I wanted to get in shape, so I threw out a challenge to my best friend the summer I turned 38: “We should run a 5K when we turn 40.”
I didn’t think more about it until Latonya said she had committed us to a 5K just three short months later. As I sluggishly logged steps on the dread-mill, two things became clear: I was in piss-poor shape, and I needed serious motivation.
We moved our workouts outside to a two-mile loop around Raleigh’s Lake Lynn. It helped to have a buddy to encourage me. That November we ran most of our first 5K. I felt accomplished!
Latonya continued to train with a running group and went on to complete nearly a half dozen races. Me, not so much.
But it wasn’t for a lack of resources. In case you didn’t know, women’s running groups are hot! In 1998, women made up only 39% of finishers in timed road races. By 2006, numbers had grown to 52%– and their popularity continues to soar.
You needn’t eye a race if you’re looking to start running. North Carolina boasts tons of women’s running groups that will take everyone—from beginners to seasoned runners—to the next level in their fitness goals. These include groups like BGR, iRunMommies, Moms RUN This Town, NC Roadrunners Club, the Downtown Raleigh Women’s Running Group, the YMCA, stroller meet-up groups, and even a school-age group called Girls on the Run for those in grades third through eighth.
According to Active.com, running with a partner helps keep exercise interesting safe, and motivated. The health benefits are undeniable. Studies show that running combats obesity and breast and colon cancers, heart disease and diabetes and helps to strengthen bones, delay dementia, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep.
Take Sandra Dewberry. Sandra had never run before 2008. She joined the NCRC Beginner Women’s Running Program at age 42 when the pounds started piling on and became harder to lose.
“I don’t think that I would have stuck with it had it not been for the run group,” says Dewberry. She now runs three times a week with ten to fifteen women and also trains new runners. “You know others are counting on you.”
NCRC offers an 11-week couch-to-5k interval walk/run training program each July. Runners are grouped with volunteer trainers and others of similar abilities. The organization’s motto is “No Runner Left Behind,” with the goal of completing a 5K in September.
“It doesn’t matter how slow you are, you will always have someone to offer encouragement and support,” says the group’s website.
Felicia Baxter Kornegay picked up running again last year with the help of a group of women from her church and a group called the Cary Cuties. She says camaraderie is key. “It is touching, fun, and a bond each individual will have,” she says.
I tend to agree. I started training again to run my third 5K with Latonya for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in Raleigh on May 17th. As with most things in life, I’ve found it’s easier with a buddy.
Check out local women’s running clubs here.