Novice runners find strength in numbers


May 06, 2002|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TEN YEARS AGO, at age 51, Evan Thomas ran the B&A Trail Marathon fast enough to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon - an achievement that he thought was beyond his abilities. With this accomplishment under his belt, he became inspired to find a way to give something back to the sport that had given him so much. He hit on the idea of a beginning running program - something he could have used when he started running in 1983.

And a good idea it was. The Annapolis Striders' Beginning Running Program is in its 10th year. This year's program began April 30 - the Tuesday after the Bay Bridge Run, as it has for the past nine years.

The learn-to-run program includes information on finding the right shoes, injury prevention, fun and motivational discussions with previous graduates. Starting with a walk-run routine, each week includes less walking and more running, with students working up to 20 minutes of continuous running.

The July 13 Women's Distance Festival/Run after the women's 5K (3.1-mile) races in West Annapolis serves as a graduation exercise.

Learning to run - or getting back in shape - can be hard to do alone. Thomas estimates that about 100 people ran at various times last year, and about 400 people have completed the program.

"The key is to keep it fun," Thomas said. "It's a great place to meet people and have a structured run to get back in shape or re-energize fitness groups."

It's so much fun that some people return to do the program more than once. Couples come out to get fit together, as do parents and children.

Edgewater resident Tara Clifford completed the program a few years ago and is planning to take it again this year. Her original motivation for starting the class was to have something to motivate her to get out of the office at a reasonable hour.

"I was sitting all day, craving being outside and I thought it would be a good discipline to work smart and then to exercise in a healthful way," she said. "I got through the training and finished the race in large part because of Betty Moore, who continued to run with us - very slowly for her - so that we all crossed the finish. I thought it was such a triumph."

Moore, an Annapolis resident, and her husband, Ben, were two of the volunteers Thomas recruited get the program up and running 10 years ago. They still help out, as do many club members and previous program graduates, sharing their enthusiasm, encouragement and experience as runners with each of the students. Thomas said, "It is our job to distract the participants and make it an enjoyable process as we start from one minute of running with two minutes of walking."

Deb and James Foy of Odenton are starting the class together. James ran in high school and has been wanting to pick it up again. "Doing it on your own is always hard," he says. "Getting with a group is a motivator, especially with getting started."

Deb Foy has run three marathons but wants to learn about pacing her speed. "I'm a slow runner and thought if I joined a group I'd be able to talk to people and learn how to pace myself for a five-mile run or a 10-mile run," she said. A group of experienced women runners with whom she keeps in touch encouraged her to find an organized running program.

Susan Urick of Crownsville and her 11-year-old daughter, Caitlin, are taking the class together this summer for different reasons. Susan does a lot of walking with friends and has always wanted to run but, like many people, hasn't had much luck at getting motivated.

"It's very hard for me to get started," Urick said. "My sister runs and I have always wanted to run." Caitlin has bigger plans, according to her mother. She wants to run the Boston Marathon.

Spots in the program are available. Sessions are held at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 8 a.m. Saturdays at Weems-Whelan Field off Spa Road in Annapolis. Runners should be capable of walking briskly for 20 minutes and have checked with their doctor before starting this fitness program.

Registration is $15, which is the cost of membership in the Annapolis Striders. Information: 410-760-9188, or send e-mail to

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