It’s probably not a good idea for those who want to run the Sept. 23 Mill Race Marathon or Half-Marathon to begin training in August.

With that in mind, Columbus runner Alex Contreras has been putting on a 17-week training program that begins in May of each year and leads up to the race. This is the fifth year for both the training program — which features a progressive mileage increase — and the race.

Pat Pierz started the training program in 2013. He planned to retire in 2014, so that year, Contreras helped him. Contreras has run the program by himself the past two years.

“He asked, ‘Who can help me with this?’” Contreras said. “I said, ‘I can help you because I have been running. I know the program. I know the people. I know how to do this.’”

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Contreras started running in his native Mexico and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2010. He moved to Columbus in 2011 and joined the Columbus Running Club.

The director of ReCon Engineering at Cummins, Contreras has run all four Mill Race Marathons. Those are among the roughly 25 full marathons (26.2 miles) and 30 half-marathons (13.1 miles) in which he has competed.

This year’s training program will begin on May 27 and continue on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for 17 weeks. All sessions are free and open to the public.

The first eight Saturdays, there will be classes at 7 a.m. Weekly topics include nutrition, shoes, cross training and injury prevention. A group run will follow the classes.

The group meets Tuesday evenings at Central Middle School for a Tuesday Track Run and Thursday evenings on a selected portion of the People Trails for a Thursday Tempo Run.

Between 100 and 150 runners and walkers have participated in the training program each of the past four years. A total of 58 already have signed up this year.

Sivakumar Rathinam wrote on the Mill Race Training page that he had never run before last year’s program.

“I joined the training just to have some activity, but turned out to be my hobby,” he said. “After seeing enthusiastic group and regular committed training, Mill Race Marathon was my first-ever long run and heading to my fifth half-marathon next month. Planning to do my first full marathon in Mill Race 2017, so looking forward to having a good training year in group. I run because running teaches me that I’m capable of so much more than I ever imagined.”

Another runner who participated in the program for the first time last year, Shantilal Dayama, had been having trouble breaking two hours in the half-marathon. So for the 2016 Mill Race Marathon, he registered with the single aim of finishing in less than two hours.

Dayama finished in 1 hour, 56 minutes.

“I knew I had to do something different to achieve the target,” he wrote on the page. “Luckily, I happened to do the group training sessions led by Alex. The best part of the training sessions were Alex’s active participation, focus on speed/coordination/distance running and the fact that they happened thrice a week.”

Contreras said that starting to run is a lifestyle change. He said those who engage in that activity are healthy, have less stress, much better concentration and better results.

Contreras also noted that families — parents and kids — do the program together and have a good time.

“If you have 30 minutes of spare time, you can do that,” Contreras said. “If you day is kind of complicated, you can squeeze a little time. You don’t need large equipment to carry with you. You can go to a gym, you can do it in your home, you can go outside, you can go to a track, you can go to a trail, you can do it in the street. And your life really changes a lot.”

If you go

The 2017 Mill Race Marathon Training Program will feature 7 a.m. classes before the group runs on the first eight Saturdays beginning May 27. Here are the topics:

May 27;Training Program Introduction and Running Tips Part 1

June 3;Warm-up and Strech

June 10;Nutrition

June 17;Shoes and Running Attire

June 24;Join the Firecracker 5K Race at 8 a.m.

July 1;The Training Effect

July 8;Cross Training and Core Strength

July 15;Injuries, Injury Prevention

July 22;Running Tips Part 2