A Wake-Up Call
It's five o'clock in the morning and Mike Tripp is the first to arrive at the Forum trail head.
Once a year, Tripp sees to it that every one of his 169 guests is accounted for.
"That's phenomenal on a Tuesday at 5:30 in the morning to get that many people out on running," Joe Bechtold said.
Tripp and fellow Columbia Multisport Club member Bechtold host an annual high attendance day, where the goal is to bring in everyone. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30, Tripp, Bechtold and others routinely go for a 5 to 7 mile run down the Katy Trail.
"It's the last free activity left in this world," Bechtold said.
What began as a simple four-man team six years ago, grew to over 80 people per day.
"The first year, 15 was a good number, and we thought that was pretty exciting," Tripp said. "It's really a lot of fun."
While the Katy Trail might bring a few bumps, nicks, scratches, and even the occasional bug bite, there's no question that these runners have fierce dedication.
"My usual running time is 4:15 in the morning with my running partner," Columbia Track Club president Linda LaFontaine said. "This is almost like a biathalon for me, it'll be like a run, a rest, and then a run again."
"It is fun to have the high attendance day," Tripp said. "But what I think what keeps people coming back isn't 5:30 in the morning, it's getting to know people and having someone to be accountable to and also have a friendship with."