What do you do if your New Year’s resolution is to run a 5k – but your town doesn’t have one? You start one, of course.
That’s what Carol McGinty did in her home community of Mannington. Carol, along with lots of other partners, organized the first 5k run through Mannington streets, which took place this past Halloween.
The first step in bringing the 5k dream to life was attending the statewide Try This conference in June 2015. Main Street Mannington sent a team of people to the conference, including Carol, and one of the breakout sessions about organizing 5k runs stuck with her. After hearing from others in the state who were race-organizing pros, like Alexis Batausa from the Tug Valley Road Runners Club, Carol was inspired to try it in Mannington.
Carol wanted to provide an opportunity for people in Mannington to be active and make friends through the 5k race. Once she got involved with helping to organize it, all the pieces started to fall together.
Local people who were working to make Mannington a healthier place had previously created a Live Well Mannington Facebook page to share information and plan events. And WVU’s Center for Excellence in Women’s Health was also working with residents to plan a Women on Wellness (WoW) retreat in Mannington.
As fate would have it, one of WoW’s goals was to add 0 – 5k training for the WoW communities. Although a leader in organizing the 5k day-of logistics, Carol doesn’t consider herself a runner and didn’t feel comfortable in a training coach role. So she recruited Fairmont State student Maddi Wade to help. Maddi, who is studying to become a physical therapist, was excited about the idea and agreed to serve as the training coach.
And they were off! About 23 people signed up for the training, and a group of about 15 came consistently. Maddi and her exercise physiology professor, Paul Reneau, worked together to develop a two-month training program for walkers and runners. Maddi led the group once a week in the workout, then gave two “on your assignments” for the rest of the week to prepare for race day. She also developed the route for the 5k and held the training sessions on the 5k course, so participants would feel comfortable with it on the big day.
When not training, Carol and the team were hard at work preparing for the race.
Guided by the WoW team, and using tools from the Try This website, they started talking to everyone they could about the race. This included city officials, police, local businesses, area churches and other groups involved with Main Street Mannington, and Marion County Parks and Recreation.
“It takes up a lot of time,” said Carol – who also has a full time job. But she was determined to see this idea become reality.
On race day, it was clear that talking to all those different people had paid off. The group received donated signage, water and time from local churches, businesses and Marion County Parks and Rec. The middle school cross country team participated. The 0 – 5k training group put on a strong showing. Some people ran the whole race, some mixed running and walking, and some people walked to participate.
All in all there were close to 50 participants in the race, the very first one organized in the town. And so an opportunity to move, connect and have fun was created.
So, was it worth it? Carol says it was. She sees this first race as the start of a more physically active Mannington. The feedback from participants was very positive, and Marion County Parks and Rec is now a strong supporter and has plans to include the race as part of their race series for next year.
But the best part for Carol was the relationships formed through the training. She works from home full time, so for her, the regular training schedule was not only a way to keep her on track for the race, it also provided an opportunity to get out of the house, see friends and be social.
This has helped transform her view of exercise as a chore or a “should” to a fun activity to enjoy with friends.
Mannington is on its way to building an active culture that emphasizes well-being. People in town are continuing the projects from the WoW training, and various participants of Live Well Mannington and other groups are looking forward to attending a regional Try This gathering on April 1 in Fairmont, and the statewide conference June 3-5 in Buckhannon.
Organizing this 5k was a major event for the town, but judging from the energy and partnerships in Mannington, it seems like it’s just the starting line.