Runner Profile: Kashi Davis & Diane Stopyra

I went with Kashi and Diane on their awesome running tour of Cape May and learned a bit about Cape May’s history and ecology. Then, we basked in the sunshine, and I talked with them a bit more about their running backgrounds.

Kashi and Diane are the runners who lead Run Cape running tours. The idea for running tours in Cape May was born when Diane was running with her recently postpartum sister and trying to distract her from a painful run with stories. Diane says as they were running, “I was like, that’s the lighthouse, built in 1859!” Her sister told her she should do running tours. With a background in journalism and history, she is full of interesting tidbits and the backstory of how Cape May came to be the beautiful seaside town it now is. I was amazed by the stats that Diane was able to quickly rap off about Cape May. Diane is also author of A Cape May Story, and she acquired much of her knowledge doing research for her book. Kashi works as a wildlife biologist for the Endangered and Nongame Species Program for the State of NJ. Through her work, she has gained incredible knowledge of the local flora and fauna and has particular expertise on beach nesting birds.

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Diane, left, and Kashi, right, leading a tour through Cape May

Diane and Kashi both discovered running as high school cross country runners. While Diane describes high school XC as “My glory days!”, Kashi says, “I was horrible at it!” She says, “like every new runner ever, I started out sprinting, and then I was like, I’m going to die!” In her first event in high school she got lost and ended up coming in last. The experience was “mortifying,” to cross the finish line dead last, but she was not deterred.

Diane’s longest race distance so far is a half marathon. She is still toying with the idea of going in for a full marathon. Diane’s sister is also a runner, but there has never really been any competition between them about it. Rehoboth half was her favorite race, in part because her sister ran with her, “She’s much faster than me but she stuck with me the whole race.” She says she had a bad race in Philly, and her sister encouraged her to try again, so they signed up for Rehoboth together. In Philly, she says, “I think I kind of panicked and drank so much water the night before, I think I depleted my electrolytes.” She was walking by mile four, and it was just not a good race for her. Rehoboth was three weeks later, and Diane says it was awesome, “just a super cute race.”

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Diane pointing out the incredible sights of Cape May

Kashi is a true distance runner, saying, “I’ll run any distance, any pace, with anyone.” She will often use the tour as a recovery run day. She has also tried her hand at triathlon, but she doesn’t enjoy cycling, so she stopped doing them and sticks to running these days. Diane describes Kashi as “such a running ambassador.” “There is nothing I don’t love about running,” Kashi says. She speaks fondly of running self-supported 50-milers. Interestingly, Kashi says the 10k distance is toughest for her. “You have to run so hard, but it feels so long. You gotta run right out the gate then hold it for six miles.” Nearing her fortieth birthday, Kashi says she is excited to restart her PRs as a “master” but also feels a sense of pressure, “If I do want to get a faster PR in any of the distances, now is the time.”

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Kashi leading a group by the gorgeous Victorian architecture in Cape May

Asked about her favorite races, she raps off a list of about six. The OC ten miler is high on her list of races. One of her greatest running experiences was at the Philly Full marathon last year, where her mom ran her first full marathon. “I love the Philadelphia marathon. I have run that race so many times and have so many great memories there.” Her mom picked up running at the age of 61, starting out walking, and eventually the walk turned into a run. “She’s a little engine, she’s awesome,” says Kashi. The Marine Corps Marathon was an incredible experience for her too.

Like Diane, Kashi has a sister who also runs and does triathlon, and also says there is no competition, mainly because her sister can smoke her when it comes to speed. They have, however, been competing to see who can run in more states, and to that end, her sister has run circles in a parking lot in Connecticut in the snow just to say she ran there. They enjoy looking for races when they travel to check off new places on their lists of places they have run. Diane also says she is the slower sister and only started running XC because her sister did it when they were in school. “My sister used to smoke cigarettes in high school, show up for a cross country meet smoking, and still beat me! But she’s just better than me at everything.”

Run Cape offers two different tours, a City tour and a Cape May Point tour. The City tour focuses on the history of Cape May, and how storms, fires, and politics have influenced the buildings you see around you. Diane does most of the talking on the City tour, but Kashi still pipes up to talk about the birds you see, and to talk about some of the plants and trees you see out in the town. The Point tour is primarily Kashi’s show, where you’ll learn about the beach nesting birds, the natural history of Cape May, and see the lighthouse. Beach nesting birds are active throughout the summer in Cape May, with hatchlings being active later in the summer. The tours cover about three miles and take a bit over an hour. The pace will be adjusted for the group but tends to be pretty leisurely, with frequent stops to see the points of interest on the tour.

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Kashi, me, and Diane after our Cape May City tour

I went on Memorial Day weekend and was worried about parking, but the tours begin from the Exit Zero Headquarters building which has ample parking in their lot. Tours are $25 and held on weekends in the morning. The drive from Gloucester County was just over an hour. The tour would be a perfect start to a beach day with a few running buddies, followed up with some brunch and beach time.

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