every runner has a story

Meet Jeff & Kelly Bowman

Jeff and Kelly’s story is not just about logging miles or chasing personal bests—it’s about finding a second family and a supportive community that cheers them on every step of the way.

Hailing from the coastal towns of Ocean Springs (Kelly) and Pascagoula (Jeff), Mississippi, Jeff and Kelly Bowman’s journey to Lakeland was guided not only by a quest for new horizons but by a shared passion for pounding the pavement.

Their journey to Lakeland was serendipitous, spurred by a family vacation to Orlando and a fateful drive through Lakeland. “Jeff did the research and noticed that Lakeland had a huge running community,” Kelly explains. “We wanted to move somewhere that we could find other people who enjoyed running as much as we did.” Their decision to relocate was solidified by the warm welcome and guidance they received from fellow runners, including Sarah , whose insights helped influence their move, and Dave and Cookie  who “made us feel like we were their favorite people,” Jeff recalls, emphasizing the welcoming atmosphere fostered by the LRC.

“I ran cross country in high school,” Kelly reminisces about her early running days. “But I swore I would never run distances again after college soccer, where running was doled out for punishment.” 

In 2017, Jeff’s commitment to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon inspired Kelly to lace up her running shoes once more. Despite initial reluctance, she found herself hooked after completing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon, while Jeff suffered one of the greatest disappointments in his first marathon, “That year, the course was short, so I only got to 25.9 miles”.

Their relocation to Lakeland marked not only a geographical shift but also a profound immersion into a vibrant running culture. “In Pascagoula, MS, we had a very small local running community. There was never that consistent group of people that ran all the time together,” Kelly reflects. “Here in Lakeland, it’s way different. I never experienced people who were faster than me waiting for me on my long run to cheer me on, ask me if I needed some water, or even ask me how the run went. The group we have here is special, and glad we moved here to be a part of it.”

Jeff and Kelly often volunteer at LRC races, pitching in with equipment and course setup. “My most favorite race to volunteer at the Bonnet Springs Park 5k, the course is beautiful and the environment is amazing out there.”

Since that first half marathon, Kelly’s dedication to running has only deepened. With each race, she set her sights on new challenges and personal bests, driven by an inner competitive spirit and a desire to continuously work on self improvement. “My favorite race so far has been the 2022 Marine Corp Marathon. A group went to D.C. together, and I ran a 30-minute personal record.” Jeff and Kelly are trained by local elite runner and coach Jon Mott. Mott also helped Jeff accomplish his goal of qualifying for the 2023 Boston Marathon: “I was completely clueless about training. I just figured you run 10 miles a week and show up race day…thats a big NOPE. You have to fully commit to the process.” Jeff attributes part of his success to having a consistent training partner, “I was getting 50-60 per week during the buildup, my good friend David Reiber ran a lot of those miles with me to help me reach my goal.” 

Yet, their running journey hasn’t been without its challenges. From injuries to setbacks, they’ve weathered storms with resilience and determination, guided by the unwavering support of each other and their running family.

As they look ahead, they are excited for the next chapter. For Kelly, it’s about reclaiming the joy of running after a bout with Plantar fasciitis. For Jeff, it’s staying healthy and the allure of new challenges; he’s signed up for the 46-mile Pinellas Trail Challenge. 

Their advice to newcomers echoes through the fabric of their story—embrace the journey, find joy in the struggle, and above all, cherish the bonds forged on the roads and trails.

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