Tag: 5k

Take a chance!

It’s been my experience that the finest moments in life happen when you take a chance, whether it be confronting a fear head-on or setting a goal that you believe is beyond your reach but deciding to tackle it anyway.

The first annual Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K Trail Run/Walk in 2012 initiated a series of shining moments that resulted from taking a chance, both for me and others.

I first heard of the race when I received a poster in the mail at my business, Train Yard Gym & Fitness. The event set itself apart from other 5Ks we had been asked to advertise because it included use of a high-ropes course, zip-line and Alpine Tower at the Diakon Wilderness Center after the race.

I was quickly sold on the concept of a beautiful trail run, lots of adventure-focused activities afterwards and the fact that my entry fee would help the at-risk youths the Diakon Wilderness Center serves. I pulled together a group of 10 runners and hikers that year and we were off to see what this was all about.

That first race day unexpectedly turned into an opportunity for me to take a chance. I had been looking forward to the race for months, but a few days before the event I started having hip pain and honestly didn’t know if I could run. I decided to go for it anyway and ended up coming in first place among the females.

Was I ever happy that I didn’t let my fears hold me back!

That was just the beginning of many victories I’ve witnessed at the Diakon Wilderness Center. Nearly a year later, I offered a 12-week challenge program to help people get fit and develop a healthier lifestyle. The participants were making great progress, but I sensed they would benefit from a “face-your-fears” experience to show them they could break through the self-imposed barriers holding them back from being even more successful. My trip to the Diakon Wilderness Center came to mind and I was pleased to learn the center offers a ropes course experience to private groups.

suzanne

Suzanne on the ropes course

 

Our gang loaded up for a field trip and I was completely inspired by the three people in the group who faced this challenge with the most trepidation. Jill doubted she could make two steps up the cargo net because of the extra weight she carried but she surprised herself by climbing halfway. Suzie was deathly afraid of heights but she made it to the top of the ropes course platform and felt as accomplished as if she had just summited Everest. And here’s what Suzanne had to say about making it the whole way across the ropes course and down the zip line:

“I was terrified of heights. I knew I was going on a trip that included rope bridges high in the trees in the Amazon jungles and I wanted to see the jungle from that vantage point along with my friends. The ropes course and zip-line at Diakon showed me that I could overcome my fear of heights and check the Amazon jungle off my bucket list!”

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course.

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course

 

I was blessed to witness another moment of greatness when two women who trained in my Couch to 5K® program crossed the finish line of the 2016 Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K trail race.

The training program is designed for people who could literally be starting as “couch potatoes”; it conditions them to be able to run the 3.1 miles of a 5K in just nine weeks.  At the beginning of the program, of course, this goal often seems unfathomable, especially when just 60 seconds of running feels like an hour, but with consistent effort it always works!

For one of those participants, Betsy, “Getting out of my comfort zone was literally going from being a walker to running a 5K. I feared the ‘Killer Hill’ [our affectionate name for a particularly challenging section of the course] and running on trails since most of our training was on roads. When we crossed the finish line it was the greatest feeling of accomplishment!”

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

 

And another Couch to 5k runner, Stephanie, couldn’t be happier with her reward for stepping out of her comfort zone.

“Trying to control breathing and the possibility of not being able to finish something I started were my biggest fears of running. After training for the 5K and finishing the Diakon 5K trail race, my running confidence increased tremendously.  I’m still running today and loving the beauty of being outside.”

This year’s Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge on Sept. 16 offers several ways you can take a chance and have one of those shining moments yourself!

•    Maybe you run road races but you’ve never ventured onto the trail. Take that step! I bet you’ll love the feeling of being even closer to nature in the woods.  You may even enjoy the freedom of not being quite as attached to your Garmin and concerned with your pace, because trail running is naturally not as fast as road running.
•    Maybe the goal of running for three miles straight seems completely unimaginable, just as Betsy and Steph thought. If you want to go after it, there’s plenty of time to make it happen if you start now. Our training program will begin July 22. You can contact me to join us or you can do it on your own by downloading one of the many Couch to 5K® apps available.
•    Maybe you’re not interested in a 5K but you have a fear of heights as did Suzie and Suzanne. We offer an “Adventure Elements Only” option at the event. What better place to confront your fears than with supportive staff and friends around you?

