Local Runners Find Supportive Community

heidi's half-marathon medalREYNOLDSVILLE, Pa. (EYT) — Thousands of people competed in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon and Half-Marathon, including several from the area.

One of them, Heidi Shindledecker of Reynoldsville, an English teacher at DuBois Area High School, has found her involvement in running to be an incredibly supportive and life-affirming activity.

Four years ago, Shindledecker started the “Couch to 5K” program and in just four weeks, ran her first 5K race.

“It was tough at first, I’d run for a bit, then walk for a bit until I built up to more,” she said. “After running in my first race, I made a lot of friends in the DuBois running community, and those friendships helped me train for longer and bigger races.

“You become part of a community of people that are there to support each other. I’ve always felt like my hope in humanity is renewed at events like these.”

Certainly, some races are hyper-competitive, but for many, running is a great way to improve their health and become part of something meaningful. Many running events are held for the sole purpose of raising money for those in need.

Shindledecker told of a few encounters she had at Sunday’s half-marathon, her third in Pittsburgh and sixth overall.

“At the start, I was next to a young girl who was dressed in a tank top and shorts. It was rainy and chilly, and she was shivering. After having run in these races before, I knew what to expect and how to prepare, so I had an extra rain poncho with me, and I offered it to her. She thanked me and off we went. I didn’t expect to see her after the race, but once it was over, I was getting a snack and something to drink, and she came to me and thanked me again. It really felt good to have an experience like that.”

Later, near the end of the 13.1-mile race, Shindledecker was running near a man who was around 60 and who was struggling through his first event. She explained how they ran together for a bit, and she had encouraging words with him.

“Once we got to the point where we could see the finish line, I moved ahead, but he was so thankful. I told him how I had so many people encourage me in the past; I was just paying it forward.”

The “Couch to 5K” program was created by Josh Clark 20 years ago, and more information about it can be found at c25k.com.

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