Running fever is on the rise.
First Nations support worker Pauline Johnson started an “Honour Your Health” running club for C.E. Barry students five years ago and the program has expanded each year since.
“We had 48 runners last year and this year it’s 93,” said teacher and group leader Kim Hollmann on Monday.
“We’re expected to have one leader for every 25 runners and this year Miranda and Jacob Cowan also went and got the training in Chilliwack, though ‘Honour Your Health.’”
In past years, the program was only for teachers, students and families of the school, said Hollmann. Now, with the two additional leaders, some unaffiliated members have been able to join.
The program is built on three levels, which work at improving their fitness over 13 weeks. The end goal is to take part in the annual 10K Sun Run in Vancouver in May.
A perhaps unintended benefit of the program is the after-effect on many of the participants. Once they’ve been bitten by the running bug, they want more of it. Many go on to other runs that are offered throughout B.C., such as the 5K Night Run in Stanley Park and the multi-distance Run for Water in Abbotsford.
Hollmann started with the group four years ago and now her husband Peter and their four sons are all involved. Peter has even run two marathons since getting involved in the sport.
“Kids might drop off over the years — but the adults have really been getting into it,” said Hollmann. “It builds family spirit and it’s hard to leave the group once you’ve started.”
“Yeah, once you get over the panting part, you can have social time and talk while you run,” added fellow teacher Jacob Cowan, now in his third year with the group.
Cowan figures he’s lost about 15 pounds since getting into running, though it’s the fitness aspect that he notices most.
“I teach guitar lessons at my house, which is three doors down from the school, and sometimes I have to run home to be there on time,” said Cowan.
“Before I started the program, I was feeling out of breath for the whole lesson. Last year, we had run out to Lakeway Market and I had to run home for a lesson,” he recalled, “and I was feeling fine, even before the start of the lesson.”
Mom-on-the-run Brenda Deschenes said her son Blake asked her to join when he was a student at the school three years ago. “He wanted to do it and he needed a parent to take part,” she said.
“Since then, I have done the Learn to Run program last year and this year, the Run Faster program. I have participated in the Sun Run, the BMO 10K in Kelowna and the 5K Night Run in Vancouver.
“I never dreamed I would run a race, let alone three in one year,” enthused Deschenes. “If someone told me when I was 20 that at age 42 I would be a runner and love it, I would have laughed in their face — but today, I am a runner and I love it!
“I applaud the hard work of the C.E. Barry team,” added Deschenes. “It is very motivating to head out on Sunday night and complete your training session as a group. Kim, Pauline, Jacob and Miranda do a great job of keeping everyone motivated.”
With Pauline being absent on the day of the interview, Hollmann and Cowan were quick to deflect the praise her way.
“Pauline does so much work for this group,” said Hollmann. “She buys weekly prizes, writes emails to keep the team pumped, organizes hotel reservations for the Sun Run weekend and she’ll be organizing our March 4 potluck dinner. We’ve been doubling in size but it’s also doubled the work and Pauline does the lion’s share of it.”
The program — designed by SportMed BC — recognizes that some people will be starting from a sedentary lifestyle, so the first level is a walking group, where 20 are registered.
The next level, which has 40-odd members split into two groups, is called Learn to Run. It involves intervals of walking and running. The top level is called Run Faster and it has 30 members, from age 8 to 50-plus.
“Each member is expected to train on their own, two times a week and then work with their group on Sunday,” explained Cowan.
“Everybody starts here at the school at 6 p.m. on Sundays,” added Hollmann.
“We’ve set it up so all of the groups will cross paths and get to high-five each other at some point. There’s a lot of hooting and hollering!”
To keep things fun and challenging, each week has a theme. A few weeks ago, it was crazy hat night and this past week, the challenge was to stay away from soda pop.
“Anyone who participates in the challenge can enter the weekly prize draw,” said Hollmann.
For the 5K potluck event on March 4, Hollmann said there will be a dress-up challenge, such as last year’s Run in Your Bathing Suit theme.
“We haven’t decided what it will be yet — but it will be embarrassing!”