By Karen Lozano
If there was a face to the ShadowChase Running Club, it would definitely belong to Heidi Ryan. Her red hair and frenetic energy are stamped everywhere.
She’s perhaps one of the first people you’ll hear from if you join since she currently serves as membership coordinator. She’ll probably be the one answering your questions if you should call, email or pose a question on social media as she handles many promotions duties. She maintains the SC website and helps put out the monthly newsletter to keep the membership informed.
A member since 1988, Ryan’s served in just about every capacity available, making up new rules as needed along the way. She’s been president, vice president, past president, membership director, director of runs, volunteer coordinator, mentor, Teens Run Modesto coordinator, and Modesto Marathon race director. Added to that full plate are a cheerleader, mother, and friend. Outside of the club she’s a cosmetologist, owner of Heidi’s Hair Salon, and is involved in catering and farming.
Ryan pretty much dedicates her life to the club. But if you ask her, she credits ShadowChase with giving her a new shot at life.
“I really needed to build a new family for myself because the friends and ex-husband I was with at that time were living a lifestyle I no longer wanted for myself. I was at a place in my life where I needed to make some very important changes. My biological clock was ticking and I knew it was time to grow up. I also wanted to start a family and I didn’t want my past life to be a part of what I wanted for my children. I was a smoker and had been involved with drug and alcohol use and this lifestyle was going nowhere for me. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I cannot change my partner, and we went in different directions, which was of course after I had decided to have a child.”
Ryan said joining ShadowChase at the time was not easy. She had pestered friends for a membership application for months, but finally attended a social and was welcomed into the club. She now makes it her mission that joining ShadowChase is an easy proposition.
Some newer members may not realize what a runner Ryan was back in her heyday, especially coming from all the abuses to her body. She’s qualified and participated in the Boston Marathon, with a personal best of 3:18 in the Long Beach Marathon. She’s run a 1:30-flat half marathon at the Avenue of the Giants. She’s run two 5Ks at a 6-minute per mile pace. She’s also an ultra marathoner, running AR50 twice, and even conquering 100.5 miles running around the track at Relay for Life for the entire 24 hours of the annual event.
“My parents encouraged me to start running because my dad had started running with my brother. My dad and I practiced a few times around my neighborhood. First time out I could hardly run around the block, which is only four houses long. Shortly after a few practices, we started doing a few local road races. This is where I had to make the final decision to really own my new life — can’t party the night before a race and live to see the finish line! I don’t think my parents even know that their influence for me to start running saved my life!”
When we see Ryan at club events, we almost always see her with partner Mike Araiza. In February, the two will celebrate 20 years together. She met him when he first came over for a haircut. She must’ve done a decent job because he kept coming back, eventually joining in on walking with Ryan and friend Barbara Miller. “Although it was almost 4 months before we had our first real date, from that day on we have been inseparable,” she said.
As the Modesto marathon training group begins to ramp up for another season, Ryan can take personal pride in knowing that she helped start the very first ShadowChase training group.
“A couple of years before the Modesto Marathon training program came about I lead a training program for the San Francisco Marathon and half marathon,” said Ryan. “We had about 30 or so people who participated in the training group. I thought that was great for a first-time challenge to organize a group that was all working toward the same goal.”
Some may not realize that it was through a lot of blood, sweat and definitely tears on Ryan’s part that led to the formation of the successful Modesto Marathon and Teens Run Modesto programs some eight years ago. She recalls that since she’s one of the people who receive SC emails, she thought she’d better attend a few meetings “to find out who was doing what so I could forward any questions to the right person.
“When I went to a meeting, I learned that the person who agreed to be the race director dropped out. So I agreed to help Karen Lozano do it. Of course, my personality is the kind that takes charge and it ended up that I was doing it and she was helping me.
“I don’t miss being the race director since I am still very involved in all aspects of our club. What I do miss is the relationships I had with the different people that I worked with during my time as race director. I am not a fast enough runner anymore so I don’t get to have many conversations with the people I worked with during my time leading the committee that was helping with the race.”
It’s those relationships that Ryan credits with keeping her motivated to continue pouring her heart and soul into the club. “I want to support everyone who wants to make a difference in the world through our organization!” she said.
Ryan continues her involvement by helping Araiza head up the Teens Run Modesto program.
“My passion for TRM goes much further than a bunch of kids out running on the weekend,” she said. “I don’t want to see any kids caught up in the life of drugs and alcohol. I had lived it at one point in my life and now still grieve as a parent who struggles with family members and their addictions. This is real life and I want to help keep kids from going down that road.”
Another capacity consuming a fair amount of time for Ryan is heading up an aid station with Carey Gregg for the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run every June.
Ryan said she started volunteering at the aid station right after joining the club. “From then I was hooked. … I don’t really remember who was captain the years before we took the position. I do remember that we lost a good friend from our club, Don Osborne, who used to tow his trailer up there for the aid station. Dale Ghaner was captain for a few years but couldn’t make it one year so Carey and I took it over. It just so happened Carey had a camper we could use and we went from there. Eventually, Mike and I purchased the camper from Carey and have been towing it up there for the last 17-plus years.”
As aid station captains, Ryan and Gregg organize volunteers, do the shopping for all food and supplies, attend captains’ meetings, pick up supplies in Auburn before the race, help select a runner from SC to run in the event, haul everything needed to and from the aid station, and clean up.
“It takes about four full days to make that weekend happen for our club! ” she said.
Ryan said that through being a part of the ShadowChase Running Club she has seen much self-growth. “Aside from taking my life back in my early years, I have learned a ton of skills from computer, leadership, writing, communicating, organizing and most of all self-esteem. It is because I put myself out there and got involved, no matter how uncomfortable it felt, and it has forced me to grow and learn along the way. I am not a pro at any of these things but I am better than I would have been had I not tried!
“I guess my message is that if you want to get better at things you have to step out of our comfort zone and put it out there. Just like in running, if you want to run faster or farther you are going to have to tolerate discomfort. It applies in all areas of your life and you will be amazed at how far you can go!”
If you would like to see someone profiled in the Volunteer Spotlight, please contact Karen Lozano at firstname.lastname@example.org.