Running group helps first-timers and people getting back into exercise by training on new terrain

Published: Aug. 16, 2017 at 3:49 PM EDT
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Trail running is a type of running that continues to grow in popularity. Here's one local group that's training newbies and people getting back into exercise to meet their fitness goals.

Forget the concrete and blacktop races you typically think of. Trail running is especially good for people who are worried about the impact on their joints or body.

"Anyone that's worried about impact on their joints or body tends to have a little bit easier of a time on trails," said Amie Dworecki, a running coach for Running With Life, LLC. "These are people that haven't been running in a long time, are new to running or wanted to try something different. A lot of people have trouble running on concrete, so they want to see if running on trails can help, and fortunately they can."

Coach Amie is training a group that meets twice a week at St. Patrick's County Park to prepare for the Running Wild 5K on Saturday, Aug. 19.

It's a race through the woods at the park.

"It's been great for me, I feel much better and I'm enjoying it," said participant Dan Draper. He's had several heart issues but knew he needed to get back into running. "I don't want to be a burden to my wife as I get older because of poor health, and if something should happen to her I want to be able to help her. I felt I needed to do what it took to improve my health."

People like Lori Richner have never run before.

"It's been encouraging because I wasn't certain I could ever do this, so it's definitely opened that up for me, and it's also helped me to meet some personal goals I had for myself and to continue on," Richner said.

Her main source of exercising previously was walking. She said running always interested her but seemed to be intimidating.

Running on the trails is about more than getting in shape.

"It's beautiful, it's kind of a break from seeing all of the concrete," said Coach Amie. "You go out and you're in nature so you're getting your exercise in and you're rejuvenated."

"I really like running on the trails, the shade really helps especially when it's sunny out," said participant Lizzie Pangallo.

"To see the flowers, the trees, listen to the birds, it's just more energizing, literally energizing for me, and I hope that's the experience that people who are new to trail running will take away," said Evie Kirkwood, the director of St. Joseph County Parks. "This encourages people to get out to see the trails and maybe utilize the trails and not just participating in a running class or Running Wild."

The trail for the race is marked with yellow tape so the participants know where to go to prepare for race day, giving the group an advantage.

"It gets them to the point where they're just about ready to run the race and so they're really excited to see what happens, but we do actually have the privilege of running on the actual course so they get to see what it's like," said Coach Amie.

With race day right around the corner, everyone's just about ready.

"I'm excited and nervous," said Richner. "I've never been in a race, so this will be my first."

"I'm not nervous, I'm a little bit excited," said Draper. "The coaching from Coach Amie has just been great. She's really helped us all to improve."

"I really feel like trail running is an activity that can be open to anyone if they just give it a chance," said Coach Amie.

This is the first time the park has ever had a preparation class, and the participants love it. They said having the group holds them accountable to continue to practice and get better.

Most of them just want to complete the 5K and worry about time for the next race. The group hopes to continue to meet up after the race to keep training toward future fitness goals.

Running Wild is a 5K run and also has a 3K Wacky Scavenger Hunt Walk. For more information please follow this link: