Story by Zack Steen
Photos by Randy J. Williams
Thousands of runners and walkers converge on historic downtown Corinth each May for the annual Coke 10K.
This year what’s known as Mississippi’s premier footrace will celebrate 39 years when the gun is fired into the air signaling the start of the 6.2 mile event through the Oak tree lined streets of Cross City.
While many participants are seasoned runners trying to out-do their previous best times, other entrants are just trying to finish. The Coke 10K is a perfect first footrace for those looking to give it a try, said race organizer Mona Lisa Grady.
“We have a wonderful beginner program designed to help take a reasonably healthy person from the recliner to the finish line of the Coke 10K,” she told Crossroads Magazine. “Commitment and consistency will help anyone attain their goal and finish strong.”
Set for Saturday, May 2 at 8 a.m., Coke 10K founder Kenneth Williams provides a Commit to be Fit training calendar for those wishing to get ready for the big race several months in advance.
“We are trying to promote the race as a catalyst for people to use to begin a healthy lifestyle,” said Williams. “This race is not just a one-day event – the preparation and training begins weeks before the race and can be a person’s ticket to a new beginning.”
The calendar suggests a daily routine for February through race day. Participates start off the first week of February with a 15 minute run/walk twice a week and the training program ends just a few days prior to the Coke 10K with a 25 minute total workout of walking and running.
Former longtime runner Larry Mangus has a similar suggestion for those just starting off.
“Start slow at least several months before the event,” he said. “A person can’t wait until the week before.”
The 78-year-old ran over 500 races in his 20-year career before an injury sidelined him in 1996. He kept his love for running alive through coaching of the Corinth High School Cross Country team.
“Someone just starting off should build a base and track what they can accomplish each day,” said Mangus. “A person’s goal each week should be to increase their length by about 20 percent.”
What to expect in the beginning, according to Mangus, is “a person will be sore and achy. The body is going to hurt for the first week or so and a person might even want to give up, but don’t – I promise it gets easier and more rewarding. Soon you’ll feel better and crave that feeling.”
Mangus said the keys to training is patience … and a good pair of shoes.
“I always like to recommend a person find themselves a comfortable pair of Adidas running shoes – if you’re got a terrible pair of shoes, you might as well stay home,” he added.
Nathan Hall is an avid local runner who always likes to find a partner to compete with in the Coke 10K.
Even though he’s competed dozens of marathons over the years throughout the south, when he’s home Hall doesn’t like to run alone.
“The last two years, I’ve ran with my two daughters – I stayed with them and tried to help them break an hour, which was their goal,” said the 43-year-old. “I ran with my good friend, Alan Smith, a few years ago. This year, it may work out that I’ll get to run with both my daughters and my wife.”
Hall said no matter what experience level a person is, running or walking with a friend or with family members is the way to go.
“I love running a race with someone by my side,” he said. “It’s an added bonus if you can train with that person as well and both get to celebrate the accomplishment of entering and finishing a 10K.”
Along with starting the three-month long Commit to be Fit Training program, Williams said there are some training precautions and must-dos.
“Always stretch a few minutes before and after the workout,” he said. “Also remember to mix it up – which means if you are just starting, be sure to mix in short periods of running and walking. As a person gets stronger, they can lengthen the running time.”
Williams said practice LSD.
“It stands for ‘long slow distance’ – think about the duration of the activity, not the speed,” added the race founder. “Too hard and too fast will lead to injury. Also exercise at a ‘walkie-talkie’ pace – the ability to talk during your exercise. Labored breathing is no fun and unnecessary. And don’t forget to breathe through your mouth.”
Finally, simply listen to the body, said Williams.
“Aches and pains that lasts more than a few days should be checked by a healthcare professional,” he said. “Call a doctor if you experience chest discomfort, heart rhythm