Dan Sturgell is a very active member of the Valparaiso community. In fact, active is an understatement. Sturgell has been the Sunset Hill Run Club Group Leader since 2011, was a Calumet Strider Board Member for 6 years, and works at the Porter County Parks and Recs Department as a co-coach of the running programs there.
The running bug bit him in the winter of 1983.He started out just walking about a mile after work to get more active. A neighbor saw him in action and offered to teach him how to run, but he declined, he definitely didn’t want to run, or so he thought.
Not much time later he surprised himself and started running from lamp post to lamp post until he went as far as a mile. His neighbor came out one day and declared, “I’m going to train you for the Popcorn Panic!” The 1984 Popcorn Panic became his first of over 600 races he would soon run.
With over 600 races under his belt at $20 to $30 dollars a piece for an entry, Sturgell admits he probably could have gotten himself a new car by now, but he’d rather run.
Sturgell retired from his job as a Union Construction Electrician of 37 years in 2004 and in 2011 he became the Sunset Hill Run CLub Group Leader.Thousands of miles later, Sturgell runs about 30 miles week and leads group runs every weekend out on the trails at Sunset Hill or at the Indiana Dunes.
His favorite park of running with a group is the comradery. “When I go out on trails, the beauty of it and comradery with other runners and experiencing that together.”
At his very first race he turned around after crossing the finish line and was surprised to see one of his coworkers and he was officially hooked. “The one thing I got out of it is all the friendships I’ve made,” said Sturgell.
Sturgell said that it really surprised him how much running brings people together. When people are running together in a group, people often pair off according to pace, Strugell said. You often find yourself paired off with someone you wouldn’t have expected.
“Running bridges a gap between an older person and a younger person.” Sturgell said.
He has also noticed an increase in popularity among women. “When I first started there was probably one or two women that ran in our groups.”
Sturgell’s running has also caught on as a family hobby with his wife Jackie of 44 years, and his two grown children participating. He used to take his entire family when he would do races. Sturgell says that it’s really important to set a good example for your kids and to encourage them.
Sturgell is currently the Race Director of the 10,000 meters at Sunset, a 10K or 6.2 mile trail run at the park on August 27 at 7:30 am. Those interested in participating can sign up here.