'Hot Mamas' hit the ground running

Holly Richrath
Christy Decker, Julie Burwell, Michelle Eckberg, Aimee Seth and Christa Tucker ran together in East Peoria’s FOLEPI’s River Trail Classic in November.

What started out as a “funny name,” has stuck with one local running group and is inspiring and empowering mothers across Central Illinois.

At many local races the group of runners can be found wearing matching technical shirts, often pink, which read “Hot Mamas,” on the front, and “Run Like a Mother,” on the back.

The group is made up of five running moms: Julie Burwell, Michelle Eckberg, Christy Decker and Christa Tucker, all of East Peoria and Aimee Seth of Metamora.  

They range in age from 29 to 38 and come from different running backgrounds, but this group of runners is a team.

The group got its start about three years ago when three of the current “Hot Mamas” decided to run the Illinois Marathon Relay.

“We needed a name,” Tucker said. “Everybody has fun, quirky names. It was actually my husband who said, ‘You guys are hot moms.’”

They chose the name “Hot Mamas” and had matching shirts made for the relay.

“It just took off from there,” Tucker said. “We got such a response from our shirts at the marathon. It’s just grown and grown.”

The moms, however, worry that their name may be taken in the wrong context.

Decker said her daughter once asked why they chose the name.

“She said, ‘Do you think you’re hot?,’” Decker said. “I said, ‘No. We’re running and we’re hot and we’re sweaty.’ We don’t want people to get the wrong impression. It’s just for fun.”

“What makes us hot is the fact that we care, and we’re going to do something,” Tucker added.

Running Central owner Adam White agreed. The “Hot Mamas,” in their matching technical shirts, caught his eye. White approached the women at January’s Frosty 5K and offered Running Central, located on Main Street in Peoria, as a sponsor.

“To have ambassadors of the sport out there who are proactively getting people involved in running as well as gearing them toward Running Central is an advantageous thing for any store,” White said. “For those ladies to wear ‘Hot Mamas’ and to follow on the back with ‘Run Like a Mother,’ it’s a statement.”

He said he leverages store resources to assist them and covers some basic costs that come along with the sport. In return, the “Hot Mamas” wear “Running Central” on their gear.

While he is happy for the advertisement, White said sponsoring the “Hot Mamas” is not just about getting people to his store.

“It’s supporting a solid group of ladies who are preaching a message of empowerment,” he said. “That’s what’s important to be behind because that’s what the sport’s about.

“If I can help cover a race entry that allows 50 more women to be exposed to their message, then we did a good thing with the sponsorship.”

While the “Hot Mamas” may inspire other local moms and they are setting a great example for their children, Tucker said what they do is for themselves.

“I think we would all agree that we would do anything for our kids, but there’s something to be said for giving back to yourself and taking time for yourself,” she said. “We’re staying fit in our running, and then we get our mental time with our girlfriends. We can cry, and we can talk, and we can laugh together, and it’s our time away. And when we come back from our run, we’re better moms.”

They get together to run whenever they can fit it into their schedules and run races together whenever possible. But running is not where the “Mamas” draw the line.  

“It goes far deeper than the running,” Decker said. “The running is just the excuse to see each other.”

They meet once a week for brunch and their families have become friends.

The “Hot Mamas” can be seen supporting each other at many local races. When one mother finishes a race, she quickly runs to the sidelines to cheer in her teammates.

“It doesn’t matter what place we finish, what time we finish, whether we’re first or last,” Eckberg said. “We’re all there for each other.”

Seth added that she is not “as natural a runner as these girls are.”

“I’m very group motivated, and they help me a lot,” she said. “It’s always a lot more fun for me to run with somebody than it is to run by myself. To train by myself ... I don’t even want to entertain that thought.”

That support for each other, along with the name these mothers have made for themselves, is what White said led to the sponsorship.

 “It’s very exciting to see,” White said. “We have a long tradition of outstanding runners here in Central Illinois. And it’s very, very exciting to see young blood reinvigorating energy into the community like the ‘Hot Mamas’ are.”