'Moms Run This Town' for causes, camaraderie, fitnessMidcoast women run, train for 5K, 10K and half-marathon events
Thomaston — Like so many before her, Trina Johnson remembers the moment when running changed her thinking about health and fitness and helped transform both her physical and mental well-being.
And for more than a year, Johnson and a group of Midcoast mothers — and sometimes their children — have gathered to run to socialize, to run for fitness and to run to financially support causes.
"I started working out a home with [exercise] DVDs and stuff and then I started doing Zumba," said Johnson, 37, of Thomaston. "Then I thought, 'Maybe I can run.' And I could run. So I started running and it is just fun. It is recreational. It has helped with weight loss and fitness."
In just more than a year of running a few times per week, Johnson has lost more than 40 pounds.
"I am in the best shape of my life," Johnson said. "I didn't look like this in high school. I never had run ever. I have to keep up with my kids. I was overweight, tired and had no energy. I was not healthy. I said, 'I need to do something about this.' So I just did."
Johnson and her group mates now can call themselves "runners," a description and concept that may have been the furthest thing from their minds a little over a year ago.
There are formal and informal running clubs and groups in regions of most states, some cater to the serious and elite runners, while others, like this group of local mothers and their families is geared to providing support, camaraderie and others to talk to about the physical and emotional highs and lows that go with being a "runner."
The women are involved in the national running club, Moms Run This Town, the Knox County chapter. Most of the local women run for fitness, some train for 5Ks, 10Ks and a few train for half-marathons.
The group gathered at Oceanside West in Thomaston (the former Georges Valley High School) to run a virtual 5-kilometer race to benefit the Boston Strong One Fund on Monday night, April 21 (the day of the Boston Marathon).
They also like to save their bib numbers from races and their medals, when they receive them.
Some members of the group are more serious than others and the group grows and shrinks naturally.
The group will run races anywhere in New England, but mostly sticks to races in the surrounding counties. They search active.com and coolrunning.com for races.
It all started when Johnson decided to run the "Lucky Leprechaun 5K" in March 2013, one of a series of races throughout the year to support Go! Malawi, an orphanage in Africa. In that race Johnson had a group that ran as a team with the support of Johnson's business, KDK Custom Printing and Embroidery in Thomaston.
"It just branched out from there, that everyone would like to get together and run individually and as a group so we do 5Ks all over the state and out of state," Johnson said.
"It has kind of exploded," said Jody Dinsmore, 41, of South Thomaston, a strong member of the group. "We have a core group of six of us that travel around."
A list of some, but not all group members, who all are in the mid-30s to early 40s, are: Johnson, Wendy Wood, Aimee Sanfilippo, Cara Brochu and Lara Cooper (a member of the U.S. Coast Guard) all of Thomaston and Dinsmore of South Thomaston. Donna Jameson and her daughter, Olivia, also have joined recent runs.
The women all can do 5Ks in the high-20s to high 30s in minutes.
Johnson, alone, has come a long way in just over year of running. Her first 5K she finished in over 50 minutes, when she both walked and ran. Her best time since then has been 34:33 in a recent race in Brunswick. That is about a 16-minute improvement
Dinsmore has broken the magical 30-minute mark (29:52) and is the fastest among the women. She also is training to do a half-marathon, something Johnson has no interest in. Dinsmore has done 10Ks and Johnson may also try the 6.2-mile distance in the future.
All of the official runs the women do are for causes, which is personally rewarding to them. From ALS to breast cancer awareness to orphan children in Africa. The causes are dear to their hearts.
Dinsmore said she ran cross country in middle and high school. In fact, a few of the mothers also have children who participate in the group, one being Dinsmore's son, Dayton, 12, who has taken off and done well in running, usually finishing 5Ks in the low 20s for time. After he finishes, he stands near the finish line and waits for the women in group to finish.
"He ran cross country last fall and he and I just started running together during the summer and in local 5Ks," Dinsmore said. "It was a combination of several things. I wanted to get back in shape, and lose a few pounds, and just get myself going."
When one member of the group finishes a race, they wait for the others to complete the course, even when some run the 5K portion of an event and others run the half-marathon (13.1 miles) portion of an event, which can mean about a two-and-a-half hour wait for some.
On the course, the women simply run their speed, with a little strategy, but it mostly goes on how they feel mentally and physically on a particular day. "I start out, and I think, 'I can pass this person,' and I do. Then I think, 'I think I can catch the next person,' and I do. It just keeps you going," Johnson said.
Most of the runners listen to music during their trek around the course.
For training, Johnson only runs a few miles a week, where as Dinsmore tries to run 20 or more miles per week. Johnson is content doing 5Ks, while Dinsmore wants to at least try a 13.1-mile race.
"It is not about the time," Dinsmore said. "It is about getting out there, setting that goal for myself, saying I'm going to do it and, gosh darn it, doing it."
Johnson has nearly 20 completed 5Ks under her belt thus far and has about a dozen more planned for 2014. She is battling a foot injury but is currently organizing the Oceanside Sports Boosters Mother's Day 5K set for May 11 in Rockland.
Johnson also does some form of exercise for 30 minutes each day and has changed to more healthy eating habits.
Several of the women look forward to the "Dirty Girl Mud Run Obstacle Course" in July in Haverill, Mass. That event is a 5K mud run/obstacle course where participants climb ropes and through mud, and perhaps a trail run through the woods. The event is not timed, but is fun, and raises money for breast cancer awareness, the women said.
"It is more about getting out there and doing it and not about being the best," Dinsmore said.
"You have your own records you want to set in your mind," Johnson said. "By the end of this season I want to have my 5K time down to 32 minutes. I am not out there to beat anyone's record. It is obviously nice not to come in last but even the people who come in last still did it. It doesn't matter."
"All that matters is crossing the line at the start and at the end," said Dinsmore.
Johnson said the group is open to all females — one does not have to be a mom — and the group has a facebook page where it posts meeting places and dates, as well as races that will be run.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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