By Cecil Smith/Staff writer

The air on Monday morning was chilly enough for a coat, but it didn’t deter the astoundingly motivated group from running its daily route. The group of 10 or so members stretched, talked about their weekend, cracked a few jokes and slung a few friendly insults back and forth. If you have attended classes at Eastern for a year or two, you may have noticed a group of runners trotting around campus around noon every weekday. What you may not know is that some of these runners started their noon jog over 20 years ago and haven’t stopped since.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years. That’s how stupid I am,” said Rick Erdmann, Eastern track and cross country coach.

The whole running affair began simply as a way to get in shape. Now, each group member has personal goals.

On Oct. 29, six of the runners traveled to Columbus, Ohio to run in a 26.2-mile marathon. Michael Judge, who is an assistant professor at Eastern, trained Bob Geier, Patrick Stewart, James Street, Kelly Quade and Johnna McWhorter for the marathon by running 18 to 20 mile mini-marathons in Richmond.

The monster run in Columbus was the first for five of the runners, and all six runners finished within an hour of each other.

“It doesn’t take much to put you on the sidewalk when you pass the 23rd mile. All six of the runners finished the 26.2 miles; now that’s an accomplishment,” Dana Overall, 46, of Richmond, said of the runners.

“(The marathon) was just a challenge to see if I could do it,” Bob Geier, 48, of Richmond recalled.

Perhaps the most impressive success story in the group is the Rev. Patrick Stewart, 48, of Richmond. Stewart, the local parish father at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, weighed over 300 pounds before he started running with the group. Stewart lost 128 pounds and completed the Columbus marathon in five hours.

“I needed a goal for myself so I could keep at it. It was inconceivable to me that I could ever run a 26-mile marathon,” Stewart said.

If Stewart is the success story of the group, one of the most dedicated members is Bob Turpin, 60, director of purchasing at Eastern. Turpin has logged a total of 33,000 road miles in his running career and run in over 500 road races. He started running 23 years ago and is one of the founding members of the campus running group.

“It’s a good way to meet a level of fitness. We still consider ourselves athletes,” Erdmann said.

Every member has overcome some obstacle through their daily run. For Stewart, it was his weight. Overall used to weigh over 200 pounds and smoked three packs of cigarettes a day.

Over the past 23 years, the group has included doctors, lawyers, custodial staff members and just about every person from every walk of life imaginable.

After 20 years of running, one wonders where the group’s motivation comes from. Is it the want for a greater, personal enlightenment? Or is it a search for the core of human determination?

“It’s just something to do to keep from eating lunch,” Judge laughed.