Mel Diab, Founder
Marathon Runner & Half-Marathon Runner
How long have you been a runner? Why did you start?
I’ve been a runner for almost 50 years, since I was 15. I fell into running by accident. JFK was the president and all school children had to run a mile in gym class. Most kids in the class could run it in about ten or twelve minutes, and when it was my turn I ran the mile in 5:50. I was on the basketball team at the time, and only got to play when we were about 30 points up, so I figured track would be a better sport for me. I’ve been a runner ever since. In high school I ran the mile in 4:16 and in college I ran it in 4:11. I also ran competitively for Bradley University.
What are the highlights of your racing experience?
I’ve run 15 marathons, 6 Bostons, with my 6th being at age 63. But I prefer half-marathons, because they combine strength, speed and mental toughness. I ran several half marathons throughout my forties, and my best time was 1:18 at the age of 46. That year I also ran a 5K in 16:40.
How many miles do you typically run each week?
When I’m training for a marathon, I run 55 to 60 miles a week. Otherwise, I maintain a base of about 52 miles a week.
What advice do you have for other athletes hoping to achieve their running goals?
I recommend morning runs. It’s easy to build them into your schedule and it’s great training for races, which are typically in the morning. Before you get going with the rest of your day, take time to run—just letting your mind wander as you go. It’s a beautiful stress reliever.
When and why did you start Running for Kicks?
I’d been thinking about opening a running shop for decades. In 1997, when I was 47, I decided I had to do it. I wanted a job that I would look forward to every day. And I do. Now, I know our customers’ families, their injuries, their fitness goals. I feel like a problem solver; people come in with specific needs and we help them achieve their fitness goals.
What is your goal with the store?
I hope to promote fitness in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and build a community of people who want support for their training. Everyone in the store is an experienced runner with excellent product knowledge, so we can take the guesswork out of training preparation.
How have you been able to directly promote fitness?
We offer three free, weekly running programs.
On Mondays at 6pm: Beginners’ Run/Walk Program.
This program is for people who have never consistently run before. It’s my favorite group because there’s always great enthusiasm and you can quickly see progress being made. Every eight weeks we have a new group of 20 to 30 people and they complete the entire program together. It’s an excellent confidence builder and structured plan for getting fit.
On Tuesdays at 6pm: Five miles at an eight minute pace
On Wednesdays at 6pm: Five miles at a ten minute pace
More experienced runners looking for the motivation of group training can participate in these weekly five-mile runs.