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.
MEET THE PARTICIPANTS
Name: Ann Kitowski (Land Information)
Describe your fitness habits before the Couch to 5K program: Pretty much non-existent.
What prompted you to join the Couch to 5K group?: I’ve been wanting to start running again, but didn’t know when during the day I could do it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I liked the setup of the program and going through it with other people. And it was so convenient meeting right here after work.
How was the race itself? How did it feel to cross the Finish Line?: The race was fun. It went by really fast.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run?: Your lungs and muscles aren’t used to working that hard, so you have to go slow and not expect too much from yourself. But once your body starts adjusting, it gets easier, starts to become enjoyable, and there’s that feeling of accomplishment when you’re done.
Name: Marsha Spittel (Child Support)
How was the program itself? What did you like about it?: The encouragement from the team was the best part. We wanted to see each other reach our goals.
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?: I have to make myself know that I will feel a lot better afterwards and that it will get easier. Being accountable is a big motivation.
What did you learn about yourself through this experience?: That I hate to run! No, I like to run; it’s just not my favorite thing to do. I learned that a lot is mind over matter. If I really pushed myself I could make it farther each day.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run?: Find a training program that works for you. The Couch to 5K was a great tool. The training schedule and having people who were constantly rooting for you was encouraging.
Name: Mary Fortney (Human Resources)
What prompted you to join the Couch to 5K group?: I saw the training schedule and thought it looked interesting. I wanted to try something new.
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?: I wanted to be a good team player and didn’t want to disappoint the “team.” When I didn’t do my best on a practice night, I always went to run the next day to prove to myself that I could do it.
What did you learn about yourself through this experience?: I learned that slow and steady practices really do win the race.
Any more races or running in the future?: I will do this again next year so that I can say I ran the entire race. No walking for me next year.
Name: Tammy Lietz (Child Support)
Describe your fitness habits before the Couch to 5K program: I would walk with my dog and, once in a while, I would go on bike rides with my children.
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?: I kept remembering the race coming up, and I wanted to make sure I had practiced enough to be able to run the whole race.
How was the race itself? How did it feel to cross the finish line?: The race itself took place on the ‘hottest day of the year.’ But finishing felt really good, especially knowing I did the whole race in my run/jog mode and did not stop to walk!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run?: If I can do it, ANYONE can do it!!! (Yeah, I know that is what most people would say….but it is so true!! We are our best critic and I never thought I could finish the whole race.)
Name: Brenda Woelfel (Probate)
Describe your fitness habits before the Couch to 5K program: I work out and walk at least 4 times a week.
How was the program itself? What did you like about it?: The best part for me was the camaraderie and encouragement I received from the fellow participants.
What did you learn about yourself through this experience?: I am capable of doing more than I gave myself credit for.
Anymore races or running in the future?: Yes, I plan on it!!
Name: Becky Wagner (Land & Water Conservation)
How was the program itself? What did you like about it?: Watching my teammates succeed in their first time ever 5K. I was also able to see what a true Couch to 5K training session was all about with a goal to work toward.
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?: If I don’t run or exercise, I feel like I am missing something all day long. That absent feeling for me is worse than the 30 minutes of exercise.
What did you learn about yourself during this experience?: I learned new ways to train for future events. I learned that adding something new to my typical routine keeps exercise interesting.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run?: I would certainly start by following a Couch to 5K program. It takes the big picture of race day and breaks it down into small running increments every week. That way you just have to focus on what each weeks’ training sessions are and before you know it 8 weeks is over.
Name: Kay Lock (Health Department)
Describe your fitness habits before the Couch to 5K program: Sporadic walking combined with some floor exercises at home.
How was the program itself? What did you like about it?: It was great to have the inspiration and confirmation that we were doing ok!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run?: PREPARE!! PREPARE!! PREPARE!! To be sure you have the appropriate shoes go to an athletic shoe store for advice.
Any more races or running in the future?: I get antsy now if I do not run every other day. I also walk on the off days. I also added some strength training and more floor exercises and stretches with a roller. I feel better than I have in a long time!