Review of the 35th Annual Red Mule Labor Day 5k in Honor of Ernie Chatman

Review of the 35th Annual Red Mule Labor Day 5k in Honor of Ernie Chatman

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When I left home this morning, it was dark out and I did have the thought as to why I would get my family up early on Saturday morning to go to a run. It is so hard to explain why we do this running thing, but we do it to race against ourselves, challenge our personal best times, celebrate goals with others, and as in today’s run, we do it to “start” the running season with a 5k that has been around for 35 years. It was started all those years ago by Ernie Chatman in what used to be an unofficial start of the cross country season, but times have changed, so it no longer holds that honorary role, but it does hold the hearts of the many who came out today.

It’s August and we run. It’s hot and we run. There were some bugs out today, and we run. We run because we love it! We’ll run again the next chance we get. We are runners!

PhotoGrid_1472321847174 T-shirt design and sponsors.

Getting to Mckethan Lake Park is kind of hike if you don’t live in Brooksville, but getting to run under the trees and around the lake makes the distance worth the travel time.  Parking is a little bit spread out, but what’s a little walk when you are there to run, right! Check in went smoothly and then there was that usual atmosphere of energy and adrenaline that comes before a race. Runners ages varied in range from the young to the most senior. As this race honored Ernie Chatman, runners from Nature Coast High School and Weeki Wachee High School were present. Due to the number of runners in the high school age ranges, awards went five deep.

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When time hit the 8AM mark, we were off.  This was a chip timed event with runners wearing reusable timing devices on their ankles.  The course runs twice around the lake with one corner turn being off road. When you come in for the last .25 of the race, you run off road on a nature path. The crowd was great, giving a ton of enthusiastic praise as runners finished the course.

140 Runners finished the race. Several awards were given out in different areas from age group winners to masters and grand masters.

One very special award made it’s debut today. In Honor of Ernie Chatman, a plaque will be given out to the high school student with the fastest time starting this year and moving forward. This year that award went to Gabriel Guillen.

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The overall winner was Zach Hall in a time of 16:41. The overall female winner was Jacki Wachtel with a time of 18:27.

1 (55) Overall finisher Zach Hall    (Jacki had left before the presentation.)


The event was a success and the runners had a great time. See you at the next race!


Just Keep Going!

Who’s Next for My Fitness Journey?

Who’s Next for My Fitness Journey?

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My Fitness Journey has been a successful segment for Nature Coast Running and Fitness. I would love to keep sharing stories, so if you or someone you know has a story to share please contact me at my email at

If you are unfamiliar, here is the gist. Every Thursday, I post a story that the author has helped to write. Some of these stories are about healthy lifestyles, some are about changes people have made, and some are about goals that people have tried to achieve. We all have a story to tell. You may not think that your story is “special,” but I guarantee that it will impact someone and help them with their own journey.

If you are not sure if you want to share your personal story that is okay. I have done stories on groups as well. Maybe you have a group who is raising money for a charity? I would love to share that story.  The purpose is to keep empowering others to reach goals is a positive manner.

Please share your story and help others achieve their fitness goals.


Please help the segment to keep going by sharing your stories!


Check out past stories here –>


Help me to…

Just Keep Going!





My Fitness Journey: Jenn Tontini

My Fitness Journey: Jenn Tontini

Great story today! Please take the time to read about Jenn’s amazing journey!


Jenn Tontini in her own words…

I grew up Northeast Ohio in a family where fitness and athletics were part of the norm. My mom exercised every night (and still does,) and my two younger brothers and I were active in community and school athletics. We were always outside playing and riding bikes everywhere we went. I played softball and ran track and cross country during middle school and through freshman year of high school. I never had a positive body image, though. I was one of the tallest girls in my class and had developed early, which led to a lot of bullying. I was a curvy size 5 from age 11 on, and still always felt ‘fat’, particularly when I compared my body with the stick-thin, curve-free girls all around me. I always felt like an awkward giant. My mom always tried to create and reinforce a positive body image for me, but I couldn’t hear her through all of the negative talk in my own mind.

