WRA Clinics: Women run their way to success

By Donna Stephens Originally Published May 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
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More than 2,000 participants take off at the beginning of the Women Can Run/Walk 5K May 11 through Old Conway,

Judging by the numbers alone, the 16th Women Run Arkansas free running and walking clinics were a huge success.

Judging by the grit, high-fives, hugs, tears and triumphant grins among the 2,334 participants in the May 11 Women Can Run/Walk 5K through Old Conway, the success was astronomical.

“The many stories we hear on race weekend make every second working behind the scenes worth it,” said Tambra Clement of Conway, the first-year statewide coordinator for the clinics.

First, here are the numbers for the clinics, which began the week of March 4 and culminated in the graduation 5K:

• Up from 5,100 last year, 7,562 women registered.

• In Russellville, 951 women registered, up from 439 in 2012, a 117 percent increase.

• In Conway there were 619 women, the second-highest number of participants, followed by Fort Smith, 599; Cabot, 523; Jonesboro, 437; Little Rock J.A. Fair, 395; Little Rock Hillcrest, 310; Maumelle, 213; and Vilonia, 172.

• Fifty clinics were held, including 14 new ones in ’13.

• Sixty-three percent of Arkansas cities had a clinic within driving distance. Clement said she and members of the WRA board hope to eventually increase that number to 100 percent.

• There were 82 directors/co-directors, including one male, and 300-plus leaders.

• The 5K had 2,009 official finishers, in addition to 325 leaders who ran alongside their charges.

“I am excited about the records we set this year [for the number of clinics, clinic registrations and race participants],” Clement said. “We owe the growth to the dedicated directors, co-directors and leaders and the hard-working WRA board members,” which include Nicole Bates, president; Jennifer Welter, race director; Karen Buckner, secretary;

Jennifer Marks, treasurer; Jackie Stone, membership chair; Kerry Lewis, sponsorship chair; Jane Hambuchen, pasta party chair; and Linda Starr, WRA ambassador and Clement’s predecessor and mentor.

Other activities associated with the clinics were the pre-race Pasta Party at St. Joseph Parish Hall in Conway, featuring Yolanda Holder (Walking Diva), who holds the Guinness world record for most marathons completed in a year by a woman when she power-walked 120 in 2012, and a race-day food drive that collected 15 large boxes of items for the Arkansas Food Bank.

The 10 weeks of twice-weekly 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, according to www.womenrunarkansas.net.

“What a challenging 10 weeks, weatherwise,” Clement said. “We had cold, rain, snow, sleet, wind and some sunshine. Hats off to the newbies who persevered.”

And persevere they did earlier this month — all 2,334 who finished the race. Clement was the finish-line photographer and took more than 800 photos, “from the winner to the last participant.”

“This is my most rewarding 1.5 hours the entire 10 weeks,” she said. “The high-fives, hugs and tears are so moving.”

And come March 2014, the women will start moving once again.

None Donna Stephens can be reached at .

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