If you live in the Vienna/Oakton area you may have noticed that the W&O Trail has gotten a bit busy in the last year or so…and you may have noticed that the numbers of one specific gender (female) has been increasing…maybe you have been greeted cheerfully by these women on the trail, or given a little smile of encouragement, or noticed women encouraging others as they run or walk on the trail or around town. If so, then you have been witness to the recent phenomenon that is the Vienna/Oakton chapter of the nationwide organization, Momsrunthistown.com
Hard to believe, but it’s only been about five years since I was peer-pressured by my then 5th grade daughter to run a 5k race with her “Girls On the Run” group at school. Never having been an athlete growing up, I convinced myself I could run one, maybe two laps around the high-school track at a time; and then I trained hard to make it to the 5k race.
The sense of accomplishment after finishing gave me a thrill and I thought that just maybe I could do more. I discovered that a small group of friends were meeting early mornings at the caboose in Vienna a few days a week and they convinced me that I could join them and wouldn’t hold them back. A big draw for me was to socialize with these women and grab a cup of coffee after the run. A motivator was that they would be there waiting for me these mornings and I needed to drag myself out of bed or let them down.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I am still meeting those women 3 days each week for a run and catch-up on our lives. And since that first 5k, I consecutively ran a 10k, 10 mile, half marathon, and on the verge of Hurricane Sandy a couple of years ago, I completed the Marine Corps Marathon. I attribute this accomplishment to my husband challenging me to do it (because anything boys can do…) and great friends who helped encourage me to train through an extremely hot summer!
Soon after this race, I noticed that the parking spaces at the caboose were filling up in those early mornings that I went out to run, and someone mentioned that I might be interested in joining the Group, Moms Run This Town, a free nationwide running/walking group for women. I joined and my facebook pages and life hasn’t been the same since!
Never have I experienced a more encouraging and inspiring group of women. The amount of positive energy and support emanating from this group is amazing. There is not a fact or tip about a running style, injury, stretch, race, nutrition, clothing, and more that these women don’t know and won’t share. I can relate to these women’s posts, as they tentatively photograph and share a picture of their “flat mama” (running attire and shoes laid out on the floor -sort of a selfie without the person) before their first 5k, marathon or even ultra-marathon, and then the next day see a post of their smiling face holding a medal as they completed something that they thought was impossible.
As I delve more into the arena of photographing women, my goal is to present an image of outer beauty and strength that equals inner beauty and strength. My style is not to overuse photoshop or glamour filters on my subjects but to shoot naturally beautiful portraits that honors the individualism of us all. Because of this desire, I have taken special notice of organizations that support and nurture this individualism and beauty in women. I love the idea that everyone is different in size, strength, and body type – but we’re all beautiful, and MRTT supports each woman as they are.
I recently met with Sarah Talley, who founded the group and is one of four current chapter leaders and requested to be a Community Partner for the Vienna/Oakton Chapter. Sarah’s story is impressive on it’s own. When she moved to Vienna from Singapore only 3 years ago, she was looking for women to run with so she started the Vienna/Oakton chapter of MRTT, and today there are more than 1,000 members! The creation of this local chapter, in turn spurred the establishment of these groups in Gainesville, Herndon/Reston, McLean/Tysons, Falls Church/Annandale,
Woodbridge/Manassas, Fairfax/Chantilly, Ashburn, as well as a Moms Tour de Town
I invited Sarah and the other Chapter Leaders, Sarah Thomas Foote, Lynn Collins, and Beth Graham, to come and meet me for a min-photo session at the primary MRTT meeting spot of the Vienna Caboose, and we all had a fun time despite the stormy weather. Here’s a fun, little video I made with more of the shots. https://vimeo.com/104714350 I got a kick out of how the attempt to take “serious” shots were unsuccessful and how easily they struck their “Charlies Angel” pose. And had to get a picture of the ubiquitous setting of the running watch. But the ones that seem most natural, of course, were the ones in which they were running!
Since MRTT is a FREE nationwide group, they rely on the support of Community Partners and I have committed Melissa Maillett Photography to be a Community Partner and support a healthy lifestyle among women in the area. I look forward to participating with this great group and encourage other local businesses to support this great group.
For more information about this great group, here is a link http://www.viennaconnection.com/news/2014/jan/29/vienna-oakton-moms-run-town/.