BY KEN THOMPSON
With the calendar pointing to spring, there are plenty of opportunities in Greater Lafayette for people who’ve had enough of being cooped up indoors and are ready to get out and exercise.
Whether it’s running, cycling or playing a newer sport – pickleball anyone? – there’s no excuse to not get into shape. Three local groups welcome beginners as well as long-time participants and those with experience somewhere in between.
Wabash River Cycle Club
The Wabash River Cycle Club was founded in 1978, and it continues to prosper more than 40 years later because there are rides available for just about every level of cyclist. For the advanced rider, there are mountain bike trails and gravel roads. For the beginner and intermediate cyclists, there are rides featuring bike paths and roads.
Long-time club member Gary Brouillard, a member of the group’s executive board, offers these reasons for joining the Wabash River Cycle Club:
• Having a group to ride with for safety, companionship, encouragement and improving your biking skills;
• Access to the list serve for changes to calendar rides and for rides not listed on the calendar;
• Learning various safe bicycle routes; and
• The knowledge available within the membership.
As of January, there were 217 club members, a number that does not break down family memberships. To Brouillard’s knowledge, 90-year-old Gilbert Satterly is the only founding member who still belongs to the club.
Board member Molly Cripe Birt says in the past year, 280 riders logged more than 161,522 miles.
The club boasts that it provides a great social scene not just for the cyclists but for their families and friends as well. The 501c non-profit group offers annual memberships for families ($40), individuals ($30) and students ($15). To join, go to wrcc-in.org/page/join#join.
The club’s big annual event is the Wabash River Ride, set this year for Aug. 29 starting at Fort Ouiatenon, on South River Road in West Lafayette. Cyclists have a variety of routes to choose from, covering Tippecanoe, Fountain and Warren counties. Routes cover distances of 33, 47, 66 or 100 miles. In addition to scenic views of the Wabash River, riders could see area landmarks such as the Rob Roy Covered Bridge, historic Williamsport Bridge and the Fountain County Church.
Cumberland Park will host the club’s New Rider Callout in May. Cripe says the callout will include a 1- to 2-hour ride as well as a donut social and a fun lunch. Information will be available about other club activities and membership signup.
May is a busy month for the club. A weekly Wabash River Cycling Club Women’s Ride will offer rides based upon skill and speed. Within the weekly rides will be an educational feature called Stand Nights. Here, women can learn bike skills, maintenance and female-related cycling issues.
The Wabash River Cycling Club also will support Bike to Work Week activities in Greater Lafayette.
Wabash River Runners Club
If you prefer two feet to two-wheeled transportation, the Wabash River Runners Club welcomes runners of all levels, from recreational jogger to the competitive road racer. The group was formed in the mid-1980s and in four decades membership has reached nearly 250.
Weekly group runs take place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tapawingo Park is the starting point for Wednesday’s group runs, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday’s run begins at 8 a.m. from the West Lafayette Panera Bread location in Wabash Landing. An early start from Café Literato on Sunday, 7 a.m., caps the week.
When warmer weather arrives in Greater Lafayette, the Wabash River Runners Club holds two race series: a Farmers Market 5K out of the Cumberland Park farmers market and a trail race series of varying distances out of Battle Ground Memorial Park, according to club president Natalia Sanchez.
Annual membership fees are $15 for individuals, $25 for couples and $35 for families. Those who register online at runlafin.org will incur an additional $1 processing fee. Membership is not necessary to participate in a run, but club members do gather for additional workouts to improve speed, weight training and hill climbing.
The club’s website offers valuable tips for training for a 5K race, half or full marathons and trail runs.
Sponsored races include The Purdue Challenge 5K Run/Walk. The race begins and ends at Ross-Ade Stadium and all the money raised goes to support cancer research at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. The event’s website, raceroster.com, boasts that in the previous 12 years, the Purdue Challenge has raised more than $1 million for cancer research.
Another event is the ninth annual Purdue Boilermaker Half Marathon/5K, set for Oct. 17, with the start/finish at Ross-Ade Stadium. Register at purduehalf.com.
Lafayette Pickleball Association
Despite the name, pickleball has nothing to do with the condiment you might find on your hamburger. Instead it’s a game that’s been around since the 1960s when it began as a children’s backyard activity.
It’s a paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Like those sports, two or four players can participate in a match. Holding solid paddles, the players attempt to hit a perforated ball that might remind some of a Wiffle Ball, over a net.
The wife of one of the game’s founders, Joel Pritchard, called it pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from leftovers of the other boats.”
Another of the founders, Barney McCallum, claims the game was named after the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles. The dog would chase the ball and run off with it, McCallum said.
The Lafayette Indiana Pickleball Association’s roots trace back to May 2011, according to membership official Cheryl Parker. Tom Plummer and friends Joe Yuill, Dick Wiegand, Max Fitzgerald, Vern Mayrose and Jim Ciccarelli met at Armstrong Park. They played pickleball with homemade paddles composed of cutoff old tennis racket handles and pieces of plywood.
Others saw the group playing and by winter, the roster of players reached 18. That winter, the group petitioned the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department to paint permanent pickleball lines on the tennis courts at McCaw Park.
Today, the Lafayette Pickleball Association boasts more than 250 members and says that the sport is the nation’s fastest growing. Some proof of that can be seen at McCaw Park, which hosts a 12-court complex for pickleball that was dedicated in the summer of 2018 in partnership with the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department.
Five sites are available for indoor play. The Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club, 1529 N. 10th St., Lafayette, has three tiled courts available during the public school year. Cost is $2 per session or $20 a month. Portable nets and balls are provided to association members.
The YWCA, 605 N. Sixth St., Lafayette, is open to association members. Cost is $3 per session. Portable nets and balls are provided to association members. Three courts on a wood gym floor are available.
Five striped pickleball courts on a wood gym floor are available at the Lafayette YMCA, 3001 Creasy Lane. A single court can be reserved for one hour but YMCA membership is required. Guest passes are available. Also, players must provide their own pickleballs.
Faith East Community Center has two tiled courts available for play. Cost is $2. Nets and balls will be provided for association members.
Also, Purdue’s Cordova Recreational Sports Center offers multiple wood courts and nets are available, but players are asked to bring their own pickleballs. The facility is open to members but non-members are welcome to purchase a one-day pass for $7.
Annual membership fees are $30 for individuals and $50 for families. The Lafayette Pickleball Association offers lessons for beginners and supports all levels of play from recreational to highly competitive.
Lafayette Boxing Club
For decades now, local youths and young adults have learned the skill of boxing and developing into Golden Gloves participants.
Club president Terry Christian, a former Golden Gloves state champion under the guidance of club founder Sherman Depew, takes pride in the club’s history, which began as the Twin Cities Boxing Club. In addition to 1993 National Golden Gloves light middleweight champion Darnell Wilson, the Lafayette Boxing Club has produced multiple state individual and team champions while providing facilities and training at no charge to its members.
Its current home is 2423 Poland Hill Road in Lafayette.
Lafayette Bike Polo
A game that has been a part of the Olympics (a demonstration sport in 1908), the Lafayette Bike Polo club is based at Shamrock Park.
The game is just like it sounds, polo on bicycles instead of horses, with teams of three or five. The only other equipment needed is a mallet and a polo ball.
For more information, including how to participate, email [email protected]