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Honestly, It's An Incredible Running Town

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Zach Baker

We've all seen the sayings, "Born and raised in Kalamazoo" or "Running is Fun." Well, Zach Baker is one of those individuals who is proud to be from Kalamazoo, enjoys running, and is part of an organization called Kalamazoo Area Runners (KAR). (See our previous post for more information about KAR.)

Baker first hooked up with the KAR, by participating in their Wednesday night group from the Portage YMCA. Very quickly he described how people took him under their wing and within a couple of months he felt as much a part of the group as folks who had been running with them for years.

A competitive runner in high school, Baker fell off the running trail so to speak during college and his first few years in the real world. It wasn't until some of his friends encouraged him to hook up with the Gazelle Summer Safari program that he caught the running bug again and eventually became a coach!

"I've met a lot of great friends. There's no faster way to get to know somebody than to spend a few hours a week running with them." Baker said his wife decided to do a 10K, which he "thought was nuts, but that pushed me to run some longer distances."

Working as a Regulatory Affairs Representative at Stryker Instruments, after graduating from Western Michigan University (WMU) with an English degree, Baker turned to technical writing and started building a career in medical science.

When asked how he feels about Kalamazoo Baker said, "Having watched this town change since about 2000, I wouldn't put any limit on its potential. Downtown has really come into its own as a great place to work and play. The surrounding community has also been doing great things for endurance athletes. The network of paved trails in Kalamazoo and Portage is pretty remarkable."

Baker currently combines his love for running with volunteering with the KAR by doing the brochures and being on the planning committee for the Beyond Marathon/Half Marathon training program. He also maintains the training schedules and plans the running routes.

Busy with his own family that includes an 18-month-old and a wife who is also a runner, he admits to the challenge of juggling his own aggressive running schedule and attending and volunteering at events every year.

Baker shared advice and tips on embracing the sport of running.

"The first would be patience. Like any sport, this one takes time. Whether you're trying to hit a time goal, drop 10 pounds, there's a period of adaptation," he said.

Interestingly, he's been running for six years and about a year ago just started feeling like he was getting good at it.

"There's a lot of satisfaction you can take from that process; sweating, working hard, accomplishing things you didn't think you could just a few weeks or months ago. It takes time to get to a goal, but the journey is supremely satisfying," baker said.

When referencing Kalamazoo and its running community Baker said, "There aren't many organizations like KAR around the country or great running stores like Gazelle Sports. They're like the dual pillars that built up a fantastic community. When I travel, I don't see people out running like I do here. I think we have something special."

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