Running clinics help women set higher goals, gain stamina

By Donna Stephens Originally Published February 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 20, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.
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Eilish Palmer

Pictured are Women Run Clinic State Board members, front row, from the left, Linda Starr, Women Run Arkansas ambassador; Karen Buckner, secretary; Jackie Stone, membership; Tambra Clement, state clinic director; and Nichole Bates, president; and back row, from the left, Jennifer Welter, race director; Jennifer Marks, treasurer; and Jane Hambuchen, pasta-party chairwoman.

— Joy Ballard of Benton has a message for women: Take care of yourself. And she has a way to help that happen.

Ballard, 61, is director of the Benton clinic for the 16th Women Run Arkansas running and walking clinics, which will begin the week of March 4 and, after 10 weeks, culminate in the Women Can Run/Walk 5K in Conway on May 11.

“I think you need to come to that realization that you need to do it for your health,” said Ballard, who was about 40 when she started running. “It is all about your health. Women do for everybody except themselves, and that one thing will improve your health. Walking/jogging/running is one of the best things you can do for your health.”

Ballard, who is the Saline County tax collector, has been director of the Benton clinic for about eight years, she said. Her first year, she remembers having about 70 women sign up for the clinics; the number grew to more than 200 last year.

“The problem is that you have 200 women sign up, and if you’re lucky, you can get 45 or 50 to actually do the 5K,” she said. “But last year, we had our largest group go to Conway and complete the 5K.”

She said the clinic draws women from all over Saline County.

At press time, 42 clinics were scheduled at locations across the state — the same number as last year.

“A lot of women say, ‘I’m not a real runner,’ but you are,” said Tambra Clement, 50, of Conway, the new statewide coordinator for WRA. “What I liked about it was the method that we teach. It builds you up and allows you to walk. It’s a run-walk method, and at the end of the day, unless someone has some real physical limitations, everyone can do it.”

She said that last year, 5,099 women registered for the clinics, and about 2,050 finished the race.

“A lot of women start (the clinics) and don’t finish, but we try to encourage them if they miss one or two sessions to come back,” Clement said.

The free clinics generally meet twice a week with participants expected to work out a third time on their own. According to www.women

runarkansas.net, the clinics are designed to meet the needs of all ability levels. Beginners can go from sedentary to 3.1 miles, and intermediate and advanced runners have programs with specific training goals to increase their speed.

Clement says almost every woman can be a runner. That’s been true for her and Ballard. Since starting to run five years ago, Clement has run three full marathons, 15 half marathons and one 10K. Ballard has done 35 marathons, as well as triathlons and duathlons. She ran her first triathlon at 50; she has completed a half Iron Man.

Clement said she found that the clinics helped her by providing a plan.

“I had tried on my own, but I would try to run three miles; I didn’t know about run-walk,” she said. “You just have to build it up. The most important thing was meeting other women with similar interests, and you start finding yourself with them outside the clinic, going to races together, and the next thing you know, it’s five years later.”

Elaine Doll-Dunn, 75, of South Dakota has been the speaker at the pre-race pasta party twice. She, too, preaches that women who begin running after turning 40 believe they can do anything, and she has proven it: Doll-Dunn ran her first marathon at 41; survived a divorce at 51; beat cancer at 56; climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and won a marathon there at 58; ran 60 miles across Panama, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, at 60; completed 26.2 marathons at 62; and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in psychology at 65.

She was the guest speaker and starter at last year’s Arkansas race.

“The first time she was here, I was trying to decide if I was going to do a full marathon, and I remember thinking if a 62-year-old can do 26 in one year, then a 46-year-old can do one,” Clement said. “Once you set that goal and you start working toward it and you do it — now a week doesn’t go by that I may be faced with a very challenging situation that I tell myself, ‘If I can run a marathon, I can do anything.’

“It’s a matter of putting your mind to it and being disciplined and training. Technically, anybody can do it if they’re physically capable. It helps your perseverance and trying to get through difficult situations.

“You realize there’s not much you can’t do.”

Online registration, as well as more information about the clinics and the 5K, is available at www.womenrunarkansas.net.

The cost for the race is $20. Clinic participation is not a prerequisite.

“We try to encourage the women in the clinics to go ahead and register to have a goal,” Clement said.

The race is inspirational, with many previously sedentary women completing their first 5K cheered by friends, family members and fellow participants. Two years ago, an 87-year-old woman from Lonoke completed the clinic and finished the race. Mothers and daughters can participate together.

“There’s a lot of stories like that,” Clement said.

She said she encourages women to just show up.

“They’re apprehensive, but … [they will] realize not everybody’s eyes are on them,” she said. “They learn it’s OK to walk.

“It’s just amazing to see.”

None Donna Stephens can be reached at .

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