Raynard Lawler, originally from Talladega, AL, who now resides in Anniston, AL, and Vergil Chames, of Montgomery, AL, have been friends for three decades, ever since attending Alabama State University together in the mid ‘80s.
When Chames joined the army at 17, finished basic training and started his freshman year in college, Lawler had just begun his senior year. The two became friends and were connected in two collegiate organizations.
After graduation, as Lawler dove into his career and family life, he slipped into a sedentary lifestyle, a stark contrast to his active youth. After a pretty major health scare in 2008 (Lawler thought he was having a heart attack), he vowed to make a change. So, he started running.
“I started with mostly walking and a little bit of jogging to get my pace and breathing in sync,” says Lawler. He worked his way up to two miles of running, and then signed up for a 5K in 2008, which led him to a half marathon and then a full marathon.
It was after the half marathon, though, that Lawler really got serious about training, cross training and nutrition.
“I signed up for Zumba, Step Aerobics and other classes at the gym with a friend, Mary Gooden. After those classes, I went running around a graveyard right behind the gym,” says Lawler. “Some ladies from the gym saw me running every day, and they asked if I could teach them how to run.”
Lawler chuckles a bit at the memory. “I wasn't a qualified instructor,” he says. “So I said, ‘Just join me.’”