There is a group in Paonia that has kicked up the quirkiness factor a notch or two. You might have seen them gallivanting around town and wondered just who those women were, and why in the world they were wearing those outﬁts.
It's all part of the fun of being a PEARL. The Paonia Running Ladies (the "e" and the "a" alternate weekly, so the name of the group is forever changing. One week they were the Paonia Eighties Awareness Running Ladies) take immense pleasure in creating brilliantly eccentric costumes in which they run.
"We needed a good excuse to socialize, accessorize and exercise," said member Shawna Magtutu.
One week they did a bathing suit run, another week was best hair, another mockumentary personas. They've been princesses and had a wedding run, where they wore all the bad bridesmaids' dresses stuffed into their closets. They have plans for a Christmas sweater run and a fur (fake or real) run this winter.
One caveat is that each runner must accessorize with pearls during each run. Some wear pearl barrettes, others earrings and rings. Many wear pearl necklaces, though, after one run, member Cassandra Henion toned down her large pearls. During one run, she wore pearls that were so large they gave her bruises.
The ladies aren't so adventurous to run around Paonia in heels, but they do change into more appropriate footwear to match their outﬁts once the run is over.
The group started in March of this year, and has about 20 regular members who all live in the North Fork. They run once a week on Fridays. They begin at Paonia Town Park and run around town, sometimes making a stop at an enticing garage sale, but always ending up at Revolution Brewery for a beer. At the brewery awaits MEARL, or the "men enthusiastic about the running ladies," with cheers and toilet paper ﬁnish lines.
Kelly Johnson, the self-proclaimed "mother of PEARL," and Leah Morris started the group. One of the hardest things about running, Kelly found, was to come home after a long day at work, change into her running clothes and go for a run. She and Leah solved all that by making running fun through their clothing.
"We think about our running outﬁts all the time," Leah said. The women utilize things from their own closets as well as thrift store ﬁnds. Leah usually makes all her running gear. For the princess run, Shawna pulled from the back of her dresser a pair of leopard-print tights that hadn't seen daylight in several years.
"Everybody has some PEARL in their closet," Kelly said. "You don't have to be a good runner," Shawna said. "You just have to look good."
"It does take a lot to look this good," agreed Kelly, who was decked out in an old blue prom dress, sparkly body spray, a tiara and her running shoes for the group's princess run.
They say everything with a straight face.
"We ran once to Connecticut for brunch," Kelly said. "We only run 30 or 40 miles a night," Leah teased. Actually, each run is fairly easy, and takes the group all over Paonia to see the sights and show off their dress. To encourage the best costumes, Kelly gives a prize each week for whichever runner best embodies the theme.
While many of the Pearls are excellent athletes - many have won medals in races - the goal of the PEARL runs isn't to break a sweat. They're more interested in having fun and causing a stir. They run always as a group - no one gets left behind or pulls ahead of the pack.
"It's really about promoting self-esteem," Shawna said. As a group, they have run in the Cherry Days 5K, the Bolder Boulder 10K, and the Skirt Chasers 5K in Cherry Creek. When a couple of the ladies won medals from the Cherry Days race, they replaced the ribbons with pearls, of course, and now wear their medals proudly at each run. While on their runs, the Pearls also try to promote causes near and dear to their hearts. In Paonia, the third Saturday of each month is the town recycle day. So, on their run on the third Friday of each month, they run with a banner urging residents to recycle the next day. They're hoping to do more charitable activities, too.
The Pearls invite any woman of any age or ability to join them. One woman runs with her toddler in a stroller, and another mom's girls join her.
The Pearls hope other groups will spring up that celebrate creativity and individuality while exercising. A "chapter" of PEARL has popped up in Ft. Collins, and, "we would not be insulted if another well-dressed running group showed up," Kelly said. "We're looking for rivals," Leah added.
You can see more pictures and videos of the women on their Facebook fan page.blog comments powered by Disqus