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Women Run Arkansas encourages all women to get on their feet

Women Run Arkansas encourages all women to get on their feet

Many women struggle each year with the New Year’s resolution of making exercise part of their routine. Everyone seems to need a little motivation, inspiration, coaching or – let’s admit it – a miracle, so it does not again become just another unfulfilled goal. Women Run Arkansas is arriving just in time to save the day. 


WRA is a statewide women’s running and walking club that offers free run/walk clinics for women for 10 weeks each spring. An informational potluck dinner Feb. 28 will launch the Fort Smith clinic, set for March 4-May 9. The clinics will meet at 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays at the Western Arkansas Runners building at Chaffee Crossing.


Encouragement and support are WRA themes. The clinics are designed to meet all ability levels – from beginning walkers and runners to intermediate and advanced runners with specific training goals. Training groups are led by past clinic participants who give back by volunteering their time and talent to lead other women. 


The graduation event on May 11 is a huge 5K run/walk in Conway for hundreds of women from the clinics throughout the state. It is an inspiring race, with some runners and walkers completing their first competitive event, while participants from previous clinics and races return to compete and cheer on their sister athletes.


Women of all ages, weight, experience and ability are welcomed and cheered on to meet their goals. Many have never tried a running regime. Many inspirational stories of transformed lives have come out of the WRA clinics. 


Melissa Farris Vitale recently registered for the 2013 OKC Memorial Half Marathon. She recalls when she first attended the Women Run Arkansas Clinic in 2011, “I didn’t tell anyone except my husband and college roommate and I did not know a soul in the crowd of women. I was in the ‘Beginner B’ group, and I thought I wouldn’t make it to the end of the 10 weeks.”


“Running for a minute didn’t seem like a big deal­ – until I discovered how difficult it was,” Vitale recalled. “Then it was a very big deal. It made running for two minutes an even bigger deal. Doing it for 10 minutes seemed near impossible.”


“There were nights when I just couldn’t run the last interval - but I never stopped moving forward. Many, many, many nights I was the last one in. I didn’t care, though. The first night I ran all of the intervals, I got in my car, called my husband and excitedly announced, ‘I did it! I really did it!’”


“The first time I ran a mile without stopping was a quiet little celebration. It was cold and rainy, and I was at Southside. I hadn’t set out to do it on that run, but it became a goal about half way through,” she said. “When I hit that little mark on the track I had been eyeing – I threw my fists up into the air and jumped up and down! I called my husband and my mom to tell them what I had just done.”


Just two years after taking the first step as a “Beginner B” runner, Vitale is registering for her third half-marathon. 


“Running has opened up so many doors for me and it has taught me more about myself and my abilities than I ever imagined,” said Vitale. “This year, I will be returning as a group leader at the clinic.”


Last year, Cindy Gracia, mother of four young children, noticed a Facebook link for the free, women-only running clinic. She remembers thinking, “I need to do this. I can do this. I have to take control of my body back. So I did it. My mom and daughter ended up going with me. I started as a ‘Beginner A,’ which is the first step up from walking, and I ran,” she said. “I gave it my all every Monday and Thursday night from 6-7 p.m.”


“My daughter decided that she wanted to run with me, so she started coming with me and running and did so wonderfully. I am so proud of her. About six weeks into the program, we did a timed mile. I was able to do a mile in 11:15. I was so proud of that! Amelia ran it in 10:45. She kept looking back at me and yelling, ‘Come on, Momma!’ I was determined I would be a good model for her, so I kept going. And I finished.”


After the clinic ended, Garcia and her daughter went to Conway and ran in the graduation 5K. 


“We all finished! Since then, I have run several 5K races and last October I ran my first 10K. In the past year, I have dropped two full dress sizes and feel great. I feel more confident about myself, both in my looks and my ability to better myself,” Garcia said. “This is only the beginning. I will continue to run and lose the extra weight,” she reported. “I am eating healthier and setting a good example for my daughters, as well.” 


Any woman who needs inspiration, motivation and free coaching should look no further than the ladies that will, once again, gather to participate in the WRA clinics in March. Clinics also are being held in Alma and Fayetteville. 







Register for a free clinic at womenrunarkansas.net.


Feb. 28 

Attend the informational potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Cancer Support House, 3324 South M Street, Fort Smith.


March 4 

Dress in running/walking gear and take a water bottle and flashlight. Volunteer coaches will lead a pre-run workout and post-run stretching. 6 p.m. WAR Building, 7308 Ellis Street, Fort Smith. 


May 11 

Join hundreds of women in Conway for the Women Run Arkansas 5K Run/Walk.




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