Meet Our Staff!
Sorita Averill-Fitzgerald (Soritee), Owner & CRO (Chief Running Officer) Sorita is the founder and owner of A Running Start. She opened A Running Start in 2002 to realize her dream of providing a service-oriented shop where runners of all ages and abilities could find shoes, technical apparel and accessories to meet their needs. As an RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) Certified Coach, Sorita initiated “Learn to Run” and half marathon training programs that provide proper instruction, training advice and supervision for participants new to the sport.
Despite a history of asthma, Sorita started running at age 28, finding that running improved her lung conditioning. She started competing in short runs, then joined a running club and started training for longer distances, including marathons. Today, Sorita enjoys competing in a wide variety of events, ranging from 5K road races to full Ironman distances (2.4 mile swim, 112 bike and 26.2 run).
She actively supports the running community and is the director of several local races, including Fitzy’s Halloween 5K Run, Pagoda Classic 6/12K and Run Santa Run 5K. She also served on the board of directors for Girls on the Run in Berks County.
Prior to founding ARS, Sorita had a career in pharmaceuticals and sales. She is a graduate of Cabrini College with a degree in Bachelor of Arts, and her Masters of Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Zach Barker, Store Manager Zach grew up with a background in soccer and basketball, but casually decided to join track at Conrad Weiser in the 7th grade. Slowly falling in love with the sport, Zach transitioned to becoming a year round runner. He was a member of the 2008 and 2009 District 3 AAA Conrad Weiser XC Championship teams. He learned his love for the sport on the beaten roads and trails of Robesonia, logging many miles with incredible teammates.
Zach ran Cross Country and Track at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. He earned All-Conference Honors in cross-country his senior year with an 11th place finish at the Big South Championships.
Post collegiately, Zach has run several half-marathons and marathons, including the 2016 Boston Marathon which he finished in 2:52:25.
Zach majored in Business Administration-Marketing at Liberty University and additionally received his M.B.A. while working as a graduate assistant with his collegiate track team.
Zach comes to A Running Start with a career dedicated to the running industry. He believes that running is a gift and has made it his goal to assist other runners wishing to experience this gift. He loves serving the Reading running community by providing runners with exceptional gear and service at ARS!
Susan Diefenderfer (Nana) Susan comes to A Running Start following a career in public education, most recently working for the Wilson School District as an autistic support teacher. She is a long time enthusiast of most things “outdoors”, with hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding naming a few of these interests. While running joined her list of outdoor pursuits at age 55, Susan is making up for lost time with much anticipated daily runs and some races thrown in to keep things exciting, completing her first half marathon last year. She hopes that she can serve as an example to support the ideas that you can never be too old to start running, and that it is never too late to find something you love!
Tracy Miller Tracy joined the A Running Start team after a career as a CAT scan technologist at the Reading Hospital. She started running in 2009 when A Running Start offered a ‘Learn To Run 5K’ program at the Hospital and has been running ever since. She enjoys participating in the local races by Pretzel City Sports as well as competing in different states while traveling. She has completed several half marathons and her first marathon in 2013. She likes to incorporate her love of cycling by competing in duathlons as well. An outdoor enthusiast, her other interests include hiking, road and mountain biking, kayaking and paddle boarding. Gring’s Mill is one of her favorite places to run. Taking her compassion for patient care from the hospital setting, she hopes to help, inspire and motivate others. She’s excited to be a part of a team where fitness and a healthy lifestyle are most important.
Alex Watson Alex ran his first 5k with his grandfather at the age of 10 and never looked back. In high school, he competed for Fleetwood Area locally and went on to run for Kutztown University. While at Kutztown, he had a historical senior year placing fourth at the conference race in steeple chase and making the All-Region team. After finally graduating in 5 years, he was happy to get the chance to join the team at A Running Start to continue his love and knowledge of the sport. Motivation to get out and run every day comes easier after being around people who love running just as much as he does.
Megan Risser Megan’s love for running and competing began at an early age; during her grade school’s gym classes and “field days” when she realized that she could out run most, especially the boys. She is a native of Berks County and was a three sport athlete in high school; tennis, winter track and spring track. She went onto a local college in Pennsylvania where she continued her love/hate relationship with track as well as resurfacing her love for swimming. She graduated in 2008 with a B.S in Sociology and a minor in Art/Art History.
Although Megan ran cross country in junior high, she was always more of a sprinter and hurdler on the track. So no one was more surprised than she was when she “came out of running retirement” in 2010 and trained for her first full marathon. One, she was inspired by her sister who ran her first marathon and secondly, her competitiveness of “well if you can run one, so can I” kicked in. Needless to say, this sprinter has turned into a distance runner with 5 half marathons, 6 full marathons and numerous 5/10ks behind her.
