Ten people braved 40-degree temperatures and bone-chilling winds to attend the first session of a Couch to 5K program at Triad High School in Troy.
“Are we really going to run tonight?” asked one, prompting a round of laughter.
Leader Caitlin Hayes assured the group she would start them out slow: 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking, repeated for 20 minutes.
Each person had a different reason for joining the nine-week program, sponsored by SSM (Sisters of St. Mary) Physical Therapy in Troy.
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“I’ve always told myself I would like to run a 5K someday,” said Troy resident Brenda Cusanelli, an office clerk in speech pathology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“I just want to do it. It’s on my bucket list. I turned 50 last year, so I’m running out of time. I need to get going.”
Until now, Brenda’s exercise routine has consisted mainly of walking around her rural subdivision or the SIUE campus. She tries to cover 2 to 3 miles at a time.
Brenda admires runners like her son, Dominic, 25.
“He was a long-distance runner in high school and college,” she said. “I love the sport of running. I’ve just never participated. I’ve always been a spectator. But runners are cool people.”
SSM Physical Therapy has 42 locations in the St. Louis area. The Troy location offered Couch to 5K for the first time last fall.
“My main goal is to help people get moving,” said Caitlin, 25, a physical therapist.
“Physical therapy is all about movement. Physical therapists are movement experts. We want people to move. That’s how you stay healthy. That’s how you keep going as you age.”
The group meets Tuesday nights to provide accountability and camaraderie and consult with Caitlin.
“If people haven’t exercised in a while, they can come here, and there’s a physical therapist available in case they have any questions,” she said.
Caitlin offers advice on everything from staying hydrated to wearing the right running shoes. At the end of nine weeks, group members will compete in the Make-A-Wish Illinois Walk and Run for Wishes 5K on May 16 at SIUE.
“(Last fall) it was really nice to see people start with having trouble running the first night to competing the whole 3.1 miles on race day,” Caitlin said.
Brenda was inspired by a girlfriend to join the Couch to 5K program.
“My friend did it in the fall, and she was successful,” Brenda said. “She walked a little bit of the 5K, and that made me think that you don’t have to be perfect.”