JennBurningBothEnds2001     JandJBBB2001Show

As if a cliché, I got away from the healthy habits with which I was raised and put on weight during college. It crept on a pound at a time, and I just kept buying bigger clothes. I didn’t feel any more ‘fat’ than I ever had, didn’t own a scale, and coupled with the negative body image I already had, I was in denial of the weight gain. By the time I was 22, I had managed to pack on 70 pounds from my graduation weight of 128 pounds. I saw a picture of myself when I was onstage singing with my band, and was disgusted with how I’d let myself go. The next day, I started on the Atkins diet and joined a local gym. Within 3 months, I’d lost the 70 pounds, and then started adding a little muscle mass. I ended up at 135 pounds and looked and felt great. For the majority of my twenties, I maintained a lifestyle where I ate lean protein and veggies, ate very limited carbs, and exercised 4-5 days a week. Even though I felt strong, I was still battling the constant negative talk inside my head about how ‘fat’ I was. I still wouldn’t cut myself a break.


When I got pregnant with my son near my 30th birthday, 8 years of consistent diet and exercise went right out the window. I had deprived myself of any cravings as part of my lifestyle for so long that I used my pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. Over the next 9 months, I put on 80 pounds, and only 9 pounds of that was baby. I spent the next 9 months dieting and exercising like crazy, lost all that I’d gained, and then got pregnant with my daughter and put 80 pounds on all over again. With a newborn and a 19 month old running around the house, plus working full time from home, I knew I was overweight, but I wasn’t as concerned with how I looked as I had been in the past. I started going to the gym a few times a week as a break from the kids. It took me 3 years to lose 75 pounds, but I did it more healthfully than I had in the past, by eating a more balanced diet in lesser portions in addition to exercise. I would give in to small portions of my cravings instead of forbidding myself any foods, and I never felt starved or deprived.


A busy family life, a work life full of travel, a move to a new home for our family and some health issues helped me to yo-yo back up to 175 pounds by June 2015. I knew I was overweight. Over a bottle of wine during a business dinner, Jen, a client I was growing to be very good friends with, suggested that we should set a common goal of running the Disney Princess ½ Marathon race in February 2016. We toasted to our proposed success, and I started on my journey to get and stay fit.

I started using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track my caloric intake and exercise, and I became more aware of what fuel I was providing my body. My friend Kristie introduced me to 5:45 AM Cardio Strength and Conditioning classes at the YMCA, which got me running for the first time since my freshman year of high school. The early-morning cycling class became one of my favorite ways to start a day, and it inspired me to start riding a bike again in addition to the running regimen I had begun. I bought a road bike and started doing group rides with Black Bear Bike in Brooksville. I also started regularly attending Body Combat, Body Pump, and Strength & Toning classes, which I still absolutely love and attend whenever I can. My sister-in-law, Sheena, is a certified personal trainer, and invited me to join her team in the Savage Race mud run in October 2015 ‘just for fun’. Completing my first race helped me to prove to myself how far I had come since July and gave me the extra push I needed to up my training to the next level.

When it came time for the Princess ½ Marathon in February 2016, I was beyond prepared. I amazed myself with my ability to actually complete the race, let alone run the entire course. Jen and I started together and finished together. I am forever grateful to her for pushing me to be my best self.

Being a very goal-oriented person, it was an awakening for me: I realized that if I didn’t set goals like preparing for a race to give me a reason to maintain my health on a constant basis, that I’d be fighting the scale my entire life. I needed a purpose beyond “being thin” or “being healthy” to motivate me to work hard and stay fit. With that in mind, the day of the Princess ½ marathon, I signed up for the Disney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge 10K/ ½ Marathon races which I ran in April 2016.

StormtrooperRun   VaderRun2016

I set my next goal to join the cycling group raising money for MS research, and I rode the Bike MS Citrus Tour 125 in May 2016. On the ride, I started chatting with some triathletes in the group. One woman in particular, Janet, an accomplished triathlete, was a fount of knowledge and an incredible inspiration to me. By the end of the 125 mile ride weekend, she had helped me to decide to set my next goal to compete in my first triathlon in June 2016.


I never had swam beyond a doggie paddle and floating on my back. I could ‘not drown’, but was far from being able to actually ‘swim’, and had a fear of the water. And yet, I had signed up for a race which required swimming. In addition, the swim was in the Gulf of Mexico. I have a great aversion to open water, particularly where there are jellyfish, sharks, and other critters. A triathlete I know, Andy, took me under his wing and coached me at the YMCA pool, and I spent many hours cycling and running to be able to hone my strengths and make up for my abhorrent swimming technique. I competed in my first sprint triathlon at the Crystal River Series #2 in June 2016, and placed 4th in the Female Novice division and in my age group.


