La PORTE — A self-described "JV superstar" at La Porte, Eric Wozniak didn't really take to running until after high school.
"I always liked the morning workouts that focused on running," he said. "I was attracted to the recreational aspect. I just started a mile at a time, doing it as general exercise. You get that feeling after putting in the miles."
As is often the case with the sport, Wozniak was bit by the running bug and has been hooked since.
"When I started running, I started understanding," he said. "It is something special. Every single person has a story. There is a following everywhere. There's just an energy at races. You see the community, the same people every year. You go to another race and you see them there as well. It's like a circuit."
For Wozniak, the experience of early success stoked the coals. He finished first in his age group in the 2009 Sunflower Fest 5K, held annually in La Porte.
"I went in with no expectations," he said. "Zero."
Wozniak subsequently founded the Maple City Milers running club and is a member of the Tour de La Porte board. He's run over 50 races, including the mini-marathon and marathon in Indianapolis. For his 29th and 30th birthdays, the La Porte Middle School teacher and coach (middle school football, middle school wrestling and varsity boys golf) ran the marathon distance around Kesling Park on April 7 of those years.
"I was going to run 30 on my 30th birthday, and my wife was like, what?" he said. "I got (to 26.2 miles) and stopped. I just love going out on Airport Road, seeing the sky when a storm's coming, just looking at nature, the change of seasons. It's a chance to soak in the elements. It truly is a spiritual thing."
Fortunately for Wozniak, he has a spouse who appreciates his passion. His wife, Becky, ran cross country for La Porte, and is on board with his latest endeavor, which is to chronicle races around northern Indiana, sharing stories on the backgrounds of the events and what makes each of them special. Some of his writing will appear in The Herald- Argus and The News-Dispatch with Wozniak also considering other platforms, such as a running blog.
"The idea was to cover races in like a yearbook format," he said. "Free-lancing, I can do the same thing. You go on runningusa.com, you can easily find a race every weekend within the (papers') readership area. It's a project I've wanted to pursue on a personal level."
Wozniak will get things rolling in late August with the Tour de La Porte, a two-day event of walking, running and cycling, capped by a half marathon.