For Casey Kenley, the epiphany began as she waddled through a trail run, eight months pregnant with her second child.
She spotted a group of women coming toward her, laughing and chatting as they ran. “I knew one of them, and I thought it would be awesome to have a group like that. They were having so much fun.”
A few months later, after giving birth, Kenley connected with the women and began running with them regularly.
A few years later, the nucleus of the 12-woman group that was to become Team Film had formed. What started out as friends getting together to train has grown into a group that organizes events and raises money to help community organizations.
The group is about running — and biking, swimming and just about any other active pursuit — but, most important, it’s about making that connection Kenley had longed for that day during her run.
“We commiserate. We laugh. Sometimes women don’t take the time to do that with other women,” Kenley says. “We need permission to do that, because nurturing relationships with other women is important.”
Beginning in January, Team Film is going to help women in other communities form their own connections. The organization is launching a website that will help similar groups get going throughout Indiana and the nation. Startup kits will be available, as well as athletic apparel, training plans and fundraising advice.
Most of all, Team Film wants to encourage other women to “enjoy and embrace the moment through physical activity,” says member Kristy Busack, who’s been with the group for three or four years.
The group also wants others to know what they do: that you can seriously challenge yourself and have serious fun at the same time. “We’re not just a brand. We’re a lifestyle,” Kenley says.
The name Team Film stems from the group’s entry — production, really — a few years ago in the Dances With Dirt 100K relay in Gnaw Bone, Ind. Members selected a cinematic theme, complete with a red carpet, director, starlets and blaring music. The runners shed their ball gowns in the woods, then took off on the trails.
They didn’t win based on times, though they did take honors for presentation. “We’re not the fastest, but we have the most fun,” Kenley says.
The group tried other names but kept coming back to Team Film, in part because of the deeper question the runners keep in mind.
“If you were to take a movie clip of your life, right now, today, would you be proud of the life you’re living?” Busack asked.
The types of physical activity the team undertakes vary widely. Sometimes, it’s as simple as the Family Rake the Leaves Day the team held as a challenge in the fall, with participants posting images on social media. Or members might support others during 50-mile runs. Or they might caravan to Florida for spring break, with seven families sharing a house and a week of fun at the beach.
The group includes marathoners, bikers, hikers and even walkers. “Five miles is a great distance for me, and no one cares,” says Maria Harper, who’s building up her distance after a coronary last summer. “We don’t exclude anybody.”
There are women for whom running has been a lifelong passion — four members were cross-country teammates at Carmel High School when they were teens. Others, however, became active later in life. One member didn’t start running seriously until she was in her 40s, and she now does triathlons and marathons, says Harper, who ran her first half marathon in 2012. “I never thought I could do anything like that,” she added.
She’s not alone in finding inspiration in the group. Leann Faust ran a 50-mile race after Kenley shared her experience. “I didn’t know people did things like that. I thought marathons were it,” she says. “Knowing that Casey had done it put that little seed in my brain.”
Busack tried a triathlon, with coaching help from one of the group’s strong swimmers. “I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone, to take a chance.”
Oftentimes, the adventure becomes an integral part of the activity. That was the case with last fall’s 200-mile Bourbon Chase Relay in Kentucky, a journey that the husbands joined, too, offering support as the women competed in psychedelic colors and huge wigs as part of the race’s Jimi Hendrix-centric theme.
“You run through the night, and you really get slaphappy,” Faust says. “You don’t sleep much, and you don’t sleep well.”
Like most everything involving Team Film, the business end evolved. At first members kept in touch via email and texting. Next came the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Goteamfilm. The website — www.goteamfilm.com — will be complete in January.
The local members of Team Film — three live out of state — meet at least weekly for runs and socializing. The lengths of the runs vary, depending on members’ training schedules, needs and time, they said. Everyone doesn’t finish at the same time, though they meet up afterward, sometimes lingering for hours.
“What’s really at the core for me is the connections. It’s harder when you’re an adult to make those great connections that you could when you were younger,” Faust says.
Busack agrees. “It’s not about just feeling great about getting a good run in. It’s about being with women who are going through the same life stages I am.”