Realizing that my fear of water was near-debilitating, and would prevent me from ever being competitive in triathlons, I started swimming more, and drove to Clearwater from Spring Hill to attend free open water swim clinics sponsored by Kennedy Law Racing. I still dislike the swim, but I’ve grown more confident in my ability to get through the water, and barely think about the marine life around me in the Gulf. (Okay, I think about it a little…) I completed another sprint triathlon in July 2016, with a MUCH improved swim time, and have plans for an Olympic distance race in 2017.

Even my family took notice of the ‘new me’ I was working so hard to create. My son and daughter both get excited for my races and beg to see my ‘race prizes’ when I come home. My daughter is very interested in fitness now, too. I’ve signed up to compete in the 5K, 10K, and ½ marathon distances at the 2017 Disney Princess ½ Marathon weekend, and she’s going to be running the 5K race right along with me.

My husband, Chris, consistently compliments my efforts and supports my training by taking over childcare to ensure I can squeeze training in to our schedules. Even with my own internal struggles with my body image, he’s always made it a point to tell me that he thinks I’m beautiful no matter what size I am. The biggest accomplishment for me is not needing to hear the positives from someone else to feel good, though; I finally feel good about myself. It’s become about me achieving goals and being healthy. A scale or a clothing size isn’t my litmus for success anymore, and changing my perspective has led me to be proud and confident and who I am beyond my physical appearance.

Pushing myself along my fitness journey has provided me with the opportunity to overcome obstacles which I never thought I’d face, and I’ve enjoyed battling each and every one of them. The greatest benefit I’ve found is the friendships that have been created and the opportunity I’ve had to meet new people at all levels of fitness. Setting goals for fitness made me remember why I’d gotten fit in the first place; I love feeling strong and pushing myself, and moving out of my comfort zone to be a better version of myself. Becoming more physically fit helped me to focus mentally, too. For the first time in my life, I finally feel great inside and out, and have a positive body image. I am so proud of where my journey has taken me, and can’t wait to see where my next goal will lead.


Thank you Jenn for sharing your amazing journey! It just shows how we need people in the right places and times to help motivate us to be our best selves!

Just Keep Going!

If It’s Important…

If It Is Important…

If something is important to you, you will make time for it. What you feel is important and what someone else feels is important might differ. However, if something is important to you, you will find a way to get it done. Time is something we always want more of, but we never have enough. We must prioritize our time. Some of us do it well and some of us don’t.


Find what is important to you and don’t make excuses.


Just Keep Going!

35th Annual Ernie Chatman (Labor Day) 5k THIS SATURDAY


35th Annual Ernie Chatman (Labor Day) 5k

Ernie Chapman   Red Mule Logo

Registration link –>

It is not too late to register for this Red Mule Runners timed event. It is only $25 until midnight on August 25th.  The formerly known Red Mule Runners Labor Day 5k will now be known as the Ernie Chatman 5k in honor of the aforementioned. This run is two laps around Lake Mckethan. There is a paved road around the lake. The last .10-.20 of a mile is a hard packed dirt and grass road through the park to the finish line.

Below is a link to the course map for those who are interested:


Race day registration will begin at 6:30am to 7:30 am. Race Starts at 8am.

Race day price is $30.

Awards will be given out to top 3 finishers in age groups=0-10,11-13,14-16,17-19,20-24,25-29,30-34,35-39,40-44,45-49,50-54,55-59,60-64,65-69,70-74,75+ Overall Male and Female, Masters and Grand Masters.

Location Directions:

Mckethan Lake is located .50 miles North of Lake Lindsey Road on the West Right of Way of US #41 (Board St.)

McKethan Lake is located approximately 9 miles north of the intersection of US #41 & SR #50 On US #41 (Board St.)
McKethan Lake is located approximately 2 miles south of the Citrus/Hernando County Line.

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Get out there and run this weekend!

Move 2 Health 5K 2nd Annual –2016

 Move 2 Health 5K 2nd Annual –2016

Florida Health


Tom Varn Park / The Quarry
301 Darby Lane
Brooksville, FL 34601

Save the Date Saturday, Sept 24, 2016

Where’s the Fun: Tom Varn Park/The Quarry
How it Works: At your own pace Walk, Jog, Run, or Amble
Goodies: First 300 people who register receive FREE T-Shirt, and Kids receive a Medallion!
Ready to Go: To Walk/Jog/Run, sign-up at  Active.Com Registration. Please invite family and friends.

