When Dennis Kelleher, 47, joined the Reston Runners club two years ago, he said he wasn't sure he could run a few miles, let alone marathons.
"I was an avid golfer and I would go to the gym from time to time," said Kelleher, one of about 1,300 members of the Reston Runners, a running club diverse in age, gender and ability.
Kelleher said he joined the club as an incentive to get in better shape and to learn how to run long distances, and the training paid off: The Lowes Island resident completed last month's 26.2-mile Marine Corps Marathon in 3 hours, 13 minutes.
"You're more apt to show up if it's a group run. There are times when you don't feel like going ... but when it's a group, it's like they're waiting for you," he said.
The club has also become a social connection for many of its members.
"When you go to a weekend run, for instance, there's the time you actually run, and then afterward people will hang out," Kelleher said. Runners in the group pay $15 in annual membership dues for individuals or $20 for families and can run in smaller groups daily or participate in the scheduled runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Reston Runners started out in the mid-1970s as a group of area residents training for a marathon, said longtime member Joe Fleig, a 73-year-old Reston resident.
"The club just sort of evolved," said Fleig, who is one of many members of the club that walks courses. "We've changed the constitution of the club so every event that says 'run' also says 'walk.'"
For those preparing for long-distance running competitions, like marathons, Fleig recommended group running.
"It's one thing to run and train for a marathon by yourself, but it's much more pleasant to do it with a group. And that's what the club offers," he said.
Reston Runners President Tim Cohn, 52, said the range of those participating in Reston Runners events spans from toddlers to octogenarians.
"We have some very competitive older runners who routinely win races in their age bracket," he said. "We do have people in their 80s who come out."
The club's Youth in Motion summer program draws about 350 area children ages 2- to 14-years-old. American track star Alan Webb, who broke Jim Ryun's national high school mile record as a senior at South Lakes High School in 2001, is a lifelong Reston resident and graduate of the Youth in Motion program.
"One of the great things about Reston is that it has a lot of paths," Cohn said, adding that among the many Fairfax County running clubs, Reston Runners is one of the largest.
"We almost always start in Reston, but we run all over the place," Cohn said.
Reston Runners is a member of the Road Runners Club of America. Several of its organized races benefit charitable organizations, like March of Dimes and local educational fitness programs through Fairfax County Public Schools.
For more information about the club, how to join or scheduled runs and events, visit www.restonrunners.org.