When Deborah Blair made her distance-running debut alongside 50,000 other runners in the 2001 New York City Marathon, she was used to going it alone.
That’s because the 57-year-old mother of two trained herself for the five-borough marathon — the largest in the world.
Blair, who has had a long career in the fitness industry, gained a steady following as she prepped for the 26.2-mile trek. Many people in the Greater Long Island Running Club, of which she has long been a part, wanted her to train them, too.
And soon enough, Blair would see, company is key.
So, six years ago, she approached the club’s president, Mike Polansky, believing others in the 4,000-member collective could benefit from formal training. With the blessing of Polansky and the Nassau County Department of Parks, they launched the 10-week Runstart beginner program.
This year, the adult program runs June 29 through Aug. 31 costing $30 per person. All sessions are on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Bethpage High School track, culminating with the Farmingdale Main Street Mile race Sept. 3.
“So many people out there want to run and don’t have the knowledge or discipline to go out and do it themselves,” says Blair, the club’s program director. “We have given them the chance to learn safely and efficiently.”
HOW IT WORKS
The Runstart program covers the basics of proper running form, core and strength training, hydration and nutrition, and it teaches how to slowly progress in miles. It also stresses which running attire and footwear not to wear.
“Among the two top mistakes that new runners make are shoes, for sure,” says Blair, of Cold Spring Harbor. “They are either the wrong shoe or the wrong size or worn out.”
Pacing is also an issue for beginners, she says.
“Most people train too hard their first time out and then burn out,” says Blair, who is the head trainer at Orangetheory Fitness in Carle Place. “We teach them progression, patience, balance and consistency.”
The program comprises runners of all skill levels and has seen a steady increase in membership each year.
“Some come back to have that structure, and a lot of new people come down from word of mouth,” Blair says.
Kathy Neuman of Plainview has been a part of the Runstart program since its inception.
“I never ran before I started this program,” Neuman, 53, says. “I went from walking to running a half-marathon within a year.”
Neuman says she particularly appreciates the support and encouragement she receives from her coaches. She has become an avid runner, having completed three half-marathons and a handful of distant races.
“Joining Runstart was the best thing I have ever done for myself,” Neuman says. “It is a lot of fun with great people.”
A major initiative of the Runstart program is to dispel the intimidation many people feel when training for a marathon. The program stresses accountability and inclusion.
“People know that when they come down to a workout, there are many other people such as themselves training and learning, too,” Blair says. “It’s really nice to see how they form their own groups during practice and motivate each other each and every week.”