CARA member Jacob Gaddie is a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and he has a strong belief that you should say yes to as many things as possible – and then figure it out as you go.
So, in the middle of the pandemic, he quit his 9-to-5 job and said yes to starting his own home styling and organization business. He’s been enjoying the journey this past year.
“It’s kind of like running, you continue to work little by little by little, and then finally you’re on top of the mountain,” Gaddie said. “You don’t know you’re there until you’re there.”
This can-do, positive attitude overflows into his running life, and as site coordinator for the 6:30 a.m. Saturday Montrose Marathon Training Program.
As runners, sometimes half-awake, show up for the weekend long run, Gaddie can be seen mingling among the pace groups and offering cheerful greetings as people pass.
“I love talking to everybody all day long, the more people I get to meet and chat with, the merrier I am,” Gaddie said. “And my husband is even happier because I don’t have to bring it home to him,” he added with a laugh. “I get rid of all my excess energy talking to people.”
“That is one thing I understand in life,” he said. “You’ve got to keep trying. If you want to succeed at something, start changing some things and just keep pushing, because you’re going to get somewhere eventually."
But Gaddie wasn’t always a runner. In fact, he was a smoker.
“I remember still smoking cigarettes and trying to run a mile,” he said. “That was a complete disaster.”
He made it with a walk-run in about 25 minutes, but it was, as he said, rough.
But he kept trying.
“That is one thing I understand in life,” he said. “You’ve got to keep trying. If you want to succeed at something, start changing some things and just keep pushing, because you’re going to get somewhere eventually. You never know where you’re going to end or end up, but as long as you continue to push, and keep going, you’ll be fine.” He paused, then said: “But maybe quit smoking before you run.”
Running one mile, and then another, led Gaddie to start doing triathlons. But when he broke his arm after getting hit by a car on his bike, he signed up for the Chicago Marathon – he couldn’t bike or swim, but he could still run.
And that’s where the Chicago Area Runner’s Association comes in. He knew he needed support, and his neighbor recommended running with CARA.
"Running has landed me into a rhythm...Over time, the CARA running crew and people asking me when I’m running this week, that schedule keeps me on, and it keeps me honest with my life, it keeps me honest with the things I’m doing and the people that I get to see."
He got the support he needed, but he also found a family.
“I feel like I have found such a community there,” Gaddie said. “It definitely feels like a little bit of a home to me. As cliché as it may come off, thinking of it like when you are gay and finding other people that have that same experience and pitfalls and struggles, you know, that sort of community – the running community is the same. We all struggle with running, we all struggle with training to be better than who we are today, and everybody there is so supportive and so kind and very generous with their time and energy. That’s where I found a sweet little pocket with running, and it feels sort of like the same community for me as a gay man.”
Over the years he’s watched his running friends get married, achieve life goals and deal with struggles – and they’ve always supported each other. They’ve also traveled together.
One of his best CARA memories didn’t even take place in Chicago – it was in Las Vegas for the Rock-N-Roll half. About a dozen of them had made the trek with spouses, and since the Vegas half is an evening run, they did a boozy brunch and spent time walking around the city – before the start.
“We were walking around Las Vegas, and I was like ‘Oh, sh*t!’ I’m running a half marathon in 2 hours, I need to go change and get to the start.”
He made it and finished in about 2 hours and 9 minutes. But that all goes along with his go-with-the-flow attitude.
“It was such a wonderful experience,” Gaddie said. “There were so many CARA runners there. We all enjoyed the city itself, and it’s sort of like your friends from home coming on a vacation and doing what you love to do.”
Since Gaddie quit the 9-to-5 life, he said running helps add structure to his life as well as clears his mind – and keeps him out of trouble.
“Running has landed me into a rhythm,” Gaddie said. “Over time, the CARA running crew and people asking me when I’m running this week, that schedule keeps me on, and it keeps me honest with my life, it keeps me honest with the things I’m doing and the people that I get to see. I no longer feel like I need a 9-to-5 job to do that.”
Morning runs set up his day and put him in a good mood – so much so that he can often be seen walking home from a coffee shop post-run -- sweaty clothes and all -- saying good morning to everyone along his route.
“I will say hi to anyone and everybody in the morning, and some of the neighborhood people will say hi to me because I’ve been here so long, but there are some new people who are like ‘Why are you saying good morning to me? It’s 8 o’clock in the morning.’ I look like a nutjob, I’m sure.”
Gaddie’s energy, however, is contagious, so if you need a pick-me-up and see him on your morning commute (or any time, frankly), say hi. We can vouch for the fact he is not a nutjob. He’ll probably make your day.