By Doug Binder • Doug Binder • 

Stretching with Benjamin

So in addition to teaching, and helping to run a business — and bit of farming — Botten also organizes the local running group Mac Town Striders.

She started the group three years ago because she felt like something was missing. On long runs on loops she had mapped out around McMinnville, she began to wonder where the running community was.

As much as anything, Mac Town Striders is social networking.

"With McMinnville being such a tight-knit community, it's just another outlet for people to get together," Botten said.

All it took to build the group was someone to organize it and a common place and time to meet up. Once Botten stepped up back in 2010, the Saturday morning gatherings began at the Ben Franklin statue on the U.S. Bank Plaza at Third Street and Davis.

Word of mouth drove the numbers quickly and more than 20 people began showing up at the 8 a.m. meeting time. Over time, she gathered names for an email list of more than 100 people.

The over-arching goal is simple. It's getting together for exercise, no matter the fitness level.

"I see it as a way to better the community through the networking we can do in the group," Botten said. "It's for young people and old. I want to see (the group) have a healthy outlook where everyone is welcome and valued. I feel like that's what McMinnville is about."

Botten is a multi-tasker with considerable running cred. During the school year she is a special education teacher at Duniway Middle School. She also works with her husband, Alan, at their business, Botten Radiator and Equipment Rental. And they raise some cows and sheep also.

"Never a dull moment," she said.

Botten went to Westside Christian High School in Lake Oswego and then began her collegiate running career at Eastern Oregon. But she transferred to follow her coach, Pat McCurry, who was re-started the dormant women's running program at the NAIA school in 2004.

After graduating, she kept running and has continued to improve her times on both the track and the roads.

She runs 50 miles per week and is still beating her times from college.

"I want to be the best I can be," she said.

That's a common refrain for runners who are in training and testing their limits in a goal-oriented sport.

Tony Lai and Jason Mosiman are two examples of locals runners who found a common goal through Mac Town Striders. Both are preparing for the Portland Marathon in October.

"It's been helpful," said Mosiman, who works in the Yamhill County Sheriff's office. "I met Tony and we have a similar plan. We coordinated our long runs together."

Mosiman started coming to the statue about six months ago. Lai, a mental health therapist with Yamhill County Family and Youth Programs, has been involved for two years.

"I found out about Mac Town Striders by luck," Lai said. "I was looking through some race photos on Facebook and saw something posted by Shannon about a local running club. I was thinking about starting one because I need to keep my motivation up for training."

The group evolved to include more than high-mileage runners. A slower group includes walkers, some of whom brings dogs or push strollers.

"Running an hour or two by yourself can get lonely," Lai said.

Common routes include loops on Hill Road, the Wellness Trail adjacent to Linfield College, or carpool trips to Miller Woods.

Part of the reason Botten was motivated to start the group was that she had a variety of places she wanted to go and no one to run with.

"I thought, 'I need to share all of these cool routes and build the community more so that people know where to go.'" she said. "My selfish purpose was to find other fast women to run with."

The camaraderie and encouragement that comes from running in a group pays dividends in myriad ways.

"I have had other Striders help me on long runs by joining me for part of the way," Lai said. "And other great example was when one of the guys signed up for a race last weekend. His daughter dropped out and he offered her (registration) entry to me."

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