On a sunny, early spring afternoon, I meet Charlie and Kristin at Buzz Bakery on Slaters Lane. Just a few days earlier, Kristin had asked if we could move our original meeting time a few hours later so she and Charlie could run a race in Northern Virginia. This change is fitting, since running is the topic that brings us together—and them for that matter.
Charlie Harr and Kristin Fuller are Del Ray residents and coaches for Team in Training, a charity organization that is committed to helping individuals train for races while also benefiting The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
“Team in Training uses mission as a motivator,” says Kristin as we find a few seats among the Sunday afternoon crowd at Buzz. “We’re empowering people who have stories related to leukemia and lymphoma to come together as a team to reach a running goal.”
Unlike many other training organizations that charge a fee for joining, Team in Training encourages participants to raise funds for LLS in order to be a part of the team.
As coaches, Charlie and Kristin create training plans to motivate participants to meet their goals. They meet weekly with participants at training sessions. They run practice races with their teams. They get to know participants (some of whom are Del Ray residents), learn why participants are fundraising for LLS (often survivors themselves), and use those stories to help motivate new runners to run half and full marathons, as well as perform triathlons and bike rides.
But for Charlie and Kristin, Team in Training isn’t just a job. It isn’t just a way to help individuals meet their goals. And it isn’t even just a way to raise money for a worthy cause like blood cancer research and development. It is also a catalyst for love and a central part of their story.
While they came to Team in Training separately—he had a friend who died four days after being diagnosed with leukemia; she was interested in running for a cause—they came to know each other as they grew through the organization.
This Sunday afternoon, Charlie and Kristin shift toward each other in our tall chairs at Buzz and smile as we start to talk about the twists and turns in their journey to coupledom. If there is such thing as a classic running romance, theirs would be textbook.
At a coaches meeting at the beginning of a new training season, Charlie and Kristin were finally introduced. Over a shared passion for running and Team in Training’s mission, they started to talk with each other. Sometimes their teams would come together in training. Other times they had conversations on the trails. Eventually, they took their conversation off the trails and started emailing.
While most would think that an evening at a Nationals game would constitute a first date (“It wasn’t a date!” they both insist), it does not fit the story of them. Instead, their first “unofficial” date was a five-and-a-half-hour car ride together traveling to Virginia Beach for a marathon. I cringe at this notion. Indeed, they agree with me that it seems like the longest, most awkward first date ever.
But it worked. They spent several weekends together following the long car ride, leading up to a first “official” date just before the Marine Corps Marathon where they each had several team members running.
A couple years later, they found themselves at Walt Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon, a fairy tale race of sorts.
It was on that trip that Charlie proposed to Kristin.
For their wedding, they planned an afternoon event at the Comus Inn at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland, a site Charlie spotted while on a Team in Training ride. The time of their wedding even reflected their involvement with Team in Training.
“We wanted our friends at Team in Training to be able to join us just after their morning training,” says Kristin, “so we scheduled an afternoon wedding.”
Today, they continue to devote their time and energy to the organization that ultimately brought them together.
“It’s very much a part of our relationship,” says Kristin.
It is clear that a commitment to helping others—and ultimately helping the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society—is a core part of who they are as a couple. Together they help hundreds of individuals cross the finish line each year.
Do you know someone with an interesting story? Email me at jessica.mancari[AT]gmail[DOT]com.