I don’t run. I don’t like to run. When people ask me to run, my standard response is if you see me running, something scary is probably chasing me. Or I heard the ice cream truck.
But I wish I liked to run. I really do. I have friends who are runners and they are so enthusiastic about it, every once in awhile I will be inspired and go for a run.
That’s when I remember: I don’t like to run.
Still, as a non-runner, I was intrigued by the local running club’s beginner’s program. The club, NITRO, calls its 9-week program Walk 2 Run, because that’s what it is – participants start by alternating walking and running, working their way up to running, and ending with a 5k. The group runs three times a week, as a group, with volunteers from the club running alongside offering advice and encouragement.
It sounded like a nice, non-threatening way to begin, so I visited with the runners on Saturday morning.
It seems to me that all runners are evangelists. As I emailed back and forth with NITRO member Carrie Naber to arrange our meeting, she probably asked me four times to join them for a run. When I met her at Hopkins Park on Saturday, she offered to loan me an extra pair of shoes from the back of her car.
“It gets people outside, and it’s fun,” Naber’s husband, Steve, the NITRO president, said. “I think it’s the endorphins that make runners such happy people.”
Debbie Leurquin did the Walk 2 Run program last year. She stayed with the club, and is volunteering this year to help new runners. Her goal is to complete a marathon, she said; she is registered for her first half-marathon in September.
“I could never get past running by myself,” she said. “It’s helpful to have other people who like to run to encourage you. There are so many people, and at every diferent pace. You don’t have to worry about running too slow or not running far enough.”
There are 80 people signed up for the program so far, Carrie Naber said. The program is in its fourth year, and has grown annually. By the time the runners I met began their stretches Saturday morning, there were more than 60 people there, ranging from middle-school-aged kids to people with gray hair. Some parents were pushing strollers, and at least one runner had a dog on a leash.
The man with the dog, also trying to evangelize me, pointed out a toddler running gleefully to her stroller.
“See, she’s running. She’s having a good time,” he said. “That’s what happens when you run: you smile and giggle.”
Even some members of the club don’t seem totally convinced of that yet. New runner Erin Nelson said she takes my view: she has never liked running. But the group was recommended by a friend from her Weight Watchers group, and a week into it, Nelson was still showing up.
“I always hated running, but they start really slowly, and that’s what I need,” she said. “Everybody is really encouraging, really super friendly. ...I’m committed now. I’ll finish.”
New runner Erica Scott, mother of former Sycamore track star Lake Kwaza, said she is inspired by her athletic children. Now she is in her 40s with her children all leaving the nest, Scott said it is time to do something for herself.
To learn more about NITRO and Walk 2 Run, visit www.nitroruns.org.