Finding fun in a run

Developing a more healthy lifestyle is often stalled by our own internal doubts.

But events, such as the Hy-Vee Half and 5K Fun Run on April 5, offer an opportunity to get active while also raising funds for a worthwhile cause.

Knowing that getting off the couch and moving will benefit an organization like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is the world’s leader in charitable supporter of type 1 diabetes research, can provide that inspiration to push past personal insecurities and take the first step of what could become a lifelong enjoyment.

The main importance of the run is that is a fundraiser, said Amber Kastler, race director and registered dietitian at the Fort Dodge Hy-Vee, 115 S. 29th St. However, the event, whether people run the 13.1 miles of the half-marathon or children take part in the 100 meter dash, has become a symbol of something more.

“What really keeps me going is the community asks for it,” Kastler said. “We get great feedback which is wonderful, because we see it as a starting point for our community to get healthy.”

Last year, 350 people of all ages participated in the different distance events offered. But the bulk, 124 of them, lined up for the 5K Fun Run.

“A lot of people can show up and walk that,” Kastler said. “5Ks tend to draw more novice runners who do it to enjoy it rather than to be competitive.”

A 5K amounts to 3.1 miles, a distance trainers said is far enough to challenge people but not so far as to discourage people. Additionally, the pressure-free atmosphere at these types of runs consists of costumes, cheering crowds and finish-line treats. They may also be timed events, although not always since they are designed more for fun than for competitive purposes.

“5K are making races more fun for people who don’t consider themselves runners,” Kastler said. “This is great because it’s hard not to want to be active when you see other people having fun and being active. Hopefully, our event encourages people.”

Supporting one another is key to getting over the mental hang-ups that limit us, said Patty Croonquist, of Fort Dodge.

“Running is very mental,” she said, “and getting past that is often very hard for new runners.”

Croonquist started running 10Ks in the 1980s but has since gone on to complete 19 marathons, including the popular Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, which is the world’s largest marathon.

She has even competed in triathlons, claiming first place in her age group last year at the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines. Participating the upcoming Hy-Vee Half and 5K is actually part of her training plan for this year’s Boston Marathon.

But, Croonquist said, it all began with a shared idea between sisters in 2004 of tackling a marathon.

“We had no concept of what we were getting ourselves into,” Crooquist said. “We ran six miles regularly, and then we thought we did a long run of 19 miles, but we later found out it was actually only 11 miles.”

Such a training plan would be perfectly adequate for a half-marathon, she said, but it wasn’t quite enough for a 26-mile route. Still, they went on to finish the race together.

Croonquist said she just kept telling herself that if she could bicycle 73 miles in a leg of RAGRAI she could certainly could run 23.

“Once you’ve gone the distance, you know you can do it,” she said. “It’s just reminding yourself you can.”

Another trick she used was running 23 laps around the track at the Fort Dodge Community REC, 1422 First Ave S., and telling herself that it was 23 miles.

It’s not, of course. Eighteen laps equals just one mile, but she said it’s the mental exercise of setting a goal and continuing until it’s reached, despite the urge to stop.

Running with a group is great for getting past that desire to quit, as well.

“I love to go with pacesetters,” Croonquist said. “I always suggest to new runners that they go with a crowd.”

Peer pressure will keep those feet moving – one way or another.

“You should also tell your friends you’re in a race so you feel accountable,” Croonquist said. “Then they’re also there at the finish line cheering you on.”

Other tips on defeating the naysaying voices in our heads include saying little mantras or prayers while running, finding little goals along the route such as trying to pass that person ahead of you or to run past that tree in the distance, or simply breaking the race down into more mentally manageable measurements like single miles or street blocks.

If new runners haven’t determined what mental strategy works for them, it won’t be hard to find one, Croonquist said. Novices are often inundated with advice and information.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” she said. “Add something to your workout or diet, take something out. Consider what you hear and give it a try.”

Croonquist said she focuses on doing just as much cycling and strength classes as she does running.

“Cross-training,” she said. “That’s my thing. There are always lots of opinions and ideas floating around, but you just take what works for you.”