Image: Natural Running Center
Harborcreek Township and the Eastside YMCA will once again be offering a learn-to-run 7-week-long clinic, led by an avid (and super fast) runner who is as nice as her last name suggests. Sandie Sweet is not just a runner, but a wife (to Erie runner, Norm Sweet), a mom (to Ryan and Sarah), and a registered dietician. Sandie knows how to juggle responsibilities and how (and WHY) it’s important to find time to put some fitness in your life. She can get you on the road to lifelong fitness through running.
“I love to run and I love to bring that passion to others,” Sandie says. ” I love the way participants evolve from week 1 where they don’t know if they can do it to week 7 where they are filled with pride, enthusiasm & confidence in their running.
The clinic starts May 24 and it’s free and open to anyone to participate ( you don’t have to be a Harborcreek resident).
I caught up with Sandie long enough to ask her a few questions about the clinic:
1. Where (exactly) do you meet (which entrance/lot should they park at)?
We meet at the Harborcreek Community Park (corner of Firman & Clark Roads in Harbocreek Township — off Route 20). It’s best to use the Firman Road parking lot. The clinic starts at 6:30PM on Thursdays beginning May 24th and goes until July 5th. We meet rain or shine under the silver pavilion just west of the parking lot.
2. What’s the general format…what happens at each weekly meeting?
The first half of the clinic will cover a running-related topic. I try to have those who are experts in the field come and speak. For example, a representative from Achilles Running Shop will speak one week on shoes. Last year, we had a yoga instructor from the Eastside Y come and we did stretching specifically for runners. After the talk, we run – everyone at the own pace & ability. Each week the run will get progressively longer.
3. Who is this clinic for (new runners, beginners, veterans), etc.?
Certainly anyone can come to the clinic but I love to target those who never thought they could run (a la “couch to a 5K”) and those who maybe run a little but would like to try to run their first 5K. I’m also of the opinion that you can always learn something new, so even those who have been running for a while and just want to gain a little more knowledge about running (and running-related topics) could benefit.
4. What kinds of things/topics will you cover?
We will begin by going over the basics of running – proper form, what to wear, etc., choosing the right running shoe, stretching, nutrition (in particular what to eat/not eat before & after running), all about the Erie Runners Club and a few more topics that I’m still in the process of working on. During the last session we talk about becoming a “better, faster, stronger” runner so we’ll cover things like hill repeats, interval training & pylometrics.
5. Why does Harborcreek Twp. sponsor this?
The running clinic is a wonderful way to get people up and moving because it’s so important for good health. Harborcreek Supervisor Tim May is an avid runner who recognizes this and strongly supports the clinic for a healthier community. The running clinic is also sponsored, in part, by the Eastside Y, too. The Harborcreek Community Park is a great place to hold the clinic. Participants can safely run on the 0.7 mile paved path and/or on the wooded trails on the property.
6. What is the goal of the program?
Really, the goal is to educate and encourage people in the sport of running, particularly those who are new to it. Our big goal in the clinic is to have everyone participate in the Harborcreek Youth Services/Fahey-Ferko 5K (or 10K for those who want to) held at the Harborcreek Township building on Saturday, June 30th. For many, it’ll be their first race – how exciting it is!
7. What if they can’t come to all 7 weeks — is it OK if they come to 4 or whatever?
Participants can come to as many of the weekly clinics that they want to. However, those who attend at least 6 of the 7 sessions receive a t-shirt. Some stay just to hear the talk and then leave to run on their own.
8. What does a new runner/wannabe need to know before coming? What do they need?
The first night we talk about beginner runner things: what to wear, basic running form, keeping a running log, etc. The run/walk on the first night is very short. If a new runner needs running shoes, I strongly encourage them to purchase them after the second week when a representative from Achilles Running Shop will come out and explain all the ins & outs of selecting shoes. Other than that, they just need to bring themselves. Every runner has a story about how they got to be a runner. This is the beginning of their story.
9. What is the biggest mistake you see new runners make? And, how can they prevent it?
New runners, in their zeal to get started running will choose a running shoe without knowing anything about them. Get fitted for a running shoe that is appropriate for the kind of runner you are and the kind of foot you have. Visit a running or sports store where qualified staff can help you choose. Remember, the correct running shoe won’t necessarily make you a better runner but it could help keep you from injury and help you enjoy running more.
10. What are your top three pieces of running advice?
First: Cross-train. Your body will benefit and you’ll become a better, healthier runner if you take a day or two off of running each week and incorporate something else you enjoy doing such as biking, swimming, yoga, Pilates, Zumba – or whatever.
Second: Take time to warm up before running and to cool down and stretch after. Many injuries could be prevented if this is practiced faithfully. And really, listen to your body. If your “schedule” says you need to run X number miles today but your body is achy, tired, sore, etc. err on the side of a day off or cross train.
Third: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Always run 5Ks? Train for a 5-miler or maybe a 10K. Always run the same course? Go someplace totally different to run. Always run on the roads or a paved path? Try a trail run in the woods.
11. About how many came last year?
It varied from week to week and mostly it was due to the weather. When the weather cooperated we had as many as 40 participants. On rainy Thursdays we had around 15 hardy souls.
12. Any success stories?
There are two stories that really stand out for me.
There was a couple, Stacey & Jason Stranko who were totally new to running. They attended the clinic and prepared for and ran their first 5K. After that, they were (and still are) hooked on running. They went on to run their first 10K later that summer and are now training for a half marathon.
Another story is Jen Purpura. She attended the clinic with her then 10-year-old son, Hunter. She couldn’t even make it around the 0.7 mile loop at Harborcreek Community Park without resting. And then she could. Then, she could make it around twice without stopping. Then, she ran her first 5K. I recently spoke with Jen and she said she’s still running. Her son still runs way faster than she can but she does enjoy running and has no plans to stop.
13. What does running do for you? Why do you — as a busy mom — make time for it in your life?
You know as well as I do that when we can’t run, we’re not happy – and if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Running is powerful for fitness, weight control, stress relief, & mood elevation. Now who doesn’t want that?
14. How can they register?
Call the Eastside Y at 899-9622 and ask to register for the Harborcreek Running Clinic. You do not have to be a Harborcreek resident or a Y member to attend the clinic and it is free.
The Sweet family: Norm, Ryan, Sarah and Sandie