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October 2, 2012

Lugene Hudson on Fitness: I hope my 5K experience inspires you to hit the road

NEW CASTLE — Ah, Tony Bennett, there’s a time to listen to you. But it’s not when I need motivation to run up a hill.

Where was the upbeat Adam Levine and Maroon 5 on my MP3 player to help me along? I suppose it really didn’t matter. What did matter was that I ran and completed my first 5K, with or without the proper tunes.

Big deal, you say?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Allow me to explain that I started running only about a year and a half ago. And oh, I’m 58.

So there I was at Pearson Park with about 125 others walking and running for the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County. Amidst the stretching and bending, and other pre-jogging activities, I sensed a new type of excitement. It was of no concern whether someone wore the trendiest running attire. What was relevant was that a group of dedicated, enthusiastic individuals were ready to start their Saturday morning engaging in physical activity for a worthwhile cause.

“Do I fit in here?” I wondered. I wasn’t sure. But I positioned myself toward the back of the running group and waited for the start signal.

Just about a week before the race, I received inspiration from some unexpected sources.

Jamie Lee Curtis wrote about competing in her first 5K recently in Good Housekeeping magazine. At age 53, she had never run before and trained for about two months prior to the event.

Somehow knowing that helped me tremendously.

The next time I went out and ran a three-mile course, I completed it my best time ever. If Jamie Lee could do this, so could I.

Soon after, I visited Shenango Presbyterian SeniorCare in New Wilmington and met a wonderful gentleman. Bob Carlson ran every day of his life for 31 years. He patted my hand and said, “You can do it. I know you can.”

Wow. Life has a way of sending the right people your way at the right time.

Doug Petrik, who finished the Boston Marathon last spring in 2 hours and 50 minutes, offered overwhelming support and advice.

What nobody told me in advance until Petrik filled me in, was what the course entailed. It went through the park, along Mitchell Road and past the Y Zone. OK. Not too bad so far. But that hill I ran down was one I had to navigate coming the other way. I forgot about that part. It then looped into a housing development where we turned into a cul-de-sac and headed back.

“You’re almost there,” a woman stationed at the park entrance said.

Almost meant another mile along the park’s trail system consisting of a series of loops, ups and downs and turns.

The adrenaline set in and I moved like I have never moved before.

And there it was — the finish line. I made it.

My husband, Doug, beaming from ear to ear, snapped my photo. A few people I knew clapped. But there’s more to this tale.

I thought nothing of looking at the list of winners that was posted. But state Rep. Chris Sainato and my husband took a peek and I saw big smiles. I was second place in my age division and received a ribbon.

That red, white and blue prize with the runner medallion means more than I could have ever envisioned.

After I crossed the finish line, Petrik slapped my hand.

 “You’re a runner,” he told me.

It was all I needed to hear.

In the end, I had fit in.

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

And I’m ready to do it again.

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