For local runners Paola and Phil Howard, running has not only taken them all over the world, but it has also provided them with a family here in Santa Clarita.
Since Paola and Phil moved to the United States in 1994 from England, they’ve been involved with the running club, Santa Clarita Runners, or SCR. In their time in the club, they have held different leadership positions within the club.
After completing an interview to get his first job in the states, Phil ran in a 5K during his visit. At this run, he met the running club for the first time.
“When I met them, I knew they checked one of the boxes because I knew if I moved out here, I would know there are some nice people to run with,” said Phil.
Soon after, Phil was offered a position and the couple moved their lives to Santa Clarita.
Santa Clarita Marathon
“We got roped into things fairly early on,” said Paola. “We naturally like to get involved.”
After only three months in the club, Phil was appointed president of the club. Since then, they have been heavily involved in the annual city marathon.
For the past 25 years, the couple has helped orchestrate the annual Santa Clarita Marathon. When they first became involved, it was not a city-run event, but one run by the runner’s club.
“The marathon probably wouldn’t be taking place if it weren’t for their support of the event,” said SCR President Melanie Cotterell. “They helped start the event.”
Even after the event became a city event, the Howards remained involved by certifying the course for the city.
“We’re always been involved to hold hands with the city and make sure the running side of things are taken care of,” said Phil.
About two years ago, the city placed a difficult task in front of the couple. To incorporate new trails and also create a course that went around existing construction programs, the Howards had to measure and certify an entirely new course in a small window of time.
“It was quite a big endeavor,” said Paola. “Thankfully, we were able to get it done in time for the runners.”
About two years after that race, the couple was recognized by Santa Clarita at a Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission meeting on Feb. 6 for their continued involvement with the annual race.
Family away from home
“The running club became the nearest thing we had to family,” said Phil.
Over the 25 years they’ve been in the Santa Clarita Valley, the couple has cultivated strong friendships in the group and ultimately created lasting supportive relationships.
When the couple was recognized by the city, a group of 40 runners from SCR came out to support them. The couple was shocked by the turnout and the overall support they were receiving.
“The rest of the club wanted to show their support to them because they’ve been so welcoming to all runners,” said Cotterell. “It’s like a family, and we want to be out there and support them.”
Runners commuted from outside of the city and rushed home from work to attend the meeting, according to Paola.
“It was very emotional for us,” said Phil. “If you do something that is significant and you get recognized for it, it is nice to see that those friends are supporting you.”
After they were recognized, the running club left and went on one of their weekly runs together.
“We couldn’t have chosen a better group of people,” said Phil.
Traveling the world
Running has taken this couple all over the world. The runners have run races in Tokyo, Berlin, Australia and South Africa.
A few years back, the couple even had the opportunity to run across the Great Wall of China.
As they’ve traveled to different races, they have made friends all over the world.
Because of the friendships they made with runners in SCR, they have been able to travel the world with them, too. With Paola’s encouragement, Cotterell ran her first marathon in Berlin with a group of about eight runners who traveled out to the race.
“We’ve seen some great places because of runs,” said Paola.
Even when the couple travels somewhere without the intention of joining a race, they always tend to find at least one race to participate in.
For the couple, running has remained a hobby that they can do together that supports their relationship, according to Phil.
Paola added: “Running is definitely a big part of who we are.”