With the weather warming up and the days getting longer, I’m sure you’re all as eager as I am to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Take a step outside and you’re sure to find someone already enjoying one of their favorite hobbies like gardening, fishing, biking, photography and so on. Now, if you find me outside, you’ll probably find me on a run somewhere around the Wheeling area, either training for my next race or just to maintain physical fitness. Running hasn’t always been one of my favorite hobbies, though. There was a time in my life when the mere thought of exercising made me feel exhausted, but after making some lifestyle changes in college and reading up on the benefits of running, I started incorporating jogging a mile or so, as dull as it seemed back then, whenever I could fit it into my schedule.
Fast forward to my move to the Ohio Valley to start my new job. I remember walking into Hole n’ Run to find some running gear and saw a race application for “The Freedom 5-Miler,” a 5-mile race in downtown Wheeling around the 4th of July. I thought to myself, “Maybe I’ll be motivated to run if it’s a competition. Maybe I’ll meet some new people to run with to make this running thing more exciting.” As soon as I finished the race, I told myself I did okay, but I know I could’ve done better. I began signing up for more races, following training and nutrition plans and running with more experienced runners. Before I knew it, my distances were growing longer, my paces were getting faster, my goals were becoming more complex and I was known as a “regular” at local races. I realize now that with every race and route I run, every friend I make and every milestone I reach, my love for the sport grows more and more.
If you think you’d like to take your first step into the world of running and walking, or if you’ve already taken your first step and want to get more involved with the area’s running and walking community, or if you’re looking for some tips to step up your running or walking game, I’ve got you covered.
Where To Find Local Races
As many of you are probably aware, the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon and 5K and the Tough as Nails Urban Challenge are returning to the Friendly City after a two-year hiatus on May 28 and 29 as a part of this year’s Wellness Weekend. If you’ve trained up for any of these races, hopefully, I’ll see you on race day! If you aren’t trained up, but would still like to take part in a race or two this year, there are plenty of opportunities that are in or close to the Wheeling area. For a list of upcoming races, all of which are no more than a half-hour drive from Wheeling, you can check out this schedule I’ve created below or download it here.
Participating in these races isn’t just a great way to stay motivated in reaching your goals and to meet new people, but they’re also important in supporting local causes; these causes can range from comforting patients going through medical treatments, to funding animal shelters, to fulfilling Christmas wish lists for the less fortunate, and the list continues! So, whenever you sign up for a race, you’re also supporting the community in some way.
Local Running and Walking Groups
If you’re looking for motivation between races or someone to run or walk with, consider joining any of these local groups:
Ohio Belmont Run Walk Forum is the main group where local runners and walkers come to get information on upcoming races, ask and answer questions on running and walking and find others to run or walk with. You’re more than welcome to join our community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/359178454178181
Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) Wheeling is a running and walking group comprised of local veterans and their friends and family members. You can find them at the Heritage Port flag pole on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. You can also find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teamrwbwheeling
Subscribe to Weelunk
The Slug Club is a group of seasoned runners who boast some of the area’s Boston Marathon qualifying runners. They can be found outside the WesBanco Arena on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. Check them out on Strava: https://www.strava.com/clubs/slugclub
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced runner or walker, here are a few tips to keep in mind for your next workout or race.
Plan Your Steps
Many structured training plans exist for runners and walkers of all experience levels. The Couch to 5K training plan is a tried-and-true way for beginners to get through a 5K in just a matter of weeks. I personally have benefitted from Hal Higdon’s training plans for race distances up to a full marathon, but speak with any seasoned runner or walker and they can recommend a training plan that’s worked for them.
Warmup, Stretch, Cooldown, Stretch and Hydrate
Remember to warm up before your workout or race with an easy-paced run or walk and do dynamic (active) stretches. Afterward, do an easy cooldown run or walk and static (stationary) stretches. Stay hydrated with water and sports drinks to ensure your body has enough fluids and electrolytes to function. How much you’ll need to drink will depend on how long and how intense your workout or race is.
Get the Right Gear
Be sure to get fitted for shoes by a specialty running or walking store if you haven’t already done so. Shoes are the most important part of any runner or walker’s outfit and help to prevent injury, so make sure you have a few pairs that are right for your feet. Check the forecast and decide whether you’ll need a hat and sunglasses and opt for light-colored, loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing in the warmer months and reflective, tighter-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing in the colder months. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen when it’s sunny to prevent sunburns and petroleum jelly to prevent chafing.
Make Ties and Socialize
Running and walking will have to be solo affairs every now and then, but they shouldn’t always be that way. Besides making new friends, you can learn new training tips, brainstorm solutions to problems and have more motivation in your training when you’re with others. You can try to find someone to run or walk with by joining a group or hanging out before or after a race.
Find Your “Why”
Knowing what your purpose is for running or walking is important. Some do it to improve their physical health, boost their self-esteem, destress, feel a sense of accomplishment or community, support a cause, compete or any combination of these reasons. Your “why” will be what motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough and the strength to overcome anything that stands between you and your goals.
Now that you’ve got all these things in mind, you’re ready to hit the roads and trails!
• Iming Chang graduated from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a BSBA in energy management. Shortly after graduation, he moved from his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to the Ohio Valley to begin his career in the energy industry. Iming is also a local runner who participates in local and national road races ranging from 5K’s to marathons and is currently pursuing a marathon finish in all 50 states. Outside of running, Iming enjoys tennis, sand volleyball, ultimate frisbee, cooking and doing volunteer work.