Blythewood Women Running Like Royalty

Blythewood’s Running Princesses – Front row: Meredith Newman, Stacy Rotluff, Susan Davis, Marilyn Buckmaster, Fairy Godmother Lourdes Villwock, Tammy Carter. Back row: May Vokaty, Pam Schexnider, Laura Urtz, Jessica Stack, Jennifer Coleman, Mary Fleetwood and Malarie Schexnider.

BLYTHEWOOD – Several Blythewood women have recently been transformed into princesses – but instead of waltzing in glass slippers, they are pounding the pavement in sneakers. Organized by May Vokaty, a resident of LongCreek Plantation and Food Editor for The Voice, the Running Princesses is a group of women who are focused on running and fitness, but who were inspired in their quest by the lighthearted theme of the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World.

The group started in January 2013, after Vokaty returned from Disney World where she cheered her husband Chris at the Disney Marathon.

“That’s when I learned about the Disney Princess Half-Marathon, which takes place every February. It’s a princess-themed race for women – many of the women wore tutus and tiaras during the race! It seemed really fun,” Vokaty said, “and I thought it would be great to organize a girls’ group back here in Blythewood and train for it.”

Still new to running herself at the time, Vokaty shared her excitement with a few friends.

“At first there were about five or six of us interested in forming a group,” Vokaty said, “so I put together a newsletter about our goals of fitness, fun and fellowship – all with a princess theme, of course! That newsletter was forwarded to friends of friends, and then Brenda Pepin, our pastor’s wife, suggested extending an invitation at the ladies’ luncheon at church. Before long we had about 60 women in our group.”

Most of the women live in Blythewood, but some are from elsewhere in South Carolina. There are even members as far away as Minnesota and Mississippi.

“It’s sort of a virtual group,” Vokaty explains. “We check in with each other, provide encouragement and support. We’re focused on running, but the group has a wide variety of fitness levels, from people who are just starting to run to veteran half-marathoners.”

The group meets for training runs in Lake Carolina and they also volunteer in support roles at local races.

“For instance, we worked at the water station during the Blythewood Labor Day run,” Vokaty said, “and we all dressed as princesses. It adds a fun element to the race.”

Eleven of the women, including Vokaty, are training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2014, but everyone in the group participates in the daily challenges posted by Princess Tammy Carter.

“For instance,” Vokaty said, “this month we’re focusing on abs, so today’s challenge was to do 35 sit-ups, 15 crunches, 15 leg raises and 25 seconds of a plank. You don’t have to do everything at once – just fit it in wherever you have a few minutes. During the day we all check in on Facebook to keep ourselves accountable.”

Princess Laura Urtz said the group encourages her.

“I know I’m not alone in this,” she said, “even if I happen to be running alone! My goal is to lose weight and to feel good and be fit.”

Vokaty said the group’s vision extends beyond the annual Disney race. Their big goal is to eventually host a 5K or 10K race in Blythewood, with all proceeds going toward a women’s charity. She emphasized that the group is focused on community rather than competition.

“Sometimes people are intimidated and think, ‘Oh, I can’t be a Running Princess because I can’t run’,” she said. “But it’s perfectly fine to walk or do a combination of walking and jogging.”

Of course, there is one qualifying feat required to join the group.

“It is very hard to run wearing a tiara,” Vokaty said, “but a princess can do it.”

For more information on how to become a Running Princess, contact [email protected]

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