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"Sole sisters" looks to provide fun, fitness and education for women

Former Falls' athlete Nolin starts running club

April 16, 2012

When you're feeling strong, go for it.

That's why former Menomonee Falls all-state distance runner, devoted daughter, cancer survivor, event organizer, and whirlwind of energy Valerie Niese Nolin, despite having had multiple surgeries and an ungodly number of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer just months earlier, decided recently to do half-marathons (13.1 miles) on successive weekends.

"Oh, I was so sore," she said, "but I had been five months off because of my surgeries and I needed to do something."

Because running for the Greendale resident is akin to breathing, it's her flywheel of life. She lost her beloved mother and running partner Nancy Niese to ovarian cancer some years ago and ever since then she has been running a successful annual benefit Run, Rock and Stroll in her name for the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

Started club for women

And now she's extending that idea even further having just started last month The Sole Sister's Club a free running and walking club for women that meets weekly in area parks. She just got the idea off the ground in March and already has 90 people signed up.

The event includes monthly classes including zumba, yoga, Pilates, spinning and nutrition and social events.

"I was feeling really good," she said. "I had my last radiation treatment last September and I had my most recent tests a month ago and everything was good on that front. You look back and try to forget the pain that you were in. … As a cancer survivor, I wanted to do something positive for other women with the second chance that I've been given.

"Especially now that I'm cancer-free.

"But I've been really surprised at the response so far."

Nolin got the idea after running with the Badgerland Striders for years. She appreciated the support and energy the Striders gave to area runners, but she just noticed one little problem.

"I missed running with women," she said, "and in the Striders there were a lot of older men (and not many women). Back when my mom was still alive I did fun runs with her and her friends, but I wasn't doing that anymore, so I just told myself instead of grumbling and complaining about it why don't I start a club of my own.

"And it took off."

In a big way.

The event organizer without peer and a dervish of energy, Nolin has linked up with several organizations already, including Innovative Health and Fitness in Franklin and the Franklin InStep Physical Therapy and Running Center to help Sole Sisters get off the ground.

The first run had four people in it and it has built ever since. The club offers biweekly fun runs and walks (every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and every other Sunday at noon). There are also biweekly bike rides every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and every other Sunday at noon under the moniker The Outspokin' Sisters Bike Club.

There will be a casual bike ride at 6 p.m. April 25 at the Whitnall Park Golf Club House to kick off the bike season. That bike-riding portion of the club features options for both the casual rider as well as the mountain-bike enthusiast.

Calendar filling up

Nolin already has a full interactive website up for the "Sole Sisters" (thesolesistersclub.com) and not surprisingly, she has a calendar of events listed all the way through December at parks throughout the Milwaukee area including Shorewood, Wauwatosa, West Allis, Muskego, Menomonee Falls, South Milwaukee, Franklin, Waukesha as well as at Whitnall and Greenfield Parks and others.

"I spent hours and hours on that thing," she laughed about the website, noting that she is still looking for more places to host events.

The club, she said, focuses on the woman's total well-being, including body, mind and soul with educational events also on the schedule. She is now working on getting sponsors to offset some of the costs.

To become a member, simply "like" the group The Sole Sister's Club" on Facebook. There is no charge to join, but there are some small costs involved with some of the related classes. Nolin is keeping it fun, too, working on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas-related themed events as part of the calendar.

"I just want people to have fun and be able to socialize," Nolin said. "I always had something like this in the back of mind, but I never had the time because of the effort I was putting into (the) Nancy run.

"I just felt there was something else I needed to do. While I was in bed (recovering from one of her surgeries), I thought I could do this or that or this (laughs)."

And now she has.

Personally, things are looking up as well. Her hair is coming back after all the radiation and chemo treatments ("It's so curly," she chuckled) and the runner in her is also still working hard. Despite the physical pain of doing those back-to-back half-marathons, Nolin said that in one of them she matched a time that she recorded in 2006 for the distance (one hour, 48 minutes).

"It showed me that I still had something left," she laughed.

And then some.

Again, for more information, go to thesolesistersclub.com.

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