Event Starts: 8:00 AM

Event Ends: 10:00 AM

My Fitness Journey: Donna Poder

My Fitness Journey: Donna Poder


I grew up in Lindenhurst, New York. I was big into gymnastics during my younger school years, and I did some sprint running during middle school.  I moved to Florida when I was 16, so I was not active when moving here as I did not know the area or have any friends. It wasn’t until I was around 22 that I started to work out at a local gym, and I have worked out lifting weights ever since.


Once I finally got acclimated to living in Florida and meeting people who worked out, I started my fitness journey.  I used to smoke and eat unhealthy. I started working out by doing 20 sit-ups, 20 squats, and 20 pushups every night before bed in my early 20s.  I was actually too intimidated to join a gym. (I had to get in shape first!) Finally, I got the courage and joined a gym. I also subscribed to many fitness magazines that I read every day about others success in going from unhealthy to healthy and slimmer.

After starting my workout routine, I learned to eat right and I quit smoking. Honestly, I did not start a workout routine for “health reasons.” I started one because I wanted to be skinny.  I quickly learned all the other benefits that come with it; I still struggle with my body image, but I have much improved and accept what I have since becoming a Critical Care Registered Nurse and seeing how sick people truly can get no matter what their size or activity.


At 35 I became a Certified Madd Dog Spin Instructor and Aerobics Instructor in which I worked at various local gyms and studios until about three years ago. I continued with my weight lifting, and decided I needed another big challenge. I was never big or excited about long distance running, but thought “this could be my next challenge.” Since I started running, I have placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in my age group and some Overall Awards in various 5k races.  I completed my 1st Half Marathon at the Clearwater Distance Classic in January of 2015.  I continue to run various races today and I am a member of three local run clubs, as well as a member at our local YMCA.

At my local YMCA, I would say that my favorite workout would be Body Combat, which is a high energy class, excellent cardio training, and challenging.  I also lift weights about 2-3 days per week and run about 3 days per week.


I would say that I have succeeded in my running. I started out being barely able to run a mile to running my first mile in about 11 min.  Since then I have completed many races and have a PR of 27 minutes for running a 5k.



I have some back and neck injuries that sometimes knock me down to the point that I can’t move for a whole day or more, but I know that I have to, so I keep on working out, doing aerobics, and running. Lying around and not exercising would be more detrimental to my health than a little pain. I just take it a little slower on days that I ache or hurt. I have learned there is nothing wrong with taking a break when your body tells you to.

Since in my 20’s I feel I’ve always maintained a healthier lifestyle.  I try to change my routines around a bit every few months, so I do not get bored or stuck in a rut.  My latest challenge, as I mentioned earlier, was becoming a long distance runner. I’ve done a lot of working out, but running is still my biggest challenge and success to my fitness journey!

IMG_0500   IMG_0499 Just keep running Donna!

and always…

Just Keep Going!



One constant in life is change. Life will change. People will change.  Some changes are good, and some changes are bad. What changes do you need to make? What changes do you need to embrace?


Sometimes we fight so hard against change, when in reality we need to accept the changes in our lives.

Embrace the change!

Just Keep Going!

My Fitness Journey: Norm DeCicco

My Fitness Journey: Norm DeCicco

Active. Energetic. Dynamic. Full of Life…These are just a few of the words that describe Norm. He is 68 years young and going stronger, better, and faster than people ¾ his age. Just try and keep up with this man!

Age 67 Age 67

In his own words…

I have always been an active person. Even at age 7 or 8 I used to mow two neighbor’s lawns for $2 each. I also carried two buckets along a stone wall a half mile through the woods to a cow pasture to collect cow patties for my neighbors’ gardens at 5 cents a bucket. We had double sessions at school, so my friends and I rode our bikes to the park every morning in the spring and fall to play baseball before riding to school for the afternoon sessions. In the summer, I became a caddy and rode my bike 5 or 6 miles to the course before the sun came up.

In high school I played basketball and lettered in football and track. It was a small school so I played every down, offense, defense, and special teams. When I got my license at 16, I bought a motorcycle and got a job working at Waseeka Farms for $1/hour. I eventually got a job in a grocery store at $1.60/hour and felt spoiled. I went to U. Mass. after high school, but I ran out of money after two years, so I joined the Marine Corp to earn the G I Bill and spent a year in Vietnam.

12065856_10207244175970368_106362394306321298_n Age 21

When I got out of the service, I earned my college degree from U. Mass., worked a variety of jobs, mostly in the computer industry after 1978 in the Ft. Lauderdale area, where I ran a few 5K races, but I never really did anything else as far as exercise was concerned.

