How We Met: Running for Their Lives
Mike and Melissa conquer races and health issues
Photo, top by Douglas Foulke
Mike Rodgers had good reason for his seemingly unquenchable thirst. The office water fountain was located in close proximity to the workspace of a very attractive woman named Melissa, and he wanted to meet her.
The water fountain wasn’t visible from Mike’s office so his team sent him frequent “Melissa alerts” whenever she was in the area. He would then sprint to the fountain for a hopeful meeting.
Mike, then a divorced father of three, was a confirmed bachelor working at James River Paper Company in Norwalk and wasn’t looking for a new relationship. But surprisingly, he looked forward to those “Melissa alerts.” A mutual friend orchestrated for the two to meet. But once they did, Mike thought, “What do I do next?”
Mike has always been an avid runner. Around town he is called Coach Mike and is an upbeat track organizer of the Ridgefield Bicycle Sport Club. He has competed in over 30 triathlons including the popular TriRidgefield. So, unsurprisingly, he decided to ask Melissa on a “running date.”
For her part, Melissa thought Mike was cute—so when he asked her for an after-work run, she agreed. “I wasn’t actually a runner, but I was fit and worked out,” says Melissa, a yoga instructor at Basil Yoga Center and The Gym in Ridgefield. Still, she trained for the entire week before their date.
“That said, I’m sure nerves and adrenalin were behind my impressive pace,” she says.
Three years and many running dates later, Mike decided to surprise Melissa with a marriage proposal during a trip to Napa. He bought a ring and secured reservations at French Laundry, an exclusive restaurant.
On the trip, Melissa couldn’t help noticing that Mike nervously carried his briefcase everywhere. She recalls: “I thought, OK, lighten.”
When Mike at last pulled a ring from his briefcase and proposed, his odd behavior finally made sense. They married at St. Stephen’s Church followed by a reception at Silver Spring Country Club. Ten months later, Melissa hung up her running shoes in favor of yoga when she became a mom. The couple has three children (along with Mike’s three) and two grandchildren.
Not only are the Rodgers unique in their dedication to health and fitness, but also for how they handle challenges. Melissa infuses her classes with humor and offers philosophical tidbits as “nothing changes unless it changes.”
Mike is an inspiring coach who trained a friend throughout throat cancer treatments so he could compete in TriRidgefield. Two years ago, when Mike received his own devastating prostate-cancer diagnosis, he set an ambitious goal to compete in the popular triathlon just 16 weeks after his surgery.
For motivation, Mike wore TriRidgefield shirts from earlier races to his chemo treatment as well as into surgery, always keeping in mind that a slower race time can still win the personal race.
With Melissa leading the cheering, a tearful Mike crossed the finish line bettering his pre-cancer time. This year this inspiring couple celebrates their 20th anniversary, Mike’s two years being cancer free, and his 11th TriRidgefield.