The best part about attending the Diakon challenge is that you are contributing to the mission of the Diakon Wilderness Center to help at-risk youth get back on track. These teens and young adults face their fears daily as they strive to overcome their past and step out of their comfort zone to learn new skills and coping mechanisms to move forward in a positive direction.

With the support of the skilled and caring staff at the wilderness center, their goal of turning their lives around is not out of reach.

Your participation in the Diakon OAC will help them shine!

Get full details on the event at diakon5k.org.
—Maggie Wonsick
Co-owner, Train Yard Gym & Fitness
www.trainyardgym.com
maggiewonsick@comcast.net
(717) 319-4881

 

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Running to invest in future generations

Key to Scott Habecker

Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer

Diakon

 

My running partner quickly surveyed me.

 

I knew she was probably wondering how she had ended up with this “old guy” as her Girls on the Run “running buddy.” Sensing her skepticism, I attempted to break the ice with a variety of questions about her interests. Eventually, we connected a bit on the topic of music as she shared the names of favorite musicians such as Selena Gomez.

 

But we would soon connect on a different level.

 

As chief operating and financial officer for Diakon, I take every opportunity I can to learn as much as I can about our programs. In the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, we sponsor a council of Girls on the Run®, a physical activity-based youth-development program for girls in third through eighth grades, with a focus on teaching life skills. Each session ends with a celebratory 5k running event.

 

I attended the 5k to observe the program’s impact and also to thank significant sponsors. I accomplished both of those tasks, but gained so much more, particularly in my role as runny buddy.

 

When I arrived, the Lehigh Valley Parkway was already a sea of faces, participating girls, family members, program coaches, and others preparing for the event. Music blared loudly across the grounds while girls had their hair done, photos were taken and participants were organized and matched with their running buddies, volunteers whose goal is to be cheerleaders and motivators as the 5k progresses.

 

School busses continued to arrive until nearly 40 schools were represented and nearby parking lots overflowed with vehicles. I was amazed at both the scope of the event and its energy level.

 

I was soon introduced to my running partner, an energetic girl by the name of Qiara.

 

Following some pre-race stretching and energy-building exercises, the large crowd of girls and running buddies made their way to the starting line. A countdown commenced and, soon, we were off on the 3.1-mile course. Qiara and I were near the back of the pack, so it took us a while to have space to run. But as soon as we did, Qiara took off!

 

I had been told by her coach that she was quite a runner, a point that was quickly confirmed for me as she nearly sprinted the first mile. I began to wonder if I could possibly sustain the pace she was setting until I finally heard her breaths start to deepen. It was an almost-welcomed sound for me as tried to keep up.

 

Qiara advanced on her goal in a positive manner, also becoming more comfortable with me, chatting as we ran. She periodically asked for brief rests, then would take off again, sprinting as fast as she could go (which, by the way, was much faster than I could go). Eventually, she would slow to allow me to catch up, a cycle that repeated itself through the last half of the race. But the longer we ran, the more we talked and encouraged each other.

 

She was a great partner.

 

The last quarter mile or so, we could hear the large crowd cheering girls on as they crossed the finish line. The crowd was definitely motivational to Qiara, and her desire to finish the run intensified as we ran past the cheering crowd. Qiara finished the race with the same incredible level of energy with which she had begun, leaving me in her dust as I sprinted to keep up those last few strides.

 

I do not recall the time in which we finished the race, but I was told it was her personal best. That said, finishing the race is the only goal in the Girls on the Run event, and Qiara certainly accomplished that mission with great confidence. She had a special energy about her, and I was thrilled that she allowed me to be a part of it with her. Ultimately, she wanted to do better than she had done before and, afterward, she felt good about her run.

 

As someone who finds true inspiration in people who never rest on past accomplishments but are always ready for the next challenge, it’s easy to be motivated by such athletes as those who represented the U.S. and other countries in the recent Olympics. Certainly, they are inspirational but, sometimes, we may find inspiration closer to us. I know I did.

 

Qiara provided great inspiration to me that day. She and her fellow participants displayed great commitment to the goal of making it to the finish line, following weeks of preparatory work. I witnessed unrivaled enthusiasm for the task at hand and walked away with great appreciation for every participant, coach, supportive family member, Diakon employee and volunteer and sponsor that made the event happen.

 

I look forward to returning to the event in years to come, much because of the inspiration Qiara provided that day.

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