Spring isn’t the only season underway in the Chattahoochee Valley -- running season is also upon us, evidenced by the plethora of upcoming 5K races being held in the area.
A 5K is 3.1 miles and “it’s a doable distance” for new runners, said Reggie Luther, lead runner and co-owner of Big Dog Running Co.
Luther said participating in a 5K is great for new runners because it gives them a goal “and you can start training just by walking.”
Local running group Columbus Roadrunners hosts a Couch to 5K program, led by Luther’s wife, Carolee, which coaches new and returning runners through a series of intervals until they are ultimately running three or more miles. The next session begins April 26.
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“It’s best to ease into it,” said Mike Edwards, owner of Below the Knee running store. “Start gently and then incrementally add about 10 percent to your mileage so you don’t injure yourself or lose motivation or get sore.”
Edwards said there is also a Couch to 5K iPod application available for download, giving aspiring runners another training option.
“(Couch to 5K) is the best introduction to running or to get back into running,” said Edwards.
The running program, whether through the application or the group meetings, is eight weeks of interval training.
But before someone jumps into a running program, Luther suggests getting a good pair of running shoes and seeking advice from experienced runners, who can answer questions related to stretching, nutrition, injuries and hydration.
To ensure she’s healthy and injury-free, local runner Chaille Sullivan, who participated in the Java Jog on March 19 and plans to run the SMA 5K on Saturday, drinks plenty of water, pays attention to her food intake and practices good running form.
Although Sullivan, 28, said she eats lots of fruits and vegetables and tries to limit her red meat consumption, she added, “I don’t count calories, I don’t follow a diet plan. I don’t want to think too much about food.”
And in terms of eating before a run, Sullivan tries to eat something light like oatmeal, but said it really isn’t necessary as long as runners drink plenty of water and eat afterwards. Sullivan said she consumes something with electrolytes after a run, “especially if I sweat a lot.”
“As far as being injury-free, I run in Vibram FiveFingers” which she said helps prevent the knee problems she encountered running cross country in high school, Sullivan said.
FiveFingers are minimalist running shoes with space allotted for each toe. Although Sullivan said she got them for races and running in the winter, the first 5K she ran since high school was last June -- and she ran it barefoot.
“It’s not about the shoes, it’s about the form,” said Sullivan.
She has a similar sentiment regarding stretching, something she doesn’t do.
“Stretching is not bad, you just need to do it correctly,” she said, adding that yoga would probably be a good means to learn proper stretching techniques.
Her advice for new runners is to find a partner -- “someone to keep you accountable,” don’t be afraid you’ll be the only beginning runner at a race and “the important thing is to have fun.”