The power of partners

“4.84?” I asked my running partner. “4.84 what?”

“Miles,” she replied, double checking her wrist-mounted runners GPS.

Awaiting direction before Thursday evening’s run.

We’d been out just under an hour, we’d done a 12-minute warmup jog, did some hill work, did the 12 minutes back to the store. Two and a half miles, three tops, was my guess.

“No, it’s a five-mile workout,” coach Tim Clark confirmed a few minutes later.

This was the major take-away from my first workout with the Fit-tastic program last night: Training with others trumps training alone. You push yourself harder, you show up, misery loves company. And, with Fit-tastic, you get a coach, who, if peer pressure isn’t enough, is there for reinforcement.

Last fall, when I wrote about health and fitness for The News & Observer,  I followed a recently married couple, a mom and a family through the inaugural Fit-tastic program run by The Athlete’s Foot in Cameron Village. Fit-tastic’s goal: take non-runners and, with coaching and encouragement, get them to the point they can run a 5K in 12 weeks. Covering the program’s final — the Halloween weekend Monster Dash — rekindled my long-dormant desire to run. This year, instead of just writing about the people in the program I decided to do it myself.

Prior to last night’s session I learned that the program has flourished in the past year. Last fall, there were about 80 aspiring runners in the program; this fall, there are 120. And, the program is now broken into five categories: Walk, Beginner Walk-to-Run, Intermediate Walk-to-Run, Run, Advanced Run.

“We wanted something for the people who wanted to continue on,” said Mike Zimmerman, owner of the Cameron Village TAF and founder of the Fit-tastic program.

Moments before the group stretching session began about 60 runners and walkers milled about. There were good-sized walkers and lean types who looked capable of putting in a good 10K time. There was a surprisingly equal distribution of folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s (a smattering of 60s and 20s, as well). About 90 percent were female.

After stretching, Coach Clark led nine of us in the Advanced Run group on a 12-minute warm-up run to nearby Fred Fletcher Park. After another brief stretching session, we got down to business.

“We’re going to do five hill repeats,” Tim said. “It’s about 400 meters up. Run up, do a recovery pace back down.”

Another plus of joining a program: Sprinting up a 400-meter hill is not something I would do on my own.

After doing five repeats and generally meeting our goal of not having our times vary by more than five seconds (“That’s part of how I know you’re getting a good workout,” Tim told us), we jogged back to the store. The return trip took a little longer than the 12-minute run over.

The session had flown and while I was drenched in sweat I was amazed we had gone  five miles. I run five miles on my own and I’m well aware of the fact I’ve run five miles.
For the Fit-tastic program, though, I’ll be content to run just 3.1 miles with the very ambitious — for me — goal of breaking 24 minutes.

That’s something I’m confident I couldn’t do on my own.

Once a week or so I’ll report on my progress and that of others in the Fit-tastic program as we work toward our personal goals at graduation, the Monster Dash 5K on Oct. 25.

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