Most people aren't aware of the fact that Jenni Berz had dreams of being a clown in the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
But that was years ago when she was just a youngster. Times have changed and so have her priorities, but the Chattanooga Track Club is most definitely the beneficiary of her latest involvement.
Berz is a 48-year-old graduate of Brainerd High School and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who now earns her living as the Director of the Resolution Resource Center.
She's also one of the most active volunteers in the track club.
She can take a deep breath now while she sits back to relax after serving as the race director for the Waterfront Triathlon, which was held in downtown Chattanooga this past Sunday. And she's also the co-race director with Sherilyn Johnson for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, so she's involved at the highest level with two of the track club's three signature events.
Berz is great at organization. She's the best at delegating responsibility and she's really good at getting good people to accept those critical volunteer roles that make the triathlon and marathon such successful events.
Just last weekend alone, this writer heard many of the out-of-town participants praise the organization of this event, saying the volunteer and community support was among the best they'd seen and singling that out as a main reason they come back here every year to do the race.
Jenni Berz is the bottom-line reason for those comments as she makes sure that every detail is attended to and that steps can be made from year to year to make it even better.
"I have a good team behind me and I'm not out there doing it by myself," she said after work on Wednesday when talking about the triathlon's success.
"We have other people who help solve the problems and that's what makes it so successful. People have a lot of options these days as there are a lot of triathlons out there. Folks are spread thin, but we have space for more and we're already working on next year's race," she added.
Berz started her running career some 15 years ago when her best friend talked her into to training for the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon. It was a memorable event for her.
"I've always run for recreation and for the social aspect of it, but we did that race to raise money for the cancer organization and also to do it with my best friend. I've never considered myself a runner and haven't run that many races, but I was in awe the whole time that day," she said, noting that her time w as just a bit more than two hours.
"I'm not light on my feet. I get too uptight in races as I just can't get past the mental aspect of it, but I love the social end of it and I love to be active.
Berz has never run a marathon and has no intentions to, but she has found a great way to be part of such activity.
"I'm not running much at all right now, maybe 8-10 miles on a good week. I'll take Mady out for a run, but I just enjoy being involved with what makes Chattanooga such a cool city.
"Sherilyn got me involved in the track club and I've enjoyed it because it's health and fitness oriented. It's great to be around people as I love being active in the community," she continued.
This year's triathlon is over, but the planning never ends. Most people don't realize that an event like that requires year-round dedication.
"The triathlon is something I work on 12 months a year. We're already working on next year and we're trying to get it earlier in the summer when it's not so hot. But there are a lot of other big events that people want to do and we're trying to get a date when there are no conflicts with other popular races," she explained.
Jenni was an outstanding tennis player for many years, but a broken foot in 2010 got her out of the routine and she hasn't picked it back up yet.
She says that she'd like to do another half-marathon in the future, but doesn't have a specific race in mind.
"I'm doing the half-marathon training program that the track club sponsors, but I don't have anything picked out just yet," she added.
Berz would like to place in her age group again in a triathlon and taking an African safari is another item on her bucket list.
She did finish second in her age group in the first triathlon she ever did, but that was a few years ago.
"I finished second in the 35-39 age group at the Sports Barn Sprint and still have the 15 dollars I got as prize money. I've also had fun with the Frantic Frog Triathlon at Lake Guntersville in Alabama, but volunteering is my excuse for not running," she concluded.
Here we are in the first week of July and it seems like a long time until November, but Berz is already working on the marathon, which will be held on Nov. 8.
Chances are good that you won't see her at the starting line of an upcoming race, but more than likely, she'll be involved in some aspect of the event.
The Chattanooga Track Club has become well-known for putting on quality races and it has done so because of such a strong network of folks behind the scene like Jenni who make sure everything is set so the event unfolds without a problem.
And that's what makes the whole thing so successful.
(This is the 19th in a series of features on runners in the Chattanooga area. If you know of someone who would make an interesting story, email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)