From beginners to regular runners

From beginners to regular runners

Lisa Travis joined Second Wind Running Club’s women’s running program because she wanted to improve her fitness.

After training for eight weeks with other beginning runners for a 5K race, she found she was not only more fit, she also was enjoying running.

So much so that she completed another eight-week training program with the group, and she’s now signed up for a third training session.

“It has been an amazingly positive experience,” Travis said. “The women who run the group are incredibly supportive and kind. There are mentors who run along with the beginning runners, adapting to their pace and providing tips and encouragement. They'll distract you from your exhaustion when they can, and if they can't, they'll walk with you until you can run again.

“I've met some pretty wonderful people. And it is an empowering experience to see yourself improve over the session,” she said.

Blog PhotoThe women’s running program begins its eight-week fall session today. The program is for women who are new to running, and it will prepare them to run the Women’s Fitness 5K on Sept. 9 at Crystal Lake Park.

Because the Women’s Fitness 5K is earlier than usual this year, the fall women’s running program will have two sessions. The second will begin Sept. 11 and will prepare the participants to run the Cupcake 5K on Nov. 5 at Dodds Park.

During the training program, the women run together every Tuesday at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. The program offers three groups, all of which start out with walking and increase the amount of time they run each week. The groups progress at different rates, but the goal for all of them is to enable participants to run a 5K at the end of the program.

A half-dozen mentors will lead the groups and offer encouragement and advice. And the program schedules optional runs on Thursdays and Sundays so the participants can run their other weekly runs together.

“It’s really relaxed. We let them do what they’re comfortable with and at the same time encourage them,” said Martha McSims, the program’s leader.

“We’re not drill sergeants. I just want you to have fun. I don’t want you to worry about your time. I don’t want you to worry about your pace. The goal is to keep you running after the program is over.”

McSims signed up for the program two years ago with her spouse Tammy McSims. Both had  run several Christie Clinic Illinois 5K races but they never stuck with running after the race. They became regular runners after participating in the women’s running program.

Martha McSims fell in love with running, and she was healthier and felt better than when she was younger. Her favorite part of the program, though, was the other runners. She still runs with some of the women who trained with her.

“That’s what kept us going -- the community of it and meeting friends and doing it every week,” McSims said.

The group has a Facebook page and McSims uses it to organize fun runs such as a run to Red Bicycle Ice Cream in Urbana on Global Running Day.

“I want to keep people moving after the eight-week program, keep people motivated and help them feel good about their bodies,” she said.


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at


On the web:

For more information about Second Wind Running Club’s women’s running program or to register, go to Registration is open for the first fall session through July 23.


Photo: Members of Second Wind Running Club’s women’s running program at the Kirby Derby in May.


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