Featured: Estherville’s Couch-to-5K

When you think of library programming, you think of book clubs, summer reading programs, and story times, right? This summer, the Estherville Public Library in north-central Iowa took on something a little different: a 5k training program.

Torch runners with the corn cob torch!

With the impending conclusion of the statewide Live Healthy Iowa challenge last spring, library leaders including director Tena Hanson (ARSL Membership Development Chair and Board Member) started thinking about ways to initiate programming that would help fill the gap for the community during the summer months. Having only worked at this particular library six months, Hanson sought advice from the local Chamber director. Several ideas were bounced around, and the one that seemed most feasible was a Couch-to-5k program.

Think about it: most of our loyal library members are avid readers (we are familiar with the couch part of this equation).  Avid readers, by and large, are not adverse to exercise; we just might not know how to go about getting started. To Hanson (who had never expected to become a runner, herself), this seemed to be a friendly way to start from the ground up and make people comfortable tackling the challenge of a 5k.

Part of our group, out for a run.

The scheduling was easy. The C25K program (an established workout routine openly available at www.coolrunning.com) was 9 weeks long. The goal would be the Run for the Cob 5k, an annual race held during the city’s Sweet Corn Days celebration in early August. Counting back 9 weeks, a date was set in early June for the first meeting. Meetings were scheduled each of those 9 weeks on Mondays, some in the afternoon and some in the evening, to allow for those with other commitments to attend at least some of the check-in sessions.

Community leaders in health and fitness fields were eager to help, and quickly filled all 9 weeks of check-in sessions with excellent topics. The local hospital dietitian talked about nutrient-dense meals, goal-setting, planning your daily calories to coincide with your exercise routine and much more. A local chiropractor talked to the group about stretching and injury prevention. The coaches of both the High School and Community College cross country teams came to talk about cross-training, warm-ups and cool-downs, pacing and mile splits, and what to expect at a 5k race.

Presentation by our hospital dietitian.

A staff person at the local extension office offered to lead a group run/walk following each weekly session, which became a fun bonding experience for those who took part. One evening, while the group (comprised of ages 13 through retirement) was out running, a man doing yard work called out “you’ve got the whole family out for a run?!”  It was fun to call back “No, we’re from the library!” and watch him nod and then look confused.

Community support for this program was so strong that the group was asked to act as Torch Runners for the Sweet Corn Days opening ceremonies, which is something of an honor. Four groups run, each taking their starting point as one of the city gateway signs, to the riverside park for the lighting of the cob celebration.

Our fastest runner receives her iPod Shuffle.

A handful of C25K participants gathered that evening at the south entrance to the city and ran, carrying a flaming corn torch, to the park. It was a glorious thing to behold, and the group had a good chuckle over the fact that they beat the softball girls and the triathlon representative to the finish point!

On race day, our fastest runner was awarded an iPod Shuffle, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. All of our participants made great strides, and as one put it:  “Thanks for getting this team going! It is something I never thought I’d do.”

To learn more about the Estherville Couch-to-5K program, visit the library’s page on Facebook, or contact Tena Hanson at thansonlibrarian@gmail.com.

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