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Opportunities for exercise abound for area cyclists, runners

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Matt and Brittany Diebolt weren’t runners until late 2011, when Brittany entered the couple into the Octoberfest 5K in Seymour.

Since then, the Diebolts have been hooked. They’ve competed in plenty of races in the past year-and-a-half, and they haven’t had any trouble finding them.

The Columbus area is rich in opportunities for racing or leisurely strolls for both runners and bikers.

“I think it’s great,” Matt Diebolt said. “This year, I’m starting to venture out and do some of the bigger races. For me, it’s nice because it’s something we can do as a family and get home and still have part of your day left.”

The Columbus Running Club has been offering group runs early Saturday and Sunday mornings. Randy Stafford, president of the club for the past eight years, was one of original group who started it in 1999 and was its first president.

“The purpose of it is basically to promote wellness and fitness in the community,” Stafford said. “It’s named the running club, but we have an active group of runners and walkers. We do training programs for events. We’re closely linked to the Pace for The Race program, which is getting people ready for the Louisville or Indianapolis half-marathons in May. We put on and/or support a number of local races.”

Four years ago, one of the club’s members, Jeff Niewedde, put together the Crossroads of Indiana Race Series. The 26-event series of fundraisers features mostly 5Ks in Columbus and surrounding towns.

“Growing up in a running family and running in road races, you wouldn’t hear about the race unless you got a flyer or read it in the newspaper,” Niewedde said. “You would have to go to 15 to 20 different websites to find everything, and now you only have to go to one.

“I thought it would be nice to have a one-stop shop, kind of like a middle place. It’s easier for people to sign up, and now they’re more apt to sign up and participate.”

That includes veteran runners or those new to the sport such as the Diebolts.

Matt, 29, and Brittany, 26, did about 15 of the Crossroads of Indiana Race Series events last year, and Matt won the overall point standings for the men’s 25-29 age division.

“The Crossroads series is kind of where I started running, and I’m branching out,” he said. “I had always been in sports growing up. That first race, my wife signed us up for it. When she told me about it, I wasn’t super excited about it. I did the first race with some reasonable success, and the next week, I was already signed up for the next race.”

Niewedde said his events average between 200 and 300 runners and walkers. He said some companies offer incentive programs such as cheaper insurance premiums for participants.

“The race series was a good idea and something that kind of bounced around, but no one put it together until Jeff Niewedde did,” Stafford said. “The race series is a really good way to cross-promote a lot of the different races, and since the race series has started, I think every race has seen a 10 to 50 percent increase in participation at the events.”

“It’s fun to see it grow,” Niewedde said. “I started it, and I’m pretty much the grease and the wheels, so it’s nice to see the participants come out. There’s always a disconnect between the race directors and the participants, so we do a survey once in a while to see what the runners like.”

Meanwhile, Bicycle Station offers Wednesday Evening Mountain Bike Rides, Thursday Evening Road Rides and Saturday Road Rides from its shop on Washington street.

Matt Battin, owner of Bicycle Station, participates in the central and southern Indiana-based DINO Series, a seven-race mountain bike series, along with a 24-hour race in September.

But there also are local rides such as the Tour de Trails, Girlfriend Ride, Hope Ride and Beer Ride for the Clifford Fire Department.

“There’s certainly organized rides and races in the area,” Battin said.

“It allows them to connect with other people who have like interests.”

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