Dave O’Regan may be an accountant by day but, by night, he’s responsible for getting Carrigaline running. For the last few years, he’s ‘run’ the Couch to 5K class in Carrigaline Community School, Cork – where his advice to his joggers could also serve as life lessons!
“It’s a 10-week course and the people who see it through are all able to run 5K non-stop at the end of it,” says Dave. “The class is aimed at people who have never trained or run and who want to become more active, or they want to get back running.
“People also see it as an alternative to the gym – you’re exercising in an environment where everyone is starting from the same place. Everyone who signs up has little or no fitness.”
Pace, not race
Building up their times from the first night to the last, the class is all about pacing yourself, not running yourself ragged – more the tortoise than the hare, slowing down to speed up …
“I always stress that they are setting the pace, that they should only go a pace that will allow them to finish what we’ve set out to do that night. And, when we get to the 5K, I tell them to forget about the time, it’s about finishing the 5K, not doing it in a particular time.”
But before they can run 5K, they have to start at the very beginning …
“The first week, we run for one minute, walk for one-and-a-half minutes. And we do that eight times, so that they’ve run 20 minutes by the end of the night. Then, over the other nights, we run for three minutes, then eight minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 20 minutes. By the ninth night, we’re running for 20 minutes, walking for three minutes, running for 10 minutes – that adds to up to a half hour of running with only a three-minute walk.”
One night is not enough, of course, so the class participants must commit to repeating the routine twice outside the class. And they do, meeting up in different groups to motivate each other and keep each other company – and friendships blossom.
“At the end of the classes, people are delighted, to see how far they’ve come from the first night, when you could see the fear on their faces!” says Dave, who started running himself in 2002. “They make huge progress.”
During the winter months, the group, which can number up to 20 people, jog a loop around the school. But, when the time changes in March and the evenings are longer, they let loose down around Crosshaven. And, adult education director Gene Cahill has been known to accompany the group, so that there’s a motivational adult at the front of the group and another at the back!
10K and counting
“I get a lot out of is. It’s great to see how happy people are when the complete the 5K and how shocked they are that they can do it! I love running so it’s almost like giving back – I’m happy to encourage others to run or do something healthy.”
Indeed, the class has been so successful that some people come back a second time, especially if their motivation and practice has lapsed. And, this year, for the first time, the school ran a 5K And Beyond night class, for those who had completed the 5K and wanted to stretch themselves. “By the end of that class, we had people running up to 10k. I introduced speed training to add variety and we do different runs around Carrigaline.
“It’s all about keeping up the same level of effort – not running so fast that you get dispirited when you can’t keep that pace up. It’s about making sure you get to the end point, taking into account the elements like hills or wind. Keep up the same level of effort.”
See, a life lesson right there. And, don’t forget to do your stretches to avoid injury!