By the Squannacook Runner

In two months, Groton will play host to one of the premier running events in Central Massachusetts -- the Groton Road Race. To encourage some of you neophyte runners into entering the 5K (3.1-mile) event, we've produced this simple training program to get you from the couch (where you've probably spent too much time this winter) to the 5K starting line on race day (Sunday, April 28). Don't let the word "race" scare you away. While some very elite runners will be toeing the starting line, they'll be far outnumbered by recreational joggers (yours truly included) who enter the Groton Road Race 5K for the pure exhilaration of running.

How about it? You can be part of what has become a major Groton event, or you can continue to strain the couch springs. To get in shape for race day and for spring and summer activities to follow, just follow the weekly program outlined here and in subsequent issues of the Groton Landmark. Before you fish those sweats out of the closet and hit the roads, do the following:

1. COMMIT TO THE GOAL OF RUNNING A 5K. Entry is by age group, regardless of what race you plan to enter. For youngsters age 6 and younger, the cost is $8; ages 7 to 17 pay $16; ages 18 to 64, $23; and if you're 65 or older, you run for free! Last-minute entrants can register in person at the Groton-Dunstable Middle School track (in bad weather, Florence Roche Cafeteria) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at an increased rate (there will be race day registrations), but we don't recommend waiting that long.


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If you register on race weekend, the entry fees will be $10 for youngsters age 6 and younger, $18 for ages 7 to 17, and $25 for ages 18 to 64. For your convenience, you can register online at www.grotonroadrace.com. (online registration deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, April 26). Proceeds from entry fees go to various local causes. If you register by April 13, you'll get a Groton Road Race T-shirt to proudly wear as a badge of success on and after race day. Don't let a nonrunning friend or relative talk you out of entering. Instead, make a friendly wager that you can "go the distance." Better yet, invite him or her to enter with you. Your commitment will be easier to keep if it's made with someone special.

2. MAKE SURE ALL SYSTEMS ARE "GO." If you're over 40, under 40 with a family history of heart disease, or simply want to be safe, make an appointment with your family physician for a complete physical. Never engage in any rigorous exercise program until certain you're physically sound.

3. PURCHASE RUNNING GEAR. You won't need one of those $250 Gore-Tex jogging suits your yuppie neighbor wears while mowing the lawn -- ordinary sweats worn over a long-sleeve T-shirt and shorts will do fine. Add a light jacket, wool cap and gloves or mittens for cold-weather comfort. Your major expense will be running shoes -- don't skimp on these. Check out a store that specializes in sports or running gear, and expect to spend anywhere between $50 and $125, or more for a brand like Nike, Adidas or New Balance. Good quality running shoes are extremely lightweight and comfortable and offer much-needed support for feet that will be subjected to a lot of pavement-pounding in the weeks to come. Invest also in a runner's watch (some models retail for less than $25). The goal of this program is to train you to go the distance on race day, with your finishing time being of secondary consideration. However, a watch allows you to better monitor your progress as you train.

4. SET UP RUNNING COURSES NEAR YOUR HOME. Map out courses of varying distances around your home, either by using a road map with distance scale or by driving over potential courses and measuring them with your car's odometer. Plot courses of 1 or 2 miles, up to 5 miles. For your safety, void areas that receive heavy automobile traffic.

Once you begin running, go easy. The first three weeks are critical for a beginner trying to launch a running program. You'll feel soreness and fatigue. Until you're able to attain that so-called "runner's high" that veterans talk about (which you should start to experience a few weeks into the program), your legs will feel like lead, your lungs will burn as you gasp for air, and you'll be fighting the urge to give it all up. Don't! Take it slow and easy for the first few weeks and you'll minimize -- even avoid -- that discomfort that causes many would-be joggers to give up. Good running!

Week 1 training schedule

GOAL FOR THE WEEK: To be able to jog 1 mile without stopping.

Warm up adequately before each run. Five or 10 minutes of gentle stretches should get you loose and ready. Jog at a pace that would allow you to converse comfortably with a running partner. When you begin to feel excessive fatigue or strain, break into a brisk walk. Continue walking until you're ready to resume jogging. After each run, do five to 10 minutes of "warm down" stretches. Your body will recover more quickly if you do. With each subsequent outing, try to run nonstop a little farther than you did the previous time. Don't panic if you miss a workout because of weather or an honest lack of time. Do your best to follow each week's training schedule using the built-in rest days to squeeze in a regularly scheduled run you may have missed. Remember your goal for the week: a 1-mile nonstop run. Go the distance!

Sun, March 3: 1-mile jog and/or walk.

Mon, March 4: 1-mile jog and/or walk. You may feel some soreness from yesterday's effort, but don't let that discourage you. Take your time, and enjoy a warm shower afterward.

Tue, March 5: 1-mile jog and/or walk.

Wed, March 6: Rest day. After three straight days, you've earned a break.

Thu, March 7: 1-mile jog. Can you "go the distance" today without having to stop and walk?

Fri, March 8: 1-mile jog. By now, a 1-mile jog should be getting pretty routine. If so, great! It's time to move on to bigger and better things.

Sat, March 9: Rest day. Your first week of training is over, and you've logged a total of 5 miles on the road. Congratulations! You've earned a break. Watch TV today without feeling guilty.

NEXT WEEK: We pick up the pace for the 1-mile run and complete our first 2-miler.

For more information about the Groton Road race, check out www.grotonroadrace.com.

For any questions about the workouts, email SQRRtrack@verizon.net.