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Vol. LXI, No. 25
December 11, 2009

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The Joy of De Feet
Health’s Angels’ Club Is Back Up And Running

A handful of Health’s Angels start a midday run around campus.  
A handful of Health’s Angels start a midday run around campus.  

After more than a decade of dormancy, the NIH Health’s Angels are flying again.

Every Tuesday around lunch, you may see a pack of panting, sweaty runners whisk by on the sidewalk, cruise past the Clinical Center or buzz by Bethesda traffic on a loop around the NIH exterior.

This club for running enthusiasts includes people of all athletic levels, fitness goals and motivations. Some come for the camaraderie, some for the health benefits and some for the sheer pleasure of perspiration.

“Everyone does it for a different reason and that’s more than okay,” said Dr. David Kosub, a member of the Strategic Planning and Evaluation Branch at NIAID who’s resurrecting the club.

This year, interested in seeing if others on campus shared his passion for the sport, he asked around about starting a running club, only to find that there already was one, the Health’s Angels. It just hadn’t been active for many years.

“I learned of this history and decided to revive it,” he said. “We’ll keep the same name—it’s clever and catchy.”

However, he and the club will be changing the logo and official name slightly. Years ago, it was known as a “jogging club,” not a running club. When the group started back in 1975, “jogging” was commonly used to describe the activity. The club’s logo, featuring a racing rabbit circled with the club’s name, will be altered to reflect the change.

There are several people on campus who were involved in the club in its early heyday. Jerry Moore, who works as NIH regulations officer in the Division of Management Support, OD, is one. A teenager during the Kennedy administration, he recalls how the fitness walks of his youth evolved for him into the running craze of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Being a member of the club seemed a natural thing to do.

“The club helped a lot on campus in inspiring a lot of the people to come out and run during the day,” he said. “It became a group of friends you could do something with. People who might never have interacted with each other on the campus really bonded with each other as a result of their shared passion for running and their association with the club.”

Below: The historic Health’s Angels logo

Bottom: The Health’s Angels Running Club meets every Tuesday at noon at the flagpole in front of Bldg. 1. All are welcome.

The historic Health’s Angels logo  
The Health’s Angels Running Club meets every Tuesday at noon at the flagpole in front of Bldg. 1. All are welcome.  

Moore recalls how events of the era framed the founding of Health’s Angels 34 years ago.

In 1966, Runner’s World magazine was started, and in 1972, American runner Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon at the Summer Olympics. He won the silver in the same event in 1976. In 1977, the bestseller The Complete Book of Running by James F. Fixx appeared, revolutionizing the world of personal exercise.

The book “became sort of a bible for many novice runners like me across the country,” said Moore.

That enthusiasm for the sport, often thought of as a predominantly solitary pursuit, turned the act of running into a group activity for many NIH’ers. Dr. Phil Snoy, who works in veterinary medicine at FDA, remembers the solidarity of the club as being a way to encourage people to get out and get moving during the workday.

“I liked running at noon because it got me out of my chair,” he said. It also had another positive effect. “Some of my best ideas have come when I’m running.”

Snoy, who still runs on his own, but not nearly as much as he did during the club’s early years, says running remains a good way to brainstorm.

“Especially if I don’t use an MP3 player, when it’s just you and the road,” he said. “I get some great ideas when I’m running.”

However nice it is to know that the club enjoys a rich tradition on campus, history is not the reason why Kosub decided to revive the Angels. For him, it’s really about building a community of support for those who participate in a sport that is so grueling at times that outsiders could remark that runners aren’t so much committed as should be committed.

“You kind of have to be a little crazy to be a runner,” Kosub said. “It’s a pretty torturous act and every runner is different, but we’re all crazy on some level.”

That’s okay by Leora Comis, who works in rehabilitation therapy in the Clinical Center and showed up for the first meeting of the new club. Not only is she doing it for the bone health benefits, but also for the perks that are harder to measure.

“I do this for my emotional well-being,” she said, moments after finishing a noonday run. “This lets me meet people and helps me get away from my desk.” NIHRecord Icon

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