One Step Ahead

Ballantyne Running Club promotes running and community awareness

By Vanessa Infanzon | Photos courtesy of Ballantyne Running Club

In 2017, Chris Kerley and Stuart Santos first thought about starting a running club when they saw people wearing local run club T-shirts at a marathon in Savannah, Georgia. With help from Tom Patania, they founded Ballantyne Running Club (BRC) in May 2017.

The BRC is free and open to everyone. Runners and walkers vary in age, skill level and gender. Before COVID-19 guidelines were in place, 40-50 runners joined the weekly run on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., rain or shine, year-round.

Although the weekly run is on hold, the club plans to resume from Toringdon Circle Shopping Center once phase three begins. During the warmer months, members meet in front of Pike Nurseries for one- to five-mile routes on the Four Mile Creek and McMullen Creek Greenways. In November, the group runs up to a five-mile route along Community House Road. They run in well-lit areas during the winter season and encourage members to wear reflective gear.

Pineville resident Regina Betz-Madge has been running for 12 years and joined the BRC in 2017. She serves as one of the club’s six ambassadors.

“We make sure people feel welcome,” explains Betz-Madge, 33. “That’s our No. 1 mission: to make people feel encouraged and welcomed. Runners and walkers of all different faces and paces.”

When BRC stopped its Thursday meetups due to COVID-19, more than 30 members hopped on What’s App to check in with one another. Instead of complaining about the situation, they decided to raise money to help first responders.

Through the club’s Facebook page, they raised $2,200 for meals. They made deliveries to Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center intensive care unit nurses, Atrium Health Pineville Emergency Department and Charlotte Fire Department Station 32.

Ballantyne’s Potbelly Sandwich Shop matched the running club’s donated meals to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Specialty Center staff and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department South Division. A member’s stepmom made 30 ear savers (protects the ears when wearing a mask all day) for staff at Atrium Health Pineville Emergency Department.

A Thursday night kick off on the greenway in May 2019 featured guests DeAngelo Williams — to discuss his foundation's "DeAthlon" event — and Omega Sports.

Marathon runner and former Ballantyne resident Paul Gonzalez joined the group in 2018. Members push one another to achieve goals, he says. He’s proud of how BRC is setting an example by connecting with the community.

“I love running, and I love being social,” says Gonzalez, 50. “It’s a good combination.”

The club invites guests from community nonprofits and local businesses such as the American Lung Association, Go Jen Go, ISI Elite Training, Omega Sports and the Richard Sheltra Memorial Foundation to highlight racing events and training opportunities.

On Global Running Day, members have raised funds for RunningWorks, a local organization that assists individuals experiencing homelessness. Twice a year, they coordinate a greenway cleanup, and two years ago they adopted a greenway section along Four Mile Creek as part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services’ Adopt-A-Stream program.

BRC continues to address community concerns: “We are ironing out details to sharpen our focus on building awareness, education and action around social justice in the community,” Betz-Madge says.

Visit Ballantyne Running Club’s Facebook page for updates on when the weekly runs will resume and how to get involved with community activities: