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The Sisterhood of the Running Shoes

A group of Kirkwood area women meets before dawn three times a week for "therapy" and a 5-mile run.

Downtown Kirkwood is dark and cold at 5:30 a.m. this time of year, but that doesn’t stop a group of women from hitting the streets three times a week for their regular five-mile run.

“It’s just so nice to start off your morning with what I consider a group of sisters,” said Deb Tata, 60, of Des Peres. “I’ve lived in a lot of different places and run with a lot of different people but this is a very special group.”

Tata is one of about half a dozen area women who have been getting together to run three mornings a week for more than five years. They run year-round, in heat, humidity, cold, rain and even snow.

“Except when it’s below 15 or icy,” said Martha McArthur, 48, of Warson Woods. “I can think of maybe three times when we met and went for coffee instead.”

Most mornings it’s too dark to even see each other’s faces when they start out, but that just deepens the conversation.

“There’s something about running in the dark,” McArthur said. “It’s not like sitting across the table from another person. You can say what you’re feeling. The run disappears. The mileage is gone and you’ve had a great heart to heart.”

Plus, she said, “You can’t see the hills -- you just do it.”

The women got acquainted through a fitness camp that met early in the morning. When camp ended, they decided to keep going.

And they’ve been going regularly for six or seven years – they’ve lost track of exactly how long it’s been. There’s no one leader, they just show up -- numbers fluctuate depending on illness, injury and pregnancy, for example.

But there remains a core group of seven or eight women who regularly roll out of bed before dawn and throw on their running clothes.

On Mondays and Wednesdays they meet at the ; on Fridays it’s the Glendale Fire Station. Their running routes stay the same until someone suggests a new one.

“You just show up and do it,” Tata said.

McArthur said the women have become some of her closest friends even though their paths rarely cross during daylight hours. Some of the women are stay-at-home moms, others work outside the home. Their ages range from 30s to 60.

They bring a range of opinions and life experiences to their early morning conversations. They’ve helped each other through the illnesses of loved ones, dished out advice on child-rearing, shared recipes and good books. And they always celebrate birthdays with a paper cup of sparkling juice before getting back into their cars for the drive back home.

“I feel really lucky to have this group of smart, wise women in my life,” McArthur said. “It’s such a support group.”

“We start talking and we talk about everything under the sun,” Tata said. “We’re really a therapy group. I just call it my early morning sisterhood.”

Once, when about 10 women were starting out on a run, Tata said, a driver passing by called out: “What are you ladies training for?”

“And half our group said, ‘Life.’”

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