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The Columbus Running Company’s charity training group, Love2Reach, was founded in 2013 as a way to give back to the Columbus area through fundraising and racing. As it continues to grow each season, Love2Reach (or L2R) continues to welcome new athletes and coaches to its roster.
Two of those people who are making a difference are Samantha Blackburn and Carolyn Knox. Both women have been training with L2R since the group's inaugural year. Both Carolyn and Samantha participated in charity training groups prior to joining L2R. When asked what makes L2R different, Samantha says that this team feels more like family.
“I have made the best of friends being a part of this group. I have attended weddings, funerals, birthdays and more. [Training with L2R] is a life changing experience,” Samantha says. And Carolyn agrees, noting that she “has met some truly amazing and caring people that I'm so happy to call my friends. And I get to run with them!”
Another aspect that Carolyn believes makes L2R different is their direct involvement with the group’s benefitting charities.
“We raise money, but we also volunteered at Ronald McDonald House, helped build a house with Habitat for Humanity, and sent children off on their wish trips [through the Make-A-Wish Foundation]. We met the individual families and people that we were helping, and that is very touching and rewarding,” Carolyn explains. “We give back to our community and see firsthand how we are helping others.”
While improving the lives of others is a major focus of the group, personal achievements are also celebrated. One of Samantha’s favorite memories from L2R is her experience of training for a Half Ironman triathlon last year, which proved to be a challenge.
“I had never cycled before and was having difficulties. I honestly wanted to quit,” Samantha says. “But I received so much support, love and encouragement that I was able to continue training. When I was finishing the race, all I could see was a sea of yellow L2R shirts. It is always so overwhelming when your teammates wait until the last person finishes. I did complete the race, but I wouldn't have been able to without everyone's support. It meant so much.”
Carolyn echoes that the support from her L2R teammates is constant, from the first training run all the way through the finish line. “There are always people around to cheer you on, encourage you if you are struggling, and make things fun,” she says.
For people interested in joining L2R, Samantha wants them to know that “there are people from all walks of life, speed and size. You can train to walk your first 5K, to complete your first triathlon, to run for a PR in a marathon. There are no limits to what L2R can help you with.”