every runner has a story

Meet Louis & Cheryl Irwin

As Louis approaches the remarkable milestone of 50 years of running, and he and Cheryl celebrate over 20 years of volunteering with the Lakeland Runners Club, their commitment shines as a beacon of dedication and passion within the running community.

Louis Irwin, emerged into the world as a tiny bundle, weighing a mere 2lbs, 6 oz. Louis’s journey to Lakeland began when his family relocated from Arkansas to the Sunshine State when he was just 10 years old. He found his academic path winding through Lake Placid, Florida, before ultimately pursuing a degree in chemistry at Florida Southern College. It was during his college years in the late 1970s that Louis first laced up his running shoes and hit the pavement.

“I started running in 1976,” Louis recalls, reminiscing about his collegiate days. “I wasn’t very fast, but I continued running.”  There, he and a group of fellow students formed a running cohort, embarking on daily jaunts around the lake under the guidance of Dr. Plowman. Louis’s running group pre-dates the FSC cross country program which began in 1981. 

Louis’s introduction to the Lakeland Runners Club came in 1987, thanks to a neighbor named David Douglass. “I didn’t even know about LRC or community races until then,” Louis admits. His first race was the 1987 Lake to Lake 10k. That race marked the beginning of a lifelong involvement in the Lakeland Runners Club (LRC) and the wider running scene.

Over the years, Louis’s dedication to the LRC blossomed. He participated in races, volunteered his time, and eventually assumed leadership roles, serving as club president from 2005 to 2007. His 15 year tenure on the board of directors witnessed remarkable growth within the club, with membership skyrocketing from a mere 25 individuals to over 750 enthusiasts.

“The camaraderie keeps me involved,” Louis remarks, reflecting on his enduring connection to the club. His wife, Cheryl, shares in his enthusiasm, though her participation takes a different form. While not a runner herself, Cheryl accompanies Louis on walks and volunteers her time at races, relishing the sense of community fostered by the LRC.

Cheryl’s journey alongside Louis has been marked by health challenges, including chronic pain, migraines, arthritis, and autoimmune conditions. Yet, she remains resilient, finding solace and strength in staying active and supporting her husband’s passion for running.

Louis’s own running journey has seen its share of highs and lows. With lots of encouragement from his peers, he completed his first marathon at the inaugural Walt Disney World Marathon in 1994, learning a lot of valuable lessons along the way. There wasn’t as much information on proper fueling during a race or even the products available now the runners. “I paid the price in pain for the next two weeks and  have never attempted another marathon.”  Louis’s favorite memories are races across the iconic bridges in San Francisco and Savannah, and he has amassed a treasure trove of memories across 40 states and 8 countries. Despite learning lessons about the need to cross-train, stretch, and recover properly, Louis is already looking forward to celebrating 50 years of running in May 2026.

As Louis approaches the remarkable milestone of 50 years of running, and he and Cheryl celebrate over 20 years of volunteering with the Lakeland Runners Club, their commitment shines as a beacon of dedication and passion within the running community.

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