Since she joined Black Girls Run! Augusta, McDuffey has completed four.
“It’s not that scary when you have the right group out there to support you,” she said. “Running is all mental. Having someone there to stay positive with you makes a huge difference.”
Black Girls Run! Augusta is just one of several local groups offering training programs for new runners in advance of the GRU Augusta Half Marathon and 10K on Feb. 23.
On Monday, the Augusta Striders Running Club played host to a small group for one of its three weekly sessions at the Wilson Family Y running track to work on intervals, a combination of sprinting and jogging to help increase speed and stamina.
Kim Bragg, one of the trainers in the Augusta Striders program, said people enjoy training with a group of people rather than training alone because it provides accountability. Accountability, she said, is what helped her complete her first half-marathon in 2012.
“If you tell somebody that you’re going to be there at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, you’re going to get up and go,” she said. “If you tell yourself that you’re going to get up and go, you might just roll over and go back to sleep.”
Bragg said the Augusta Striders have held at least three training sessions a week since Nov. 10 in preparation for the big race.
The group tries to run a portion of the course each week to get runners acclimated to the elevation changes.
The program began in November by pushing runners to break three miles, Bragg said. Each week, another mile is added until the group can achieve the length of the 10-kilometer race.
One of Bragg’s trainees, Melinda Kezer, said the group has been a positive addition to her workout routine because it makes her feel at home.
“They’re just average people,” said Kezer of the group. “Some have just started running the past year. Some have been running for several years.”
Kezer joined the program in late December with the hopes of competing in the half-marathon.
Though she will instead be competing in the shorter race, Kezer said she has been pleasantly surprised by her progress.
“I’m probably the slowest in the group and I never feel left behind,” she said. “Someone will stick back with me to give me tips on what to do. At first I was afraid that I would hold everyone back, but they don’t mind at all. They’re so encouraging.”
Fleet Feet Sports in Augusta is also offering a program to help runners of all kinds prepare for the race. Josie Houghton, the store’s half-marathon coach and floor operations manager, said participants range in age from 14 to 57.
“It’s amazing what they can do,” she said of the group. “Some of them come in and don’t think they have the ability to do it. They just come out and give it their all. It’s very inspiring for me to see them when they come out in the cold and in the rain and want to do it.”
Adverse weather conditions won’t put her program on hold, Bragg said.
“You never know what it’s going to be like on race day,” she said. “We complain all the time about the weather. It can be too hot or too cold or rainy or windy, but you don’t know what race day is going to be.”
While Black Girls Run! Augusta might be more informal with their training, McDuffey said, it’s obvious that the group has made an impact on the half-marathon hopefuls.
“I’ve seen so many women that start out walking and eventually became runners,” she said. “It wasn’t until I joined (Black Girls Run! Augusta) that I really kind of stuck with it. It becomes addictive. I’ve seen women change their lives and lose a lot of weight (since joining).”