Women on the run
Running 101 shows women how to channel their running instincts into a positive physical experience - just
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 05/11/05
BY LAURA LEDDY TURNER
Bring up the subject of running to the average multi-tasking, spreading -herself-too-thin
woman and she will likely reply with a knowing smile.
Her life is all about running: running after the kids; running out the door to work; running to
the curb with the newspapers because she forgot it's recycling day; running to answer the
phone she left upstairs when she went downstairs to do the laundry.
Now, talk about running for fitness, or perhaps enjoyment, and this same woman may
heave a wistful sigh. Yes, it's something she's considered, maybe even something she's
been invited to do with friends. But those friends are real runners. They're working on
stretching their daily workout to three miles. They run in 5Ks. They actually have running
Which is why novice runners like Katie Abel, 31, of Sea Girt often have no choice but to
run solo … only to find it too challenging. "I tried it on my own last April and it didn't work,'' she says. "I would go out one day
and then two weeks would lapse.''
Runners agree that running in company is easier than going it alone, but with the legions
of experienced runners streaming down the boardwalks and over park trails, where does a
woman run when there's nowhere to hide her lack of running skills?
The perfect place might be within the ranks of the 80 or so women currently setting their
own pace in a class aptly named Running 101.
The 12-week series of running 'classes'' was begun by John MacGillivray, a lifelong
athlete, experienced runner and active member of the Jersey Shore Running Club, of
which Running 101 is an offshoot. It occurred to him that novice runners, particularly
women, needed a place to start.
"I realized that there's beginner classes in other other sports,'' MacGillivray says. "They
have them for golfers and I thought, "Why not for runners?'‚''
MacGillivray researched other running programs around the country for beginners. He
shared his findings with friend and fellow runner Elaine Hartung of Hillsborough.
"John was the originator of Running 101,'' says Hartung, current vice president of the
running club. "He's our resident running expert and he coached running for several years.
We knew the idea of a beginner running program had been successful in other areas. We
decided limiting it to women only would make it more special.''
Hartung says she and John put a brochure together and put the word out. The first class
drew about 20 women. By the second year, she says, the class had swelled to almost 80.
Clearly, Running 101 was a hit. But just how does one take that first step to a running
"As soon as someone signs up, we start e-mailing them,'' explains Hartung, a certified
running coach who assists MacGillivray, also a certified coach, in conducting the classes.
"We write to them and ask them to start walking, to try and just stay on their feet for 30
minutes. "We also tell them not to buy anything until after the first class. Then we'll have a guest
speaker talk about what to look for in running shoes. Shoes are an important purchase and
we don't want them to invest unwisely.''
"We start with a 30-minute exercise warmup. Then we begin the running portion, walking
four minutes, running one minute,'' Hartung says. "We repeat that, going in a circle so we
keep in contact.'' The classes, Hartung says, focus on endurance rather than pace.
"We mix walking and running and gradually increase the running until we're running for 30
minutes straight,'' she says.
Running 101 doesn't offer any secret formula or magic method to turn nonrunners into
runners. But Abel says running with any kind of consistency is not something she was able
to accomplish before joining Running 101.
"With this, it's different,'' she says. "You know you're going to a class. People are expecting
you there. It's more structured. My sister and I joined together, and it's one of the best
things I ever did. I'm running two or three times a week, for 40 minutes. Before, I could
barely run two minutes.''
Abel feels her success can be partly attributed to the lack of pressure in Running 101.
"I don't feel like I'm upset because I'm slow and not at the front of the pack. There (are) all
different levels in the class, so that's nice,'' she says.
There are varying experience levels within Running 101 because veteran runners from the
first year have stayed with the program.
"Some women who were with us at year 1 are still with us,'' Hartung says. "Since we have
different levels, we do speed work and track workouts. Women stay with our classes
because there's safety in numbers and there's camaraderie.''
Karen Connors, 52, of Holmdel is one of Running 101's original members and continues to
be a regular.
"My girlfriend was joining, but I balked at the idea because I never ran,'' Connors admits. "I
finally went along with the idea that I could always quit. We ran a little, we walked a little
and gradually we were running more, to the point where I said to myself, "Oh, I don't want
to quit now!'‚'' Connors was surprised to find that at the end of the 12-week course she was running 30
minutes without stopping. Even more surprising, she found herself entered in the running
event that has become the end-goal of the summer class: the annual all-female Saturday
in the Park 5K race on Labor Day weekend.
The motivation to begin a running regime can come from a variety of sources.
"Many of these women didn't have the opportunities in high school (that) girls have today
to learn sports. Many of them have spent their lives as mothers, wives, doing things for
others,'' Hartung says. "Now they feel it's time to do something for themselves. It's not just
the physical benefits that running offers. There's a mental uplifting that goes along with it.''
Hartung has her own personal motivation for seeing these women succeed at a physical
challenge: Her aunt was a victim of domestic violence, and so, Hartung says, "Anything I
can do to make women stronger, I do.''
As for MacGillivray, his support of women's fitness has not gone unnoticed. In 2004, he
was honored with the 2004 Fred LeBow Award for Promoting Women's Developmental
Running. The award, presented by the New York Road Runners Club and the Road
Runners Club of America, is not often given to men, Hartung says.