By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Yukon running and walking club is providing its members so much more than the key to a healthy lifestyle.
The group, Yukon Runners and Walkers (RAW), has become its own community that welcomes people of all ages and abilities while offering support and fellowship.
“We, as runners and walkers, are better together,” Yukon RAW Vice President Peter Megna said.
The Yukon RAW Club meets regularly for group runs. Everyone is urged to come out and run or walk at their own pace and distance.
“I promise you’ll feel welcome,” said Yukon RAW member Heather Ziegler. “That’s our goal.
We welcome everyone and encourage everyone. Whether you can run a six-minute mile or walk a 30-minute mile – or maybe not even walk a mile at all – come out. We even have
people who qualified for the Boston Marathon.
“People come out with their dogs; people come out with their kids in jogging strollers. Or they run and their kid is on a bike. We’ve got whole families that come out together.”
The Yukon RAW Club has members from all walks of life, all races and backgrounds.
“It’s just a wonderful group of people,” said another longtime member, April Scott. “It’s like a little haven with everything going on in the world.
“I just love it. I could talk about RAW all day.”
Members come out for group runs just about every day – whether it’s 5 a.m. or early evening after work.
Yukon RAW meets up frequently at Route 66 Park near Lake Overholser. Other popular places are Chisholm Trail Park in the middle of Yukon, at Dickenson Park along Yukon’s new multi-use trail, around local neighborhoods, and even on rural, back-country roads.
People who may run or walk slowly should not be discouraged.
“Being slow is not a bad thing,” Ziegler said. “You are moving and that’s a great thing.”
Scott reiterated that Yukon RAW welcomes both runners and walkers.
“We have a ton of people who come out and just walk,” she said. “We have people who walk two miles. That’s what they do, and they have fun. And then we have people who run five-minute miles.”
Many members cross-train with kayaking, yoga and cycling.
“It’s really more just a wellness and exercise community,” Scott said. “But running and walking are definitely our main things.”
NOBODY LEFT BEHIND
Ziegler described Yukon RAW as a “no-man-left-behind” group.
“If you’re out there walking alone and it’s an evening run, you can be guaranteed someone will be waiting in that parking lot for you to come back,” she said.
“I’m ex-military. Being in the military, you have what I call ‘forced friendships and family’, and they’re the best friends you’ll ever have. It’s that feeling of camaraderie amongst your community. This is the closest thing I’ve ever found to that.”
Yukon RAW’s group motto is “Better Together” and that’s something members embrace.
“There are people in our group who would do anything for you,” Ziegler said. “They will drop what they’re doing and be right there with you whether it’s running related or not.”
Yukon RAW provides so much more than running or walking. It also offers love and fellowship.
“I lost my son last year and it happened in the home we were living and we didn’t want to be in that home for a while,” Scott shared.
Fellow club members packed up her house and moved the family to a new place. The group also has “meal trains” when someone is sick or hurt.
Yukon RAW has become its own community.
“For many of us, it’s our own social group,” Scott said.
Megna has met some of the best training partners he’s ever had through Yukon RAW. He’s also forged great friendships.
“Some of my best friends are people I’ve met through the group,” he said. “We help each other out. There’s be some tragedies we’ve had to endure. Members of the RAW community are there to help each other, offer support and encouragement. We celebrate people’s achievements and really lift each other up when we’re down.”
IN THE BEGINNING
Yukon RAW started about three years ago when residents started asking on a community Facebook page if there was a local running group.
“The consensus was, ‘No, there’s not … but there could be’,” Ziegler said. “We all made a date to meet up at the park and go on an inaugural Yukon running group run.”
The group didn’t have an official name initially but then called themselves Yukon RAW to include both runners and walkers.
Scott jumped at the chance to help kick-start the group three years ago.
“Running is my passion,” the Yukon native said. “I run about four days a week.”
Scott was one of the initial participants who would post on social media that she would be running at Chisholm Trail Park, encouraging others to join her.
It started with just a few participants but then word spread, and more people joined in.
Megna joined Yukon RAW in early 2018.
A Yukon resident since 2012, he had been active with a larger Oklahoma City running group – the Oklahoma Land Runners.
After finding Yukon RAW’s Facebook page, Megna noticed how much fun the group seemed to have.
The Yukon man wanted to check it out for himself, so he went on a February ’18 trail run with a few other Yukon RAW members.
“I instantly connected since they were so outgoing and friendly,” he said. “I wanted to try and get my wife more involved so the two of us could do some walks and runs together.
“It grew from there and we found more and more people with common interests. As the group got larger, we could do more events and have more participation.”
ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
Ziegler likes the encouragement members receive from each other. Another female member would join her for weekly 5K runs at the park, then asked Ziegler to join her for a marathon.
“I told her I didn’t think I could do that because I could barely run a 5K,” Ziegler related. “She told me I could do it, so I said I’d think about it. Sure enough, before a year was up, I’d run a
Yukon RAW members are now starting to train for the Oklahoma City Memorial Run which was pushed back to Oct. 4.
“We have several training plans for runners and walkers – advanced and beginner,” Ziegler said. “Our first group training run is either three or six miles, whether you’re doing the half or the full.
“If you’re not doing one of those, you’re welcome to come out and walk whatever distance you want.”
Megna often spends four days a week participating in organized Yukon RAW events, three runs and one evening when he and his wife walk with the group.
Yukon RAW competitive runners like Megna train together to prepare for races like the Oklahoma City Memorial and Route 66 marathons.
“It’s just a fun and real encouraging group,” he said. “If you come often enough times, you’re going to find someone you’ll connect with.”
Scott’s advice to anyone thinking about attending a Yukon RAW event?
Never be afraid to go!
“You will be welcomed, encouraged and pushed to reach any goal that you have – whether it’s just to be a little more active or whether it’s to run a marathon,” she said.
Megna whole-heartedly agreed.
“You’re always going to find somebody with a common interest,” he said.
“We all start somewhere. Give it a chance.”
Yukon RAW members support their community, helping with a Manna Pantry food drive, a Pets & People Humane Society benefit race and other charity efforts.
Yukon RAW is now an official club with nonprofit 501(c)3 status through the Road Runners Club of America. This will help the group raise more money and host community events.
Yukon RAW has nearly 700 Facebook members. Joining is simple – just check out their page to learn more.