In November, Start TODAY — a community of almost 150,000 people committed to improving their health and fitness —challenged members to walk or run 3 miles in 6 weeks. Many members used the challenge as springboard to join Turkey Trots or other Thanksgiving-themed 5K races. Here’s how five members did just that.
JacqueAnn Taylor embraced ‘wogging’
A little more than seven years ago, JacqueAnn Taylor, 59, and her husband started going to the gym after her husband recovered from surgery for pancreatic cancer. “I was looking for something else to do. I found a runners’ club here in my town — Wichita Falls, Texas —that was starting a new couch to 5K group, so I decided to join,” she says. She’s been doing what she calls “wogging,” or run/walk intervals, ever since. She completed a Ragnar relay (trail run), several half marathons, and races of other distances.
But she says, “During COVID, I got lazy.” So, a year and a half ago Taylor got back into racing — she signed up to do a half Ironman relay with two coworkers and committed to do the running portion. “Even though now I walk more than I run, I still love the excitement of doing events and am blessed to have some crazy accountability partners to do them with me,” she says.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, they went to Tulsa, OK, and ran a 5K on Saturday plus a marathon relay on Sunday. Along with her accountability partners, she finds encouragement in the Start TODAY Facebook group: “The Start TODAY group keeps me motivated to move, even on days I don’t want to. I see all the posts of so many others, and it helps me put my shoes on and move.”
Michele Johnson signed up for a virtual race
Michele Johnson, 43, was watching the TODAY Show when she saw the challenge. “I thought it would be perfect for me to join the group and do my first 5K/Turkey Trot,” she says. “I love challenges, and this challenged me to do it and to stay on track with my health journey.”
Johnson's small town of Rugby, ND, did not have a Thanksgiving Day 5K —so she joined a live virtual event based in Charlotte, NC. “It was like I was there, but in reality, I was on a treadmill. It was like I was standing by the other runners. I saw families doing the race together, some with their dogs, some in costumes, and I heard crowds cheer. I was able to be excited about it,” she says.
Johnson's goal was to finish in under 45 minutes but halfway through, she could see she was on track to make it. “As it neared the end, there were more cheering sections, and it made you want to push a little harder. That is what I did, and I finished in 42.98 minutes. It was such a great feeling to have accomplished that I am now looking for one to sign up for at Christmas time.”
The camaraderie in the Start TODAY group was a key part of her success. “I was empowered by the Start TODAY group and even posted my journey on the page. It’s nice when you are a part of something that has no negativity and is encouraging. It made me want to do it again,” she said. “Thanks to Start TODAY, I did this!”
Pamela Witt used interval training
Pamela Witt’s journey toward 5K successes began on June 1, 2022, when she joined Start TODAY and tackled that month’s 30-day walking challenge. When the challenge ended, Witt kept going, walking throughout the summer. On Thanksgiving Day — less than six months later — Witt, 57, completed her third 5K within a month.
In September, she and her husband started training for her first 5K —the Halloween Hustle in Springfield, MO. “I walked it in one hour,” she says. Next up was a charity run/walk in her hometown of Dadeville, MO, where she added 30-second intervals of running to her walk. She says, “Even though I was the last one to finish the 5K, I beat my time by eight minutes!”
Rounding out her month of races was the Turkey Trot in Willard, MO. “I guess the third time’s a charm, because I beat my time from the second race by six minutes and completed the race in 46 minutes,” she says. Her husband walked and ran with her, cheering her on, which she said made the race easier. They are looking for one more 5K to finish out 2022 strong and fit.
Missy Gillenwater walked a 5K every day
In February 2022, Missy Gillenwater, 50, was diagnosed with acid reflux that was affecting her mouth, and she had to drastically change her diet. “I decided if I can’t eat anything, I might as well start walking to lose weight and get some exercise,” she says. “Now I walk every day, and since March 1st, I’ve lost 88 pounds.”
Gillenwater walks about three miles every morning, but she admits that she didn’t even know how far a 5K was. She says, “I kind of walk a 5K every day!” (In case the metric system isn’t your strong suit, a 5K is 3.1 miles.)
Gillenwater saw a post in the Start TODAY group where someone suggested doing a virtual Turkey Trot, and she decided to give it a try. She says, “That was my first 5K. I wasn’t sure what my time would be, and that day was my fastest time — I had several times of 55 minutes when I practiced, and I finished that day in 52 minutes. I was so excited! I worked up to that from the people in the program motivating me!”
Jennifer Bard added running to her walking routine — and fell in love with it
In August 2021, Jennifer Bard, 42, started walking 30 minutes a day. “Within a couple of days, I decided I wanted to throw in some running to the mix,” she said.
She ran her first 5K in October 2021 and fell in love with running live races. “Running has helped me lose 70 pounds and given me confidence. I have now completed many 5Ks, a few half marathons, and one marathon. I have gone from running at 14 minutes per mile to 10,” she says.
However, she had never run a 10K until Thanksgiving Day — when she competed in a Turkey Trot in Highland Park, Illinois, near her home in Gurnee. “I struggled a little towards the end, with the warmer weather and being overdressed, but I pushed through it,” she says. “The crowds and the excitement are what I live for. The other runners are also great motivators.”
That Saturday, she ran a 5K Turkey Trot in Schaumburg, Illinois. “This race will be a great memory for me as I got my best mile time at 9:36 and finished with a personal record of 34:11. The hills were tough on this one, but I took advantage of the downhills and made up some time,” she says. “My goals are to keep improving my time and to run for as long as I can.”
Bard said she turns to the Start TODAY Facebook group to keep herself motivated — and to motivate others. “I’ve had several people in my life reach out and ask questions and tell me that I have motivated them, which makes me want to work harder,” she says.
If you're feeling inspired to walk or run a 5K, we have a plan to get you there in six weeks. And whether or not racing is for you, the Start TODAY Facebook group is a community of inspiring people who are waiting to welcome you and help you work towards your own health goals. You can also join us for our Start TODAY December Walking Challenge!