With the upcoming run/walk season, East Texans have plenty of opportunities to sign up for their favorite event.
The larger races - Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Tyler Rose Marathon and Fresh15 - draw hundreds of runners each year and continue to grow in popularity.
Most local races are tied to a charitable cause, while others provide athletes an opportunity to shatter their best records or improve fitness.
Next month's Rose City Triathlon, sponsored by Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics and East Texas Triathletes, returns for the eighth time. The race typically has 200 to 250 participants each year.
"It is a beginner-friendly race course with lots of race support, great prizes and awards for age group athletes, and fun ‘swag' items in our race bags," Anne Pileggi, vice president and administrator of Mother Frances Hospital Jacksonville, said.
"Veteran and new triathletes like the Lake Tyler venue, which is easily accessible from all regional areas, and the course, which is challenging but not too daunting for our new athletes."
Ms. Pileggi has been involved in the East Texas Triathletes for years and helps organize the race. She has participated in numerous races, from sprint triathlons to the Iron Man in Hawaii.
She said a triathlon is not an event to sign up for impulsively.
"Don't attempt to do any type of endurance event without some training prior to the event," she said. "This is particularly important in the heat of the summer time. The body needs to acclimate to these high temperatures while racing. Hydration and conditioning are extremely important."
Ms. Pileggi said participants need at least 12 weeks to train for a triathlon, depending on fitness level and familiarity with swimming, biking or running.
It may be too late to start training for the September triathlon, but there still is time to prepare for fall 5Ks and other races. Running experts say you can be ready for a 5Kin six to eight weeks. Runners who start now can be ready in time for October races. The Couch-to-5K app is a good way to guide a training program. See more details at www.c25k.com.
Ms. Pileggi said newcomers could be running one or two miles within a couple of weeks. Training may consist of walking and running intermittently and then increasing the running time each time.
Events like the Rose City Triathlon aren't only for the super athlete.
"Anyone can participate, if they prepare," she said. "There are lots of local running, biking and triathlon training groups, and it is a good idea to join with others while training. Newbies are always welcome, and the more experienced are happy to help."
GO THE DISTANCE
5K = 3.1 miles
Estimated training time: Six to eight weeks
10K = 6.2 miles
Estimated training time: Eight to 10 weeks
15K = 9.3 miles
Estimated training time: 10 to 12 weeks
Half Marathon = 13.1 miles
Estimated training time: 10 to 14 weeks, depending on health, experience and fitness level
Marathon = 26.2 miles
Estimated training time: Up to 20 weeks, depending on health, experience and fitness level
Triathlon = 650 meter open water swim, 12-mile bike, 3.1-mile run
Estimated training time: About 12 weeks.
DOs AND DON'Ts for BEGINNERS
Do invest in a good running shoe - Depending on how often you run, you may need to replace shoes every 300 to 500 miles. When selecting a shoe, get help from an expert at a shoe store.
Do get a health clearance - If there's a family history of heart disease or you have others risks for heart disease, see your doctor for an in-depth evaluation.
Do wear breathable clothing - Avoid cotton
Do seek the help of advanced runners - Connect with local running clubs or trainers. East Texas Triathletes and East Texas Striders are among the popular groups.
Do stay hydrated - This applies even if you're not a runner.
Don't do too much too fast - Take the appropriate time to train and build up confidence as a runner before you participate in a large race.
Don't run on an empty stomach - Eat at least a couple of hours before a run. Make sure it's a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Don't ignore signs that something isn't right - Pay attention to your body and watch for aches and pains that persist long after the run is over. Rest and see if a physician if it doesn't go away.