Fittest Loser contestants ace the Human Race
Dressed in an unusual amount of layers for an end of April run, the Fittest Loser contestants and their Push Fitness trainers arrived at the starting line for the DuPage Human Race in Downers Grove, when the temperature still registered in the 30s.
Despite the gray skies and unseasonably crisp air, four contestants and one columnist completed the 5K just before a late spring storm dumped several inches of snow on the Chicago suburbs.
A little cold weather wasn't going to deter Annamarie McMurray from running with her trainer, Joshua Steckler, in her first 5K. She had been training with Steckler for weeks to put her best foot forward come race day.
Every time she was on the treadmill at Push Fitness, Steckler would increase the intensity just a little to keep her moving toward a faster time. A little progress every day, every week, paid off. Not only was McMurray able to run the whole race without needing a walking break, she placed third in her age group -- a huge accomplishment for this first-time runner.
"It's a good thing Josh was running next to me because the last quarter-mile I was ready to lay down," said McMurray. "He was right next to me when I was ready to give up. He'd pat me on the back and say, 'We can do it.'"
Training for the 5K sparked McMurray's interest in doing more running. Her sister-in-law and two nieces have all run marathons and next year McMurray hopes to join them. After Fittest Loser ends, she plans to train with her sister-in-law to run the Chicago Marathon.
"You have to start preparing beforehand," McMurray said about training for a race. "It's not something that's going to happen overnight, but never give up."
The dreary day and light drizzle didn't bother Bob Sinclair either. In fact, he thought it was a great day for running.
He said the course had a few hills, but it was nothing he couldn't handle thanks to the strength training he's been doing at Push Fitness and the treadmill and bicycle cardio workouts he does on his own. He finished the race in just under 29 minutes and placed third in his age group.
"This weekend was awesome," said Sinclair. "(Training on) the treadmill and bicycle -- those two really helped me out a lot. I don't think I could have done the time I did without the last 10 weeks of training."
Sinclair has already met his personal weight-loss goal and is hoping to lose five more pounds by the competition's end. His success last weekend has motivated him to run with his son, who recently completed a half marathon in an 90 minutes, and possibly participate in more races in the future.
Ed Poczatek had a few reservations heading into last week's race. Prior to his cancer diagnosis and treatment, Poczatek ran. A lot. He completed dozens of 5Ks and several marathons, but he knew this race wouldn't be his best. While he's made great strides during Fittest Loser, Poczatek said he is still struggling with cardio workouts.
"I think I was the most uncomfortable out of everybody because I have not yet gotten my running endurance back," Poczatek said.
Poczatek enjoyed running the 5K. In the end, he ran the Human Race in 36:39 and was able to run the majority of the race, only needing to walk the last mile.
"When I crossed the finish line, I was able to jog back and join Rick, Josh, and Kat as we helped Annamarie finish the race. This was the most fun of the day," Poczatek said.
While Poczatek said he wishes his endurance were better, he said completing the 5K was his first step in getting back to running on a regular basis. Overall, he feels great heading into the final weeks of the challenge. His workouts have been centered on improving his core strength by engaging in exercises such as planks, lunges, and jumping jacks.
"This competition has shown me that I don't need to use expensive apparatuses to get in shape," Poczatek said.
Rick Meyers was eager to participate in his first 5K. In addition to working out with Patrick Stille at Push Fitness, Meyers downloaded the Couch to 5K app, to help him prepare.
His goal was to run the whole race and not take any walking breaks. Meyers said he upped his cardio and added extra workouts to prepare for the 5K. The impact on his endurance is noticeable.
"When the contest first started, I'd sweat early during the workouts. Now I can go much longer without breaking a sweat," Meyers said.
He finished the race in 32:05, which Stille told him is good for his first time. Meyers was glad to run alongside Stille, who he knew would encourage him to keep going when he needed it most. Knowing he needed to get to work right after the race definitely provided additional motivation for Meyers to finish as fast as possible.
The experience has inspired Meyers to register for more races.
"I enjoyed it so much that I came home and started looking for other races to run," Meyers said.
For the contestants, one of the best parts of the 5K was being able to cheer each other on and support one another.
While it's still a competition, the participants have a sense that they're all in this together and want everyone to succeed.
McMurray and Melissa Hood had planned to run alongside one another during the 5K. However, the Tuesday before the race, Hood suffered a stroke and was unable to participate.
Hood said she suffered a small stroke in a serious area, but the cause has not been determined. She is at home resting and recovering.
Contestants' thoughts were with Hood on race day as well as with one another as they crossed the finish line, a true testament to the camaraderie they've developed over the last few months.
• To see the Fittest Loser contestants' latest weight stats, visit pushfitnesstraining.com/fittest-loser/