Run with Rog: One Runner's Unexpected Path to Start Running

Ever wonder what it takes to start running?

Maybe you’ve been running for a while. Maybe you’ve taken a break. Or maybe you’re ready to start running again.

What’s the thing that keeps people from lacing up their running shoes and crushing a few miles?

There’s lots of reasons. 

You self doubt, anxiety, being out of shape, or intimidated by other runners, or simply stepping into the unknown.

Runner Roger Davis Jr. knows what that’s like.

For a long time, he didn’t think he was cut out for running. 

But something unexpected happened when he decided to start running just a few years ago.

Ready to start running? 

Or maybe you’re thinking about moving up from a 5K to a longer race. 

Roger can tell you from step is all it takes.

Here’s what happened…

Roger Davis Jr. wasn't always a runner. He wasn't even sure he could do it. But something happened that helped him find out.

Meet the positive-vibes runner

Ever been to a race and spotted a runner in the crowd who stands out?

You of those runner’s who’s dancing at the starting line, high-fiving other runners, and pumping up the crowd with positive vibes.

Even from a distance, you can practically feel the runner’s energy infusing the crowd with happiness and confidence to go the distance.

That's Roger Davis.

He’s a familiar face at Cleveland-area races and local running clubs like Run with the Winners and the Portage Lakes Running Club.

And he’s stepped up to the starting line at many other races like the International Detroit Half Marathon, the Pittsburgh Marathon, and many others.

But it wasn’t always like this for Roger. 

He wasn’t even thinking he’d start running until he crossed paths with a co-worker who loved to run.

Roger never thought of himself as a runner. But after accepting an invite from a co-worker to go for a run, he decided to give it a try.

Roger’s unexpected path to start running

“About 13 years ago, I was working at Dick’s Sporting Goods in accounting,” says Roger. “I became good friends with a co-worker who was a collegiate runner. And he kept inviting me to go for a run.”

But that wasn’t something Roger thought he could do. 

It sounded like an interesting challenge. 

  • But what if he failed? 
  • What if he couldn’t keep up? 
  • What if he wasn’t any good at running?

It’s the kind of self-doubt that keeps a lot of us from stepping out of the comfort zone to start running, move up to a longer distance, or put in the work to get faster.

  • Can you relate?

Roger’s friend and co-worker didn’t give up. He kept inviting him to go for a run. And it kept Roger thinking…

“I really didn’t know anything about running back then,” says Roger. “Hearing about people run these long distances sounded interesting. But it seemed kind of crazy. And then one day out of pure curiosity, I decided to give it a try.”

"I'm not a runner." That's what Roger Davis used to think. Whenever he met runners, or heard about people running races, he wondered if he could go the distance. Eventually, he laced up his running shoes to find out.

'I have no idea what I'm doing'

Roger showed up to run a few trail miles with his friend inside the urban Brecksville Reservation park in Ohio.

It wasn’t pretty. But that decision to start running changed everything.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” says Roger. “I didn’t own any running shoes at the time. So I just wore the shoes I had, and threw on some old workout clothes. And honestly, that first run was physically one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

But once you start running, get an endorphin rush, and maybe even surprise yourself, that little dose of motivation pushes you to keep going.

And he did. 

Roger started running at 7 a.m. with his friend before heading to work. 

He started feeling better. 

He started getting faster. 

And he was hooked.

  • What was your first run like?
The first time Roger Davis went for a run, he ran a few trail miles with a friend in the Brecksville Reservation in Ohio. And it was an experience, he'll never forget..."I had no idea what I was doing," he recalls.

The life-changing 5K

After getting a taste for running, Roger decided to put all his training to the test and step up to the starting line of a 5K race at the Cleveland Zoo.

He signed up for the race. 

He studied the route. 

He felt the thrill and anxiety of pre-race jitters. 

And he found a place in the crowd on race date to go the distance.

On your mark...get set...Go!

Roger took off from the starting line. 

He ticked off the miles one by one, feeling the rush of endorphins push him along. 

And around the 30-minute mark, he crossed the finish line of his first race.

“It was life changing,” says Roger. “I realized running was a really good coping mechanism to help me deal with anxiety, something I’ve dealt with since I was about 12 years old." 

"I felt so good after that race, I decided to really jump into running and see what I could accomplish.”

  • How did you feel after finishing your first race?
After finishing his first 5K race at the Cleveland Zoo, Roger knew he would keep going.

Run your best life

After that first race, Roger jumped into learning everything he could about running.

He tested out a long list of shoes and gear.

He geeked out on running watches and tech.

He studied training techniques and strategies to build endurance, run faster, and improve performance.

He ran more races including 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, marathons, and even the 200-mile Hood to Coast relay with a team of friends.

And he became a Road Runner’s Club of America certified running coach to help other people start running, learn to love the sport, and support every person who wants to run or step up to the starting line.

“I think a lot of people have a similar story as mine,” says Roger. “A lot of us know someone who loves running, but we’re not sure how to start running. We don’t understand it. Or we’re not sure how to train.”

“Based on my own experience, I know running is for everybody. Anybody can do it. And I want to help people learn the basics and share my passion for the sport, because I know it can really help them.”

Earlier this year, Roger Davis ran the 198-mile Hood to Coast relay in Oregon with friends from the Run with the Winners running club.

Start running...keep going

Roger just finished the Chicago Marathon earlier this year. 

He’s training for the 3M Half Marathon in Austin, Texas, in a few months. 

He’s a regular at several Cleveland-area running clubs. 

He’s working behind the scenes to launch the Saucy Running Club at Cleveland’s Saucy Brew Works for weekly runs.

And if you show up to a local race, he’s the guy dancing around at the starting line, high-fiving other runners, and giving the crowd a boost of energy and positive vibes to go the distance.

“I want everybody to be able to enjoy this sport, and experience they way it can help you get healthy, make friends, set goals, and change your life.”

“I want everybody to be able to enjoy this sport, and experience they way it can help you get healthy, make friends, set goals, and change your life," says Roger.

Fun facts about Roger Davis Jr.


Longest run26.2 miles

Favorite race distance
Half marathon (13.1 miles)

Favorite running shoe
New Balance Fuel Cell Rebel

Favorite drink for running
PediaLyte Sport

Favorite local race
The Hermes Cleveland 10 Miler

Favorite race of all time

Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The way the city and course is laid out makes this a very tight race. It’s an insane experience. And it’s the first place I ran a sub-2-hour half.

Advice for new runners
Meet like-minded people who like running. It’s the best way to help you with accountability, stay engaged, and keep excitement high, especially on days you don’t feel like training.

Favorite running-playlist song
“Murder to Excellence” by Kanye West & Jay-Z

Favorite podcasts
“Up First” by NPR
- The financial podcast “Robinhood Snacks.”
Next race
3M Half Marathon in Austin, Texas. 

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM-certified personal trainer, and hold the record for the most finishes at the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in Oregon.


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