We were just about a mile from the finish line, and I was tapped. My legs were not the issue. It was that I was searching for words of encouragement...to say the right thing. Lynn Trittipo, 66, from Waynedale was running beside me. I had finished running my race. He was about to complete his "first" 4-mile race.
The evening before the Gingerbread Pursuit race, training coach Kevin Croy sent a message to the No Boundaries participants: "Your first run is likely to fill you with anticipation, excitement and with butterflies in your stomach...let your adrenaline do its work. This excitement is what makes an organized race different from your training run."
Twelve weeks ago, 60 runners, guided by coaches and mentors, got off the couch and started their walk/run goal with the No Boundaries program sponsored by New Balance at Fleet Feet Sports. "I can do this," said Lynn. "My goal is to run 4-miles." So off the couch he jumped into one of the best running programs in the nation.
Lynn runs beside me. "I have to walk," he said. A fellow running mentor, Carol Dobis, encouraged him saying, "You can do this Lynn! You are almost there. Keep going!"
Downtown Fort Wayne had just received 4-5 inches of freshly fallen snow, so the course that we were running was slick and it felt like you were running on trails. It was not easy. Each step had to be taken with caution. There were hills to run up and then back down. A winding route, over bridges, through The Fort, around the city, ending near the Courthouse.
With a sense of enthusiasm Carol and I, along with several other mentors reassured all of the "first" time finishers to stay strong. Back in October we began encouraging these runners, who struggled at first with just finishing a mile-most of them walking that first mile. As time progressed, the walkers became runners. "One step at a time," we said. Later into their training, we broke off into pace groups, 10-minute, 11-minute, 12-minute and walkers. 2 miles, 2.5 miles, 3 miles, 3.5 miles and finally 4 miles they ran to their goal. (Except for one time when I will admittedly say I got our group lost, even with a map! We ran that evening about 4.5 miles...sorry.)
So as we continued on Saturday, December 14, with the wind blowing in our face and the snow falling faster, nearing the home-stretch we see the sign that says Berry Street. Lynn, Carol and I take a left onto Berry with a block or so to go. We step even with the intersection, I look over to encourage Lynn again. He wasn't there. Lynn picked up the pace! He finished strong! So strong he place third in his age group!
What a great group of runners! This was my first experience in mentoring. Mentoring to me with my passion for running was a no-brainer. Yes, I gave up some of my own free personal time, but I also got in a few miles of my own, with some very special people. It is not always about the time-it's about the experience. The pay back was watching these runners improve step-by-step. Each runner was inspiring, and in the end...when they crossed that finish line for the first time...Wow! Tears here. Another goal met for them...another runner born.
No Boundaries is a Walk/Run training program designed for people who are currently inactive or new to walking and running. The weekly training sessions keep you motivated and moving. It assists in completing a goal of crossing that finish line. No Boundaries is offered at Fleet Feet Sports store in the Coventry Plaza. Next session will begin in February 2014.