Getting on the right track

Neither Gayatri Damle nor Emmaline Terry had any idea where to begin the first time that they set out to tackle the Mill Race Marathon.

Luckily, they found a good place to learn.

The Mill Race Marathon’s free training program has been offered every year since the marathon was launched, and several first-time runners, as well as experienced ones, have been using it to their benefit.

“I wouldn’t have even considered myself a runner beforehand,” said Terry, who ran the half marathon for the first time last fall and plans to do so again this year. “I feel like I definitely developed some good habits through the program.”

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The 17-week program — which begins this year on June 4 — was designed and implemented by coach Patrick Pierz and is built around a progressive mileage approach.

During the first seven weeks, participants will meet up at the YES Cinema downtown at 7 a.m. Each week will feature a class focused on a different aspect of race training — everything from stretching and injury prevention to nutrition and choosing the right shoes.

Following each class, the group will run or walk the recommended distance for that day together.

Damle, who has completed the program twice, noted that being able to train with other people helped make things seem a lot less daunting.

“Doing it with people as the program goes forward with longer distances — Saturday mornings, you need some motivation to get out of the bed and get going on the run,” she said. “Knowing that a group will be there to run with you just helps.”

After the seven weeks of classes, the group will join the Columbus Running Club for their regular Saturday morning runs. Other group runs also are set up for Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

By the time it all wraps up, runners can head into race day feeling far more confident about tackling the course.

“It seemed like we would never get there,” Terry said, “but (trainer Alex Contreras) said if we just follow the schedule pretty religiously, it was totally manageable.

“I remember not believing him at all, but then having followed the schedule almost exactly how I was supposed to … it wasn’t that bad.”

That’s about all a runner can ask for, right?

Get on the train

Mill Race Marathon free training program

Duration: 17 weeks, beginning June 4

When: Saturdays, 7 a.m.

Where: Classes will be held at YES Cinema the first seven weeks, with a group run to follow. From Week 8 on, the class will join the Columbus Running Club at designated meeting spots for Saturday runs.

For more information about the program, email or visit the Columbus Running Club website at

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.