In 1997 I became very sick and just ignored it hoping it would go away. It didn’t. I collapsed on Thanksgiving while visiting my parents in Spring Hill. After three days in Intensive Care, I found out that I was an insulin dependent diabetic due to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

This was the wake-up call I needed to start exercising more often. I joined a gym and alternated cardio and strength sessions there. I was an independent contractor assigned to the US Postal Service, installing and maintaining every computer in every Post Office in Dade and Broward County. In 2005 the Post Office decided to eliminate all computer contractors and use postal employees instead.

In 2006 I moved to Spring Hill and applied for and was hired by the State of Florida as a Probation Officer. I spent 18 weeks training at the State Police Academy in Tallahassee. We were not required to run, but I got up every morning before dawn and ran and worked out with the State Police Cadets. After supper, I headed to the fitness center for strength training.

At age 58, I was the oldest student there. During Defensive Tactics training, the instructor, a sixth degree black belt, always seemed to pick on me to demonstrate take down moves. I was slammed to the mat hundreds of times that month, but I bounced up as quickly as I could each time. Once for punishment, I was ordered to do 100 pushups, and I did them all at one time even though the other students were telling me I could finish them after class.

During this time, I started running more 5K races and eventually joined the YMCA in Spring Hill. I ran a few longer races and then one year I decided to run a half marathon. I was not content with just a “halfie,” so I signed up for a challenge at Gasparilla. I ran a 15K and then a 5K on Saturday and got up the next morning and ran the half marathon. I liked it so much, I did it every year after that for a few years.

I retired at age 62 and immediately got more involved at the Y. I became a volunteer and eventually was hired to teach Boot Camp and Extreme Boot Camp classes. I became a Personal Trainer and a Certified Livestrong Instructor. Over the years, I filled in for Water Exercise, Power Flex, Silver Sneakers, and Youth Boot Camp classes. Almost 4 years ago, the Y started hosting Les Mills Body Combat classes. I was hooked from day 1. I took 4 or 5 classes a week. It became my passion, burning as much as 750 carbs a class, losing 2 pounds of water weight a class, and getting the equivalent of about 1500 crunches by punching and kicking in an MMA inspired exercise class.

I wanted to become an instructor more than anything in the world, but my boss did not think I had what it took, other than the desire. I thought my kicks needed improvement, but she criticized all my punches. I was ready to pay my own way to go to instructor training, but she finally agreed to send me through the Y. I was actually in the class with Katie Butler. It wasn’t until I actually watched myself on video that I was able to see what my boss saw in me. My form was terrible. I worked day and night to improve and about a year ago, I became a Certified Body Combat Instructor with regular classes at the Y.

11143465_10206015902331998_356019809538416395_n #combatstrong

I still get nervous thinking about standing in front of as many as 40 members, but once the music starts, I am all business. I had always wanted to run either the Boston Marathon or the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington. I used to watch the Boston Marathon run through my home towns of Ashland and Framingham every year, but I knew I could never qualify for it. I signed up for the Disney Marathon last January and completing that is one of my most cherished memories. I eliminated the 15K from Gasparilla a month later, but I still ran the 5K and Half Marathon. I hope to run that race every year for the rest of my life. The only Half Marathon I liked more was the Ft. Lauderdale Half Marathon and only because of the ocean view.

Gasparilla Medals Gasparilla Medals

I still take or teach 4 or 5 Body Combat classes at the Y every week. I belong to 2 running groups but have not run on Wednesday nights with them very much this summer. The Hernando Beach Runners Club runs some Sunday mornings in the Preserve.

Recently, I met an 82 year old member at a Body Combat class, and now my new goal is to still be teaching Body Combat at age 82.  As an insulin dependent Diabetic, running and exercising present a few challenges, but so far it has not prevented me from doing whatever I want to do. This is the message I hope to get across: age is just a number, and diabetes is just the name of a disease. There is no try, there is only do or do not. My favorite shirt saying seen in a race, “Run when you can, Walk if you need to, Crawl if you must, Just Never Quit!”

Just Keep Going!

Dream the Impossible

Dream: The Impossible, Seek: The Unknown, Achieve: Greatness

Dream the Impossible


You never know what will happen until you try. Dream, Seek, and Achieve! We all have dreams and goals and we must move beyond the ordinary in order to be extraordinary.

Just Keep Going!


*If you like this quote, it can be bought as a motivational banner at