When she isn’t running or working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, family/friends and her nearly perfect “fur baby” Roxie, being a beach bum along the Jersey shore and anxiously awaiting her next marathon.
Kelly Garrity-Haldeman Kelly is the newest part-time employee at A Running Start. She works full time as an Onsite Account Manager for Gage Personnel in West Reading. Although she is newer to the sport of running, beginning her journey in 2012, she has an intense passion and dedication to the sport. In the past 3 years, she started from the bottom doing her first 5k and 10k in 2012, 2 half marathons in 2013, and became a New York City marathon finisher in 2014, running for one of her favorite local charities, the IM ABLE FOUNDATION. Born in New Jersey, her favorite spots to run are the boardwalks and anywhere in Seaside Heights or Asbury Park. She always brings a lot of positive cheerful energy to any endeavor she takes on, and she aspires to help others in making their running dreams and goals come true! She believes that anyone can run if they have the heart and support from others. Some of her bucket list items include running a half marathon in all 50 states and completing the 5 World Marathon Majors. She resides in Leesport now with her husband Christopher and their 4 legged daughter Reeser, a toy Manchester terrier, who also loves to run.
Alex Diltz Alex started out his athletic career as a Kutztown Jr. High soccer star. He quickly realized that his heart was not committed to the sport, so he made the move to Track & Field in 8th grade; the rest is history! Alex became a hurdler and a middle distance runner. As a junior, he ran states (4×800) and set the school record for KU. Recognizing his overall talent, his friends convinced him to join XC heading into his Sophomore year and in total, made three state championship appearances, one being KU’s first qualifying team for the state meet in the school’s history.
Alex continued running at Lock Haven University from 2011-2015, where he moved up in distance for track to the 5K and 10K! He competed in three national championships with the University XC team and ran a PR 10K of 31:11 his junior year.
Alex is best known for his ability to ABSOLUTELY CRUSH a 5K while making it look like a walk in the park. We also love his VERY humble attitude, great hair, and willingness to help anyone with running no matter their skill level.
Allie Amin Allie is student at Wyomissing Area JS High School and is our newest member to the team! She is currently on the cross country team and indoor/outdoor track team at Wyo. She began running in 7th grade at the track workouts ARS offered and has been running ever since! She placed 16th at districts and qualified for states in her freshman year of XC. Her favorite distance in track is the 3200. She loves the positivity and support of the running community, and after participating in many ARS races, Allie jumped at the chance to join the ARS team. She hopes to help people discover the joy of running and help them reach their running goals!
Melissa Kucharczuk Melissa was not a runner at first. She started swimming at the age of 8 and became a competitive swimmer all through high school, where she swam for the varsity swim team at Parkland High school in Allentown, PA. She later went on to continue swimming at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Due to her swimming training requirements, she had to run as part of her dry land workouts; although limited to no more than 3 miles. It was not until she moved to Virginia in summer of 2012 that her love for running was discovered in large part due to the beauty of nature! Since 2012, she has completed several 5ks, 10ks, and 3 half marathons with intentions of completing her first marathon in Fall of 2016!
Outside of running, Melissa is a K-2 Autistic support teacher at Wyomissing Hills Elementary Center. She recently began coaching the Wyomissing Spartans High School swim team as the assistant coach. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family, being outside, getting fit, and inspiring others.
Dr. Chris Woodward, Running Coach Chris is a certified long distance running coach with the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). He’s been running on and off since High School where he finished dead last in his first Cross Country meet an accomplishment he’s never repeated!
In the Summer of 2008, Chris began to seriously train for long distance running and completed the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November followed by the New Jersey Marathon in May 2009. Three marathons later, he qualified and ran The Boston Marathon in April 2012. Chris has run 7 marathons and 4 half marathons in addition to numerous 5K and 10K’s. During his previous job at a Pharmaceutical Company, Chris traveled often and completed training runs all over the US as well as in Canada, Europe, China, Africa, Australia and South America. “Training for a marathon while traveling is always a challenge, but I’ve run in some amazing places and met many interesting people,” he says. “Doing an 18 mile training run early on a Sunday morning in the streets of Paris was an incredible experience.”
After mentoring many friends he decided to get his RRCA certification to follow his passion of helping other runners become the best they can be. His coaching interests include: getting new runners started in the sport; helping runners improve their time in their favorite race distance (5K through Marathon); assisting runners who want to move up to longer races (ex: 5K to 10K or half to full marathon) and working with serious runners who want to qualify for Boston. His coaching philosophy focuses on patience: minimizing injuries with careful training plans; guiding runners safely through a training cycle; and getting the athlete to the starting line healthy. “I want my runners to finish strong and be ready for the next race!”
Chris is also a Board Certified Internist, practicing Primary Care Medicine in Berks County. His other interests include: Rock Climbing, relaxing at the Jersey shore, skiing and adventures with his grown children.