

Gasparilla is only a local example of the runs that NPR Running participates in. The group travels across the country to triathlons in places like Savannah, Georgia, and Central Park in New York.

“We have racked up, like last year, 26,000 miles,” Carr said. “It’s the equivalent of going around the globe as a group in the miles that we’ve dedicated ourselves that we were going to do.”

Schoenfeld relieves with running

Running between the crowds of cheering families and friends at Epcot, Steven Schoenfeld kicked it into high gear as he approached the finish line, completing his second marathon this past January.

Schoenfeld, a sophomore at the University of South Florida, ran track competitively throughout high school, but was forced to stop before beginning college due to a minor knee injury which restricted his abilities.

With a desire to keep running, despite no longer competing, Schoenfeld signed up for a marathon and began to train himself.

“When I realized I couldn’t compete anymore, I just knew I had to do something that would keep me running,” said Schoenfeld. “Training for marathons gives me a reason to keep going and just makes me feel more connected to running.”

The marathon that Schoenfeld trains for is the Walt Disney World Marathon which is held every January. During this marathon, participants run 26.2 miles through all four Disney parks.

“I’ve been going to Disney all my life, so it’s awesome doing what I love at the parks I grew up going to,” said Schoenfeld. “It’s motivating seeing the different Disney characters cheering you on throughout the marathon.”

On top of training for marathons, Schoenfeld is an electrical engineering major at USF who is dedicated to his studies. He is also actively involved in band and Phi Mu Alpha, a social music fraternity.

“Ever since I can remember, I have been extremely involved in school,” said Schoenfeld.

Being involved in so many different activities and having a rigorous major tends to leave Schoenfeld feeling extremely stressed. Running is what Schoenfeld uses to disconnect from the strenuous lifestyle of academics and student life.

“There are days where I just know that I’ll be spending my night studying at the library,” said Schoenfeld. “I turn to running for stress relief because when I run, all I think about is the road ahead of me and not about any of my problems.”

When training for marathons, it is extremely crucial to have the support of both family and friends. Keegan Wertz, Schoenfeld’s little brother in Phi Mu Alpha, was extremely supportive during the training process and stood by to cheer Shcoenfeld during the marathon.

“I woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning to see Steven off on the day of his marathon and provide him with emotional support,” said Wertz. “I was also there to cheer him on from the sidelines as he crossed the finish line at Epcot. I couldn’t have been happier for him because I knew it was something he had been training and working extremely hard for.”

Schoenfeld also receives praise and respect for how well he manages to balance training, studying and staying involved.

His roommate, Justin Mouriz, has watched him grow as a person since he began college and admires his work ethic.

“The amount of work that Steven has put in for his marathons is unbelievable,” said Mouriz. “I can remember several days that he ran over 13 miles to keep his endurance up, and then took part in several activities for different organizations afterwards. All in all, Steven puts in a lot of work into all he does.”

School may be getting more rigorous and time consuming for Schoenfeld, but that is not stopping him from training for his next marathon in January 2017.

“It gets really hard to manage my time between training for a marathon and keeping up with school,” said Schoenfeld. “None of the struggles I go through before the marathon matter once I cross that finish line. It truly is the best feeling in the world.”

With the continued support of his friends and family, Schoenfeld eventually plans on running in a, iron man triathlon which consists of biking, swimming and running.

“Staying active is extremely important to me and I am always thinking of ways to challenge myself,” said Schoenfeld. “An iron man triathlon sounds like the ultimate challenge and I cannot wait to take that on.”