Avid runners share strategies for beginners
By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer
For fledgling runners tackling their first-ever mile, the initial step is often more daunting than the last.
Eleonore Ellero-Groth frequently sees that trepidation on students’ faces at the First Time 5K camps she co-founded with Mike Charow.
“For people who don’t exercise, walking or running a mile is like, huge,” said Ellero-Groth, a St. Clair Shores resident. “‘Oh, I can’t do a mile. It’s too long!’”
But within 15 minutes, they’re done — and to their surprise, usually ready for more.
“Their perception of what they’re capable of doing changes,” she said. “They really underestimate what they’re capable of doing physically.”
Ellero-Groth said witnessing the shift in students’ attitudes and confidence is the most rewarding part of conducting the camps, and seasoned runners agree that the sport conditions far more than the body.
“It’s mental and physical,” said Rochester resident Craig Fitzpatrick. “So I like to see how far I can go, how fast I can go, and how much I can push my body to the limit.
“You can just get lost out there,” he added. “Your mind can go anywhere it wants to go. I’ve solved so many issues in my mind while I’m out there running.”
Fitzpatrick was no stranger to running growing up — he played baseball, basketball and football — but actually reconnected with it by way of biking. After his partner at the Troy Police Department, an avid runner, bested him in a mountain bike race, Fitzpatrick vowed revenge and resumed running as part of his training.
Since then, he’s conquered seven marathons, four of which were the prestigious Boston Marathon. He’s also completed two full Ironman triathlons — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon — and various other races, including an event entailing four triathlons over two days.
So Fitzpatrick speaks from personal experience when he advises new runners to maintain motivation by choosing a race and setting a goal.
“That way, you have something to strive for,” he said, “and something to kind of validate your training and all your hard work in the form of competition.”
For Ellero-Groth, running is “a recreational thing” — not “super competitive” — and a way to merge physical activity with the great outdoors.
“Take some time, look around you, breathe in the fresh air, appreciate the fact that you have the mobility and ability to do this, whereas a lot of people don’t,” said Ellero-Groth, who’s tallied two full marathons and multiple half-marathons since her sister urged her to try a 5k in college. “I have a greater appreciation now for what I can do physically and what my body can do.”
After rediscovering her high school fondness for running, Michelle Sebaly of Macomb Township said training with the Stoney Creek Running Club — of which she’s now president — keeps her coming back.
“I think that’s part of the reason I still run after all these years,” she said. Bob Busquaert, manager at Hanson’s Running Shop in Utica, agreed that surrounding yourself with similarly minded supporters can make all the difference.
“When you train with a group, it’s so much easier than when you train alone,” said Busquaert, who also coaches cross-country and track at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren. “You’re a little more invested if people are counting on you.”
Hanson’s coordinates Tuesday speed workouts at Dodge Park in Sterling Heights and Thursday training runs — featuring 4-, 6- and 8-mile loops for varied skill levels — that start at its Royal Oak store.
For new runners preferring to go it alone, Busquaert suggests searching for beginner training programs online, such as Couch-to-5K, which intersperses walking and running, gradually increasing distance and speed.
“By making that slow transition, you’re more likely to, No. 1, not overdo it, but No. 2, keep yourself healthy,” he said. “A lot of people think, ‘I want to start running. I’m just going to run until I can’t run anymore.’”
Busquaert warned new runners to expect aches and pains, and advised soldiering through at least 30 days before throwing in the towel.
“Running naturally hurts,” he said. “And so it takes about a month for your body to make the proper adjustments. If you can make it for a month, it just gets easier after that.”
Ellero-Groth advised establishing a goal that “pushes you, but doesn’t discourage you.” Even if your legs are up to the challenge, she warned, your cardiovascular system may need time to adapt.
Fitzpatrick and Busquaert stressed the importance of investing in proper running shoes, enlisting a specialty store staffer to assess gait and foot structure to determine the right fit.
Stretching, a critical component, is best left for the end of a run, or at least until after five to 10 minutes of walking or jogging, which allows muscles to warm, said Busquaert.
Newbies commonly sustain shin splits and knee pain, he added, but the minor injuries should resolve themselves with proper rest, stretching and icing.
To learn more about the six-week, USA Track and Field-certified First Time 5K camps, email co-founder Mike Charow at email@example.com or visit http://home.wideopenwest.com/~mcharow/ First_Time_5K.htm.
The camps lead up to the Let’s Move Festival of Races in Mount Clemens in April and the Sailing Thru the Shores 5k in St. Clair Shores in May, but co-founder Eleonore Ellero-Groth said another installment will probably be added in the fall.
For more information on Hanson’s Running Shop running groups, call the Utica store at (586) 323-9683 or the Royal Oak store at (248) 616-9665, or visit www.hansons-running.com.
For casual running and training, scenic routes are plentiful locally. Local parks and recreation, and county parks offices may provide more information.
Ready for a race? A list of events statewide is available at www.runmichigan.com.
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