The Benton Women Can Run/Walk Clinic starts Sunday, March 3, at 3 p.m. with a meeting at Saline County Courthouse for those interested in participating.
The clinic will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning the Monday after the meeting, at 5:30 p.m. on the track at the Benton High School Athletic Complex.
The first Bryant clinic training session will begin at 5:30 p.m. March 5 on the Bryant High School track. Clinic sessions are set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.
An open house, during which information will be provided on the Bryant Women Can Run/Walk Clinic, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 23 at Boswell Library in Bryant.
The 10-week programs lead up to the 5K Women Run Arkansas marathon on Saturday, May 11, in Conway. This is “graduation day,” said Carol Waddle, director of the Bryant program.
A $20 entry fee for the marathon is the only cost associated with the clinic, and it is optional.
Joy Ballard, director of the clinic in Benton, encourages women to register for the marathon because she says it serves as a motivator for the program.
Last year, 235 women participated in the Benton clinic, and 50 of those women went on to run in the 5K event.
Thus far, 30 women are enrolled for this year's Benton Clinic. Those interested in either program may register online at womenrunarkansas.net.
Ballard, who has directed the clinic for 10 years in Benton, is asking this year for a $1 donation from each participant to help offset the costs of copies, whistles, etc. In previous years, Ballard has paid for these items herself. The donation is optional, she said.
"The most important thing is to get more women up and moving. It's just so beneficial to both physical and mental health,” Ballard said.
"Running is the easiest form of exercise," she added. "All you have to do is put on your tennis shoes and go."
There are many mothers of all ages who join the program with their daughters, said Carol Waddler, director of the Bryant clinic. “It teaches early importance of fitness for younger daughters.”
And it's fun for them, she says. “We make a big deal out of the kids when they pass the finish line,” Waddler noted..
The program is suited to any fitness level, from beginning-level walkers to marathon runners.
Participants are divided into four or five groups, based on their running level. Each division has at least two leaders or coaches that guide the women through a detailed program, Ballard said. During sessions, there is always one coach in front and one in the back to provide support and encouragement to the runners/walkers.
If the coaches see that someone is struggling, they might recommend the runner go back a division. If they see that someone doesn't seem to be challenged by the workout, they might recommend the runner advance to the next division.
“It starts off easy. We push the runners a little, but we don't want anyone to get hurt,” Ballard said.
The goal is to build endurance and that can hurt, said Ballard, who is 61 and has been running most of her life. She says the "soreness will dissipate if you stick with it.”
And, to many women, it seems the pain is worth it.
“I've seen women crying crossing the finish line” Waddler said, “because they never thought they could finish a 5K. It's a neat experience.”
Bryant did not participate in the program in recent years because there was no director for the clinic. However, Waddler, who has participated and been involved in the program for years, says she plans to “keep the program up-and-running every year in Bryant.”