A Sprint Towards Winter Running: Karen Yamada and Michelle Machiele


Courtesy of Michelle Machiele

After a long two years of virtual, Cross Country and Winter Running Coach Karen Yamada and Co-Coach Michelle Machiele were finally able to start running clubs back up again.

Emily Hu

The winter run has begun once again. After a long two years of virtual, Cross Country and Winter Running Coach Karen Yamada and Co-Coach Michelle Machiele were finally able to start Winter Running back up again. Students are once again finally able to run outside in the snow with their friends from early November to late April.

This club started back in 2006. At first, it started just as a Halloween run after the end   of Cross Country. It was a time where students could get together to celebrate both a successful season of Cross Country and the upcoming Halloween holiday. 

“I don’t know whether I thought of it or Coach Machiele thought of it, but we said, ‘You know, maybe we could start some running outside in the winter!’ So we went from there and we continue to do it every year,” Yamada said. 

In the beginning, Winter Running Club was just once a week, but it has increased to twice a week. Students have more opportunities to get the exercise they need, but along with this comes some difficulties.

Students tend to get bored after running a route too many times. They need variety.  

“We try to vary the routes as much as we can because nobody wants to run on the same routes all the time,” Yamada said. “And then on top of that, we try to throw in some kind of celebration.”

Every year, not only does Winter Running do a Winter Running Celebration, but they also incorporate celebrations for Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and more. 

Every month or two, there are themed runs. For example, before going to Spring Break, Yamada and Machiele host a Tropical Thursday. This is because, usually during Spring Break, people travel to warmer places like Florida. Students usually run in leis, green tutus, and Hawaiian Shirts. 

“So we try to make it as fun as possible and when things get really, really boring,” Yamada said. “That’s when I start throwing in jokes. A lot of jokes.”

“Her jokes came right after the workout. Sometimes they were a little cringey but they were funny,” Hemanth Tavane Shivakumar, a member of Clague Winter Running Club said. 

During COVID, Winter Running couldn’t be held in person at Clague anymore. Both Machiele and Yamada believed that it was important to keep students active during long days of sitting in front of computers. 

“Being a social exerciser, I find it really hard if I’m not with people to exercise on my own,” Machiele said. “I’m happy as long as we’re together, getting better and being more consistent.” 

So, they started holding the club virtual. Club members followed along to workout together. To make this a lot more fun, Yamada started telling jokes. Each time, the jokes were focused on a unique holiday of that day. For example, Chocolate Day, Donut Day or Squirrel Day. Yamada has a giant Google Doc just for these jokes. 

“I think its word count is something like 30,000 words,” Yamada said. “I just cut and paste these jokes related to whatever holiday. The students cannot look at it [Google Doc], so they don’t know the answer to the joke. There’s a gazillion jokes.”

After virtual workouts have ended, the return of in-person for Winter Running Club has also brought its own complications.

This year, unlike all other years, there was a max of 160 people who joined the Winter Running Club. In normal years, the Winter Running Club only consisted of about 40 kids. 

“We go to all these places all over town and I’m always worried that we’re gonna lose somebody. That’s the thing we keep track of; we need to keep track of them,” Yamada said when she saw more than 100 kids on her list. 

In usual years, Yamada and Machiele working together to keep track of the kids in Winter Running was not a big challenge. But, this year, with the exponential increase in students and with Machiele gone to help with a new grandchild for a month since her son (a Clague graduate) was in ophthalmology residency, both coaches worked to secure district approved volunteers. Many parent volunteers came to help out and run with the students to keep them safe. 

“For some odd reason, I think because of COVID, parents are encouraging their students to be more active. So we have the biggest group of kids in Winter Running that we’ve ever had before,” Yamada said.

Many parents want their kids to stay healthy and motivated. Winter Running was a great option as it is a very welcoming club. 

“So fun, no cuts, everyone is on the team,” Machiele said. “We work hard and play hard.”

Not only did running with friends keep the kids motivated, it also encouraged both coaches to keep stepping one foot after another and keep moving forward.

“[The students] keep me running. [The students] keep getting faster and I keep getting slower. [They] keep me honest. If I don’t keep running, the whole group will be out in front,” Yamada said.

Normally, high schoolers, former Clague athletes also come to help out at the Winter Running club. Motivated before to keep running, they come back to drive other students to keep on with the sport.

“The other people I looked up to or that I find very admirable are the kids who have either never run before and they take up running and you know essentially they run and they do it in high school,” Yamada said. “They do it in college and beyond. Those are the people that are just amazing to me.”

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running,” former Clague Cross Country coach, Karen Hecker, often said. This has been carried on ever since in the Running Clubs held here at Clague.

Winter Running is a nice club for all students who want to stay active and run. 

“Runners are just very humble and they just know how to keep going,” Yamada said.