Becoming a runner is one of the easiest things to do. Just start running, right? But if you've got a goal in mind — April 2's Monument Avenue 10K ( sportsbackers.org ) or April 9's Superhero Run 5K ( henricocasa.org ) , for example — a training group can be helpful. There are plenty of them at gyms around town, plus independent groups such as Richmond Sport Backers' Marathon Training Team ( marathontrainingteam.com ) and Mother Runner Training ( motherrunnertraining.com ) . Richmond Road Runners ( rrrc.org ) is an excellent source of information on group runs and upcoming races, and the club's president, Sean Cusack, is looking forward to 2014, when The Virginia Capital Trail, a paved walking, biking and running path, should be completed. "Just the thought of being able to run up 100 miles without having to deal with traffic … makes me wish it was already done."
The umbrella under which most adult swim programs in the area compete is U.S. Masters Swimming ( usms.org ) . "It's like swim team for adults," says Gene Bryson, head coach of the Masters program at Midlothian Athletic Club (330-2222 or macrichmond.com ) . If you want to learn the competitive strokes — freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke — NOVA Aquatics Center (339-0246 or novaswim.org ) and SportsQuest (739-9792 or swimquest-richmond.com ) offer private lessons in addition to their Masters squads. The University of Richmond (287-1932 or richmondspiders.com ) , which has a Masters swimming team through its School of Continuing Studies, has also opened its biannual swim clinics to adults.
All dedicated athletes flirt with the "threshold of pain," but multisport enthusiasts break that barrier in more ways than one. They swim, they bike, they run through it. In the past decade or more, Richmond has become a hotbed for triathletes (running, biking and swimming) and duathletes (running and biking only) with local, regional and national events to choose from. Even though it seems like a lonely road for the multisport athlete, that's far from the case, says Molly Frazee, director of operations for Endorphin Fitness ( endorphinfitness.com ) , one of numerous local gyms that offer training programs for all levels. "It's one of the most social individual sports there is," she says. "When you go to one of these races, it's like a big party." Groups like race organizer Richmond Multisports ( richmondmultisports.com ) , the Richmond Tri Club ( richmondtriclub.com ) and the all-female TriGirl Training ( trigirltraining.com ) help keep that party jumping.
Richmond has always loved its tennis, and during last year's U.S. Open, the United States Tennis Association recognized this fact, when we placed third in its "Best Tennis Town" contest. Founded in 1954, the Richmond Tennis Association ( richmondtennis.org ) has long fostered the sport locally, and its website is a good starting point for anyone looking to pick up the game. Public courts abound, with Byrd Park's among the nicest around, and the parks and rec departments of Richmond, Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield all offer reasonably priced tennis lessons at various points during the year. But if you're serious about the sport, you're going to want to join the USTA ( usta.com ; $42 for a one-year membership) , get your skill level rated (making it easier to find opponents with whom you're evenly matched) and sign up for a USTA league. (Head to usta.com/play-tennis, where the "finder applications" allow you to search for a partner or a local tennis program.) For players in search of a high-intensity workout, cardio tennis, which mixes the sport with group exercise, is available at just about every tennis club in town. "We've had people wear heart monitors during a class, and they're burning between 600 to 1,200 calories an hour," says Jason Kinder, the director of tennis at ACAC Richmond (378-1600 or richmond.acac.com ) .
Around here, casual and experienced bikers alike can find places to ride in the woods, thanks to an impressive network of trails along the James River. To get started, just hop on a bike and head for the parks. For a challenging trip, try the Northbank Trail and the Buttermilk Trail , about five miles along the south bank of the James that continues on to Belle Isle, where trails recently have been spiffed up by mountain-bike enthusiasts. And don't forget Poor Farm Park in Ashland, with 13 miles of outdoor singletrack. For more information on local trails and mountain-biking events, head to the website of Richmond Area Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts ( richmond-more.org ) . And think about making the trip to Maidens for the 18 Hours Scouts Honor ( 18hoursscoutcamp.com ) , an overnight endurance race that starts at 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 and finishes at 10 a.m. on Nov. 6. Whoever completes the most laps by 10 a.m. wins their division, and the event finishes up with a buffet breakfast.
For those who join the thin Lycra line, road cycling is nothing short of an addiction. Joe Notarnicola, 46, took his leap onto the scene 12 years ago when he registered for a racing license. Today, the Fan resident trains most of the year and races road bikes from early spring into the fall. If you're hearing the siren song of the road yourself, Notarnicola suggests a gentle transition. "We've got a well-developed road-racing scene," he says, "but the reality is that it takes a lot of fortitude to get involved and stay involved." Mountain-bike races, charity bike rides and multisport clubs are supportive and welcoming entry points for the aspiring road racer, Notarnicola says. Also check in with local bike shops such as Carytown Bicycle Co. ( carytownbicyclecompany.com ) , Conte's Bicycle & Fitness ( contebikes.com ) , and Rowlett's Bicycles ( rowletts.com ) . "Ask if they sponsor a club, and join," Notarnicola says. "This part can be intimidating, but just keep in mind that these guys weren't born wearing Lycra. They all started out riding around in sneakers and T-shirts." Then there's the Richmond Area Bicycling Association ( raba.org ) , which caters to all levels with group rides and local events. OK, now get rollin'.
You need training before heading off to clamber rock walls like the one at the Belle Isle quarry. At Peak Experiences (897-6800 or peakexperiences.com ) in Midlothian, an introductory program lets novices try the sport on an indoor rock-climbing wall. If you'd rather be outdoors, co-owner Jay Smith suggests "bouldering," the sport of climbing outcroppings of the 10- to 15-foot variety, which requires less training and experience. (A good, unmarked site for bouldering is near the 22nd Street entrance to the James River Park system, Smith says.) There's a 38-foot climbing wall at VCU's Cary Street Gym (827-1100 or recsports.vcu.edu ) , but you need a membership, which means being a staffer, a current student, an alum, or a guest member with a pal in one of those categories. The school's Outdoor Adventure Program (828-6004) also welcomes guest members on outings like a March 29 evening climb at Manchester Wall. Finally, the Tuckahoe YMCA (740-9622 or ymcarichmond.org/tuckahoe ) has a 23-foot climbing wall and a 12-foot bouldering wall, plus classes.
In Richmond, you can kayak through whitewater in the middle of a city. Why not take advantage of it? Of course, the unwise river adventurer can find trouble, warns Matt Perry of Riverside Outfitters (560-0068 or riversideoutfitters.net ) , which offers guided trips and rents gear. For the novice, Perry recommends a placid paddle along Huguenot Flatwater between the Huguenot and Willey bridges: "It's an absolutely beautiful experience." Another local outfitter, Adventure Challenge (276-7600 or adventurechallenge.com ) , has two-day beginner courses on weekends starting in May for $210, all equipment included. Finally, Chesterfield County Parks & Recreation (318-8735 or 748-1124) offers classes in both sit-on-top kayaks and the sit-in kayaks that require more training — and the ability to right your kayak if you wind up underwater.
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