Mike Mullins had struggled with weight his entire life. Then he decided to make his weight-loss goals public on Facebook on March 31, 2014. With his Ohio City neighborhood at his feet, he transformed from couch-jockey to pavement-pounder.
I had just turned 40. I was tired all the time. My life revolved around food. I weighed 271 pounds. I finally said, "That's it. I'm done." Some of my friends are runners, and I thought, Maybe that's the best way to do it. You don't need a gym membership, you just need a pair of shoes.
During my first run, I thought I was going to die. I was sort of embarrassed to be out there to begin with. I was running on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, and other runners started saying, "keep going," "you're doing it," giving me high-fives. That was a big motivation. I started seeing the same people on my runs, and they were so encouraging. To this day, I don't know who they are.
I used the Couch to 5K running app. When I was done with that [nine-week program], I committed to running two to three times a week. Last October I ran the Towpath Half Marathon. I was scared to death, but I had a family member and a good friend with me and that helped.
This morning I weighed in at 205 pounds. I applied to be a pacer for kids running the Cleveland Marathon 10K through the YMCA youth program We Run This City. I'm planning to do the Akron half marathon.
My First 5K
The list of programs and formulas for beginning runners could easily stretch 26.2 miles. Yet Brenda Runion, an Akron physical therapist who coaches new runners as part of Northeast Ohio Fit, a six-month training program, offers some easy advice: Keep it simple, keep it fun.
Slow down: "People always start out too fast and try to run too hard," she says. "It takes a couple years of running and experience to begin to craft expectations."
Don't stress about your style: "Sometimes we start to get a little too paranoid about running form," Runion says. "In general, you've just got to put one foot in front of the other."
Just as every shoe needs a mate, running and being a part of a club can be a powerful combo. "They encourage you, they cheer you on," says Crystal Shinosky, secretary for the Northeast Running Club. "They share their experiences and help you achieve your goals." Find a group near you.
East Side: The Northeast Running Club offers weekly runs in Concord Township and Chagrin River Park. Last summer, when two races occurred on the same day, members rented an Escalade limo to transport them to both. "We called it Double Down," says Shinosky. "It was a blast." $20 per year, northeastrunningclub.org
West Side: The Cleveland West Road Runners Club has organized meetups for almost 40 years. Group runs typically start in Rocky River. The key to the group's endurance? "We're open to new ideas," says president Dan Straitiff. This summer, the organization is offering the Westside Wanders, focusing on the history and culture of Cleveland neighborhoods. $20 per year, clewestrunningclub.org
South Side: The Crooked River Trail Runners, which meet Thursday evenings in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, grew out of Vince Rucci's passion for the woods. "We had a core philosophy of wanting to cultivate this trail-running community," says Rucci, owner of Vertical Runner. Free, facebook.com/groups/crtrs
No matter what your running style, there is a race for you this month.
With a Dark Side: At the Blacklight Run, organizers spray UV Neon Glow Powder onto runners, guaranteeing a colorful finish photo. May 16, 9:15 p.m., Berea
With Some Hurdles: The Gateway District course features tire challenges, barriers and a run across Progressive Field during the UrbanObstacle 5K. May 30, 6 p.m., Cleveland
With a City View: The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon offers a fast, mostly flat course through the city and options for a full or half marathon and 10K. May 17, 7 a.m., Cleveland