How new runners get in shape with Busse Woods Couch to 5K program

 
Updated 5/22/2018 6:25 AM
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  • Erika Hansen of Palatine, second from left, and Tim McDonald, also of Palatine, encourage runners in the Couch to 5K program as they complete a warmup while preparing for their first race, which will take place May 27.

      Erika Hansen of Palatine, second from left, and Tim McDonald, also of Palatine, encourage runners in the Couch to 5K program as they complete a warmup while preparing for their first race, which will take place May 27. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Runners in the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program work out at Ost Field in Palatine. They are training to run in the Salute 5K on May 27 in Arlington Heights.

      Runners in the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program work out at Ost Field in Palatine. They are training to run in the Salute 5K on May 27 in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Runners in the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program work out at Ost Field in Palatine. They are training to run in the Salute 5K on May 27 in Arlington Heights.

      Runners in the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program work out at Ost Field in Palatine. They are training to run in the Salute 5K on May 27 in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Amanda Kowalski of the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program works out at Ost Field in Palatine.

      Amanda Kowalski of the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program works out at Ost Field in Palatine. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Jimmy Kowalski of the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program works out at Ost Field in Palatine.

      Jimmy Kowalski of the Busse Woods Running Club's Couch to 5K program works out at Ost Field in Palatine. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Every Tuesday night, Jenny Swanson of Wauconda and her 14-year old daughter, Mia, have a date night. That's when they drive to Palatine to meet up with their running group, the Busse Woods Running Club.

They are the only mother and daughter tandem -- out of more than 50 people -- who signed up for the club's new Couch to 5K program, that was sponsored by Runners High 'n' Tri in Arlington Heights. Virtually all of them had little to no experience in running.

Since April, they have been training to complete their first race, the Salute 5K in Arlington Heights. The event benefits veterans and starts at 8 a.m. Sunday, May 27.

Tim McDonald of Palatine is one of two volunteer coaches that works with the group. At last week's practice, he held a stop watch and shouted out encouragement to runners as they ran 25 minutes straight, for the first time.

He says that throughout the eight weeks, the club makes every effort to bring these new runners to the starting line.

"I started out running in a program like this," McDonald says. "That's why I'm so passionate about it."

Swanson concedes that she is a breast cancer survivor, but with recovering from her illness and trying to keep up with all of the activities of her three children, she never found time to work out.

"I needed to do something," Swanson says. "In order to really beat this disease and make sure it doesn't come back, I need to stay fit."

Besides, she adds, she and her daughter have enjoyed their time together.

The same could be said about the rest of the club members, who cheer each other on and enjoy each other's company as much as they have to dig deeply to find the perseverance to keep running.

"They provide lots of encouragement," says Ed Dubiel of Arlington Heights. "I haven't done a 5K in 30 years, but with turning 60 this year I wanted to get in shape. I don't want to be old."

Marilyn Traina of Schaumburg is one of the few members who had run before, but when she broke her hand two years ago, she had to stop. After starting back into it with the Couch to 5K program, she now runs with students at Anne Fox Elementary School in Hanover Park, where she is the school nurse.

"I hope I can model for students what it means to have a healthy lifestyle," Traina said.

They train three times a week, including starting out at two different locations at Streets of Woodfield in Schaumburg before running into Busse Woods, as well as at Ost Field in Palatine on Tuesday evenings, which draws the most participants.

Jimmy Kowalski of Buffalo Grove serves as president of the Busse Woods Running Club. He and his wife, Amanda, started the Couch to 5K program, to offer free race training to those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

"There are (Couch to 5K) apps out there," Amanda Kowalski says, "but having this type of program makes it more successful. You need peers to push you."

Jimmy Kowalski says he was a chain smoker, and after making a New Year's Eve resolution in 2011 to stop smoking, he started running the next year -- and never looked back. The change has been so positive in his life that he does everything he can to encourage others to adopt a running lifestyle.

"We think this program's been a huge success," Kowalski says. "Participants are accomplishing things once thought unimaginable. It's been so special to watch how these people have blossomed in just seven weeks."

Kowalski adds that the club will offer a 10-week Couch to 5K program in September, to get participants ready for area Turkey Trots. For information about the club, visit busserunners.org.

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