Journey of The Rhode Runner (Part 1: Introduction)

Profile - Finish for a Guinness 2014 There are at least two types of journeys. One is traveling from one place to another. The other is a personal journey, progressing from one stage to another.

Each one of those definitions are appropriate for my mission. What is my mission? It is to run a 5K race in all 50 states in the U.S. I will track my progress on this blog. I will also write about the places I visit. Most 5k’s raise money for some sort of charity. So, I will try to interview the founders of each 5k and also get information about their charity if it applies. I’m not sure where this road will lead me, but if I am lucky enough to get some sponsors for this journey, I will write an article about them as well. I am going to try my hardest to do this over a 5 year period.

Now that you know my plan, I should introduce myself, and talk about my life’s journey so far.
My name is Paul, and I am from Rhode Island (hence, the spelling of “Rhode” in the blog title). The first 6 years of my life, I lived in Providence. We then moved to the city of Warwick, and went to a small Catholic school from 2nd grade all the way through 8th grade. I then made the big jump to public high school. Pilgrim High School was a pretty good size school, with around 300 people per graduating class.

Cross Country

Cross CountryDays before beginning high school, my aunt, uncle, and cousins came over to our house. One cousin was going to be a junior, and the other was going to be a freshman like me. My aunt said that I should join the high school’s cross country team with my cousin. I had never heard of cross country before. I was told that it was racing; but, instead of running on a track, you run through woods. Being the adventurous type, I decided to go for it.

Apparently, the team had been practicing before school started. So, a statewide race was the first time I ever ran. I had no idea of what was going on. An old friend of mine had also joined the team, and he was just as confused as me. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, so during the race, we were just walking and talking half the time. He ended up quitting within a couple of weeks. But, I stuck with it. Not only did I stick with it, but I eventually became captain of the team. I wasn’t a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but I got some respectable times. I averaged around 17-18 minutes for the 3.1 mile (5k) races.

Post High School Days

After high school, I didn’t stick with running like I should have. I was so skinny in high school, that you could see my ribs. After high school, I went to college for a semester – which was a disaster. So, I decided to join the Navy. In boot camp, I gained 20 pounds, and was in great shape. Unfortunately, the weight gain wasn’t slowing down, and I wasn’t in great shape anymore. So, I would start running again, and the weight would come right back off. Then I would stop running, and gain weight again. This cycle would continue for years…until I stopped running altogether. After graduating college, I got a job as a computer programmer where I sit at a desk all day. Then I got married. So, between working all day, and helping to take care of the house, I was doing nothing to help myself be healthy.

Bristol Total Fitness

logo_03 About 3 years ago, as a birthday present, my awesome wife, Danielle’, got me a gym membership to Bristol Total Fitness. As part of the initial package, I met with a trainer, Dawn, twice a week for several weeks. One day would be a group meeting where the trainer would show us how to use the gym equipment/weight machines. The other day would be a one-on-one meeting going over diet and stretches and exercises. Dawn is a great trainer, and got me back on track to better health. I went to the gym almost every day. But, I didn’t seem to be losing any weight. So for my next birthday, my wife paid for sessions for personal training. I went to go sign up with Dawn. However, she had an injury, and the gym didn’t know when she would be back, or if she even would be back. So, the person working the desk would pick another trainer for me.

Before I thought about getting a personal trainer, there was one that really stood out. As I would be on the elliptical machine, I would witness Adriana go to one of her clients, that was warming up on an elliptical machine, and say, “Are you ready for your ass-kickin’?!?!” And I would see her have her client doing crazy exercises that were killing me – and I was only watching!

So, the person at the front desk of the gym picked Adriana to be my trainer. I could not have asked for a better trainer. She comes up with some creative exercises that really help me get into better shape.

Downtown Jingle 5K

During one of my workouts in October 2013, I had mentioned to Adriana how I ran cross country in high school. So, she came up with a goal for me – run a 5k. Specifically, the Downtown Jingle 5k in Downtown Providence, which was coming up in December. I had not run in years, and now I had to train for a race in 2 months.

Downtown Jingle 1Well, I worked very hard, and was able to run up to 3 miles without stopping by the time of the race. I was very nervous, but I had more fun than I would have ever expected. During my cross country years, the races were a competition against everybody else. Now, this 5k was Downtown Jingle 2drastically different. Everybody was cheering for each other. There was such a positive energy in the air that I had never experienced before. I was able to finish the race without stopping. Now I was hooked! I have to do more of these!

Downtown Jingle 3

Now, let’s go to the next article to see what other races I ran in, and which had some (ankle) smashing results…

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Stroessner
    August 31, 2015

    Reblogged this on Return to the 80s and commented:

    Hi Everybody! I would like to fill you in on another project I am working on. Almost 2 years ago, I began running again for the first time in many, many years. Then May of last year, I had a severe ankle injury. I have been able to run pain-free for the past couple of months. During one of these runs, I decided that I want to run a 5K in all 50 states. I am going to try to do this over a 5 year period. My first race is coming up this Sunday. I have created a blog to track my journey, called The Rhode Runner. Don’t worry though. Return to the ’80s is still going to be alive and well. If you follow my Rhode Runner blog, you will get to know me on a more personal level. So, please head on over to, and subscribe, if you would like to follow me on this exciting new Journey. (and yes, I used the word journey, accidentally-on-purpose, as a nod to my family here on this site. It just so happens to be very appropriate). I am also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under TheRhodeRunner. Here is my first article. There is also a Part 2. Let me know what you think. And for anybody outside of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, please let me know if you know of any good 5K races in your area. Maybe we can have an ’80s party when I hit your town.


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