BOTKINS — Many families bond around an activity, hobby or event that they enjoy doing.
For some, it may be traveling, boating or hunting.
For members of the Flora family in Botkins, they bond and learn through running.
The mother, Tina, 41, and the father, Matt, 44, each run on their own, as Tina runs on her own to stay in shape, while Matt competes in events every so often.
Tina has run the longest event of anyone in the family, having run a 50K marathon before.
Earlier this month Matt ran a half-marathon in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The three oldest children all run for their school’s cross country and track and field teams, even though neither Tina nor Matt ran cross country at their respective high schools.
Tina was a good volleyball player and a versatile performer in track and field during high school.
About 15 years ago, Matt decided he wanted to do a marathon, and so he and Tina began training for one together.
“We decided to start training for the Columbus Marathon. We first did a triathlon, but the marathon is what hooked us,” Matt said. “We had no intention of continuing to run or for it to be a lifestyle, but, like Forrest Gump, we just kept running.”
And while Matt and Tina started running routinely, their young children began running on their own, joining the town Fun Run, which Tina organizes.
“I remember them taking initiative,” Tina said about the kids. “It was really cool because it was the first time we were able to see them push themselves. It wasn’t about fun. They were actually pushing themselves. They were hurting, running that half-mile.”
When it came to being old enough to run cross country for the school teams, Brooklyn, 14, was an exception at first.
Brooklyn’s fall sport was set to be volleyball, the sport her mother played in high school, but after having a successful track and field during the spring of her seventh grade school year, Brooklyn told her mother that she wanted to run cross country in the fall in order to help her prepare to continue to have success in track and field.
This season the Trojans won the Shelby County Athletic League cross country meet in Anna, with Brooklyn finishing fourth overall.
It is believed that the middle school’s victory was the first SCAL title in any sport at Botkins, whether at the middle school or high school level, since 2007.
“It was a big deal,” Botkins cross country coach Ryan Gutman said. “They knocked off Russia, which is a perennial powerhouse. In my 10 years of coaching, that was one of my favorite memories. That was a cool race.”
Brooklyn gave her thoughts on her first season of cross country and why she likes running.
“I’ve worked really hard for it,” Brooklyn said. “At the end, I was glad I did it.
“You don’t have to depend on somebody else,” she said. “I like that a lot.”
In a way, the family was glad Brooklyn took up cross country. No longer did the Floras have to accommodate volleyball matches into their schedule during the fall. They could all attend the same cross country meet.
“It was nice, because for our schedule, everybody was in the same place at the same time,” Matt said.
On the volleyball path like her mother, Brooklyn was unlikely to run at one point in time, but Grant, 7, is quite the opposite. Essentially, Grant was highly likely to take up running, because, basically, that’s what the rest of his family does.
“It’s fun,” Grant said when asked why he likes running. “I’m excited when I’m finished.”
Grant runs mainly in the Fun Run and probably takes running most seriously of anyone in the family.
“No different than any other family that has older kids, Grant is always comparing himself to Cam,” Matt said. “The normal question when Grant finishes running, he always asks, ‘am I as fast as Cam?’”
Matt said Grant has a very determined look on his face while he is running.
“He takes it very seriously,” Matt said. “He tries very hard.”
Grant has a high standard to meet if he wants to match what Cameron does on the course, and Chloe for that matter, too.
Cameron and Chloe, both 16, as sophomores as Botkins High School, each lead their respective teams, who will be competing at regionals on Saturday.
Cameron owns the 13th fastest time (16:54) in BHS boys cross country history, while Chloe (19:28) is third all time in BHS girls history.
Cameron explained why he runs.
“You don’t really have to have a lot of talent to run,” Cameron said. “What separates the middle of the pack from the front is how hard you work. I feel that’s one of my strengths. I work hard. That’s what helps me a lot.”
Chloe simply likes running, for much of the same reason why her sister does.
“In the season, it’s kind of hard,” Chloe said about cross country. “Moving onto regionals, it makes you feel good. You get that feeling with other sports, but with running there’s that element of it’s just you.”
Matt, on behalf of the Flora family, thanked Gutman for his involvement with the kids’ running and his service to the school.
“Ryan has been a huge part of our running family,” Matt said. “He’s been a great coach. He cares about the kids. A big part of their success with the hard work he puts in.
“He puts in hours behind the scenes and spends time worrying about making the program right,” he said.
Gutman countered with his own praise of the parents and their dedication to their kids’ running endeavors, mentioning the training programs and specialized meals Tina prepares for her children and the upbeat, focused messages Matt shares with his children.
“Not every parent does that,” Gutman said. “Tina does a lot, and Matt is probably the most motivational guy I know.
“Sometimes I just want to come their house, listen to him talk and then I’ll feel like I can go take on the world,” he said. “I can’t imagine what his kids feel like.”
“They probably get tired of it,” Matt said with a laugh.
Running unites the Flora family in a way few things in life can.
Most parents can only have experienced what their kids are experiencing at the same age in their childhood, and never at the same time.
Through running, however, Matt and Tina can share the exact same feelings as their children, regardless of how old they are.
“It’s neat watching them run because you see the perseverance they have,” Tina said. “You know that they’re going to be okay in life, because they don’t give up and they fight.”
Matt echoed Tina’s thoughts on that shared experience.
“That’s one of the reason why I run. It’s because I can share that with them,” Matt said. “When I’m at a race and I see them hurting, I know exactly how they feel because I race and I run. When I’m yelling for them, they know that I can feel what they feel because I run. That’s a big draw for me.”
Like Forrest Gump, Matt and Tina will likely continue running, because, as Matt points out, running is something people can do their entire lives, he said.
“Running is the best sport out there. The things you learn in running can apply to your whole life,” Matt said. “It teaches you to be strong, how to overcome adversity, accomplish more than what you thought you can do, and the value of discipline and hard work. It teaches you that there’s nobody that can make you do it.
“You’ve got to do it on your own,” he said. “You can quit anytime but you’ve got to find something inside yourself to push through.”
Although running is an individual sport, the Floras say they never feel alone. Despite all of the hard work they put in and the sacrifices they make, they recognize that their family bond over running is not possible with God.
“God is the main reason for any success that we may have as runners, and He is the one who has given us the gift of running fast,” Chloe said.