Shannon McNall never saw herself as a runner. Contending with a bum knee, she hardly ever ran beyond warm-ups in fitness classes. So even though the mother of two was looking for a way to incorporate more exercise into her life, she quickly dismissed the idea of joining a running group.
But Brandon Frank doesn’t accept those kinds of excuses. As far he’s concerned, there’s a runner inside of everyone — whether they realize it or not.
“Being a runner isn’t about the act of running — it’s the promise of something better,” says the co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Meridian. “It’s the promise of a better life.”
Frank introduced McNall to the No Boundaries program, designed to help people of all abilities cross the finish line of a 5K. She signed up two weeks into the 10-week training course and convinced two friends to join as well. So far she has shaved her mile time from 14 to 12 minutes — she’s aiming for 11. And at the end of September, instead of walking as she has in past years, she has every intention of running a 5K race at St. Luke’s FitOne event.
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It’s been two years since the fundraiser for St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital transformed itself. After two decades as the Women’s Fitness Celebration, founded by Olympic runner and Hall of Famer Anne Audain, the program broadened its scope and added another Olympian — Kristin Armstrong — to the fold in 2013. Now called FitOne, its goal is to be a year-round resource for healthy activities and advice in addition to hosting the annual 5K, 10K and half-marathon races.
“Our mission is to build a healthy community through active living,” said Heather Hill, FitOne executive director.
That effort has included collaborating on the St. Luke’s $10,000 Weight Loss Challenge, which offers cash as an incentive to shed pounds; FitOne Kids, an effort to inspire children to adopt healthy habits; and the Fit for the Road Reunion, a June walk held just for those incorporating physical activity back into their lives after or while going through treatment at St. Luke’s heart, joint replacement or bariatric clinics, or the Mountain States Tumor Institute. In addition, FitOne’s blog and social media accounts continue to provide recipes, exercise tips and details about fitness events in the area.
The No Boundaries program is also aiming to reshape people’s lives beyond race day. The training course launched in July just as Frank and his wife, Kimberly, opened Fleet Feet Sports in The Village at Meridian. Since it is still establishing itself in the community, it offered the course for free. About 90 people have participated, attending sessions Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Meridian’s Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park to run and learn about everything from hydration and nutrition to injury prevention. The 30 people either mentoring or training participants are all volunteers.
For McNall, it’s been a life-changing experience. The program — along with some advice on proper running shoes — has, indeed, prompted her to identify as a runner. And the progression was easier than she imagined.
“It showed me that I am capable of achieving more than I thought possible,” she said.
Frank plans to offer three No Boundaries courses a year through Fleet Feet Sports — in the fall, spring and summer. In addition to No Boundaries, the FitOne website directs participants to the Boise Galloway Program as a possible source of guidance. Both provide training to people of all ability levels so that they can safely complete a distance run.
For anyone considering running a FitOne race for the first time, Frank recommends seeking professional advice specific to your ability level. What works for one person is not necessarily the best route for another.
“So many people are getting good advice — for other people,” he said.