As lightning illuminated a deep red sky at dawn on a summer weekend, a small group of county employees awoke with excitement and anxiety for the day to begin. The stormy morning was the moment many of them have been working towards with effort, determination, and heart. The Fondy Fair 5K was about to begin. Under looming severe storms, these employees set out to accomplish their goal: run the 3.1 miles it takes to complete their first 5K.
Taking up running can seem like a scary prospect, especially if one feels out of shape or unfit. Many feel like they do not know how to start. As an avid runner, Justin Kluesner (Human Resources) knew the benefits that running provides and offered to lead a Couch to 5K program at Fond du Lac County. A Couch to 5K program is a running plan developed to help absolute beginners get into running. “For me, running has provided the obvious benefits that come with exercise, but I also feel I have more energy, more confidence, and a more positive outlook on life,” says Kluesner.
Seven employees soon joined the program, which met every Tuesday and Thursday after work for nine weeks. Brenda Woelfel (Probate) says she joined because “running a 5K is something I had always wanted to do, but I felt I didn’t have the capability and was never sure how to start.” The first day the group met, they alternated between running 60 seconds and walking 90 seconds, for about 20 minutes total. After a few weeks, the running times slowly rose as each participant gained the strength, endurance, and stamina it took to run 30 minutes straight.
When the morning of the 5K arrived, severe storms delayed the start time one hour. “Since it was postponed, I got anxious the closer it got to [the start time],” recalls Marsha Spittel (Child Support). “I just wanted to get going!”
When the starting horn finally sounded, nearly 200 participants took off in temperatures that seemed to keep climbing. While starting the race made some nervous, the elation of completing it soon erased those fears. “I had a time in mind that I wanted to beat so that is all I was thinking when I was getting close to the finish line. Crossing the line is exhilarating,” states Becky Wagner (Land & Water Conservation).
One by one each racer finished, most well under their goal times. In those moments, the hard work of the past several weeks flooded into their minds. “I came from being winded while running 60 seconds on the first week of the program and now I just completed the race!,” says Mary Fortney (Human Resources). For Kay Lock (Health Department), the experience has proved she is capable of more than she imagined, stating, “I thought I was getting old as I turned 52 this year, but I realized I can still do lots with the appropriate training.”
Reflecting back on the last several weeks has left Kluesner pleased with all the hard work and determination his colleagues displayed. “I am beyond proud of everyone for completing the 5K. I love to think about that first week when everyone was wondering what they got themselves into, because at that finish line, I saw 7 confident individuals who proved that they could achieve anything they put their mind to,” proclaims Kluesner.
Continue reading about each of the Couch to 5K participants and their experience.