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Group trains for Trot and continues to run together

A total of 22 Elon faculty and staff members prepared for the Turkey Trot by participating in the Phoenix Couch-to-5K program.

The Phoenix Couch-to-5K group minutes before they ran the Turkey Trot on Nov. 22.

A group of Elon faculty and staff spent 11 weeks this fall training to run in this year’s Turkey Trot.

Under the direction of coach Megan Squire, associate professor of computing sciences, and several guest coaches, the group participated in the Phoenix Couch-to-5K program offered through Elon Faculty/Staff Wellness for the first time this year.

Several of the program’s participants didn’t have much experience with running regularly and the Turkey Trot, which was held Nov. 22, was a first race for many of the 15 who ran the 3.1-mile grassy trail on campus.

“I think they were an amazing group,” said Squire, who also has helped coach the Mebane Running Club’s Couch-to-5K program. “They were very consistent and extremely dedicated. They followed the program, were thoughtful about their limits and their goals, and they were willing to give it their all, even when the things I was asking seemed really difficult at the time.”

Melissa Deaton, business coordinator for Phoenix Card Services, joined the group to meet others on campus and to do something to benefit her health.

“I have always been an off-and-on again runner, meaning I would run if I had someone to run with, but I could never seem to find the motivation to run on my own,” Deaton said. 

Some people dropped out along the way after discovering running wasn’t their thing, but 22 people remained dedicated to the program.

“A few dozen stuck with it and made truly fantastic progress in 11 weeks,” Squire said. “People who looked at me like I was crazy for asking them to run three whole minutes back in week two ran 38 minutes, 40 minutes and even tacked on extra minutes so they’d have enough distance.”

Since she started working at Elon last year, finding the time to work out has been a daily challenge for Carolyn Defrancesco, director of planned giving, especially since she lives in Greensboro. The Phoenix Couch-to-5K program, which was held weekly every Monday and Thursday, seemed like the perfect solution.

The training program started Sept. 9 with 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. As the weeks progressed, the distance as well as the amount of time spent running gradually increased.

“It was really hot the first day and even the modest program—run for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds—was an incredible challenge,” Defrancesco said. “But we made it. I stayed with it, running Mondays and Thursdays with the group and once a weekend on my own.”

Several Phoenix Couch-to-5K participants posed for a photo after finishing the race, which was a first for many of them.

Even though she had never run in a race before and the workouts pushed her, Defrancesco was determined to complete the program.

“I wanted to stay true to the schedule and did not miss a run more than once or twice,” she said. “… Slowly, my knees got over the shock of running, and I learned that stretching was mandatory.”

The Couch-to-5K group provides a lot of advantages to new runners, Squire said.

“Most important, it provides a proven plan to follow,” she said. “A lot of the guesswork is taken away. Just follow the plan. Having a group also provides a forum to ask questions, a concrete goal at the end, a supportive environment where everyone starts at the same level and some accountability with the group.”

Although she was a bit intimidated on that first day in September, Deaton said those feelings were quickly replaced.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into,” Deaton said. “However, Megan was extremely enthusiastic, and she already knew we all could complete the 5K, which made everything seem a lot easier.”

It didn’t take Deaton long to figure out that Squire was right.

“About half way through the program, I started to realize I can do this and that only encouraged me to work and train harder,” Deaton said. “However, the real motivation each week was knowing there was a group of people all wanting to accomplish the same goal.”

The Couch-to-5K group was a mix of people at all different fitness levels who ranged in age from early 20s to 60s. All they needed was comfortable clothes and running shoes. Squire provided workout tips, maps of the weekly route, inspiration and updates on the Phoenix Couch-to-5K blog.

In addition to Squire’s expertise, throughout the program several different faculty and staff who run on a regular basis, including President Leo Lambert, served as guest coaches.

At age 62, Martin Fowler, lecturer of philosophy and one of the few men who participated in the group, had never run a 5K prior to this experience.

“I did the 11 weeks of training with the Couch-to-5K group because I liked the idea of getting together with other Elon folks during the fall to accomplish a demanding fitness goal,” he said. “… It took my body longer to adapt, and it was much more motivating to do with group support. No runner was left behind.”

The program may be offered by Wellness again in the spring. In the meantime, several in the current group are continuing to run together at 5:20 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. They meet inside Moseley Center (the door by Boney Fountain) and then routes are decided based on who shows up. The routes are usually about 3 miles. Anyone is welcome to run with the group.

“To me, the most important thing is that they decided to keep running afterward,” Squire said. “They are setting new goals and trying to keep the group going on their own without their leader showing up each week with the plan. Now they’re making their own plan. That is so important. This makes me so happy because that is really the only way they’re going to be successful in the long term with their fitness. They’re taking control of their own goals and agenda.”

 Deaton is among those still doing the weekly runs.

“The constant support is why I continued and still continue to run with the group,” Deaton said. “Everyone in the group has such a warm heart, and they all want everyone to do their best. Their encouragement and support make running fun each week.”

Roselee Papandrea Taylor,
Staff
12/2/2013 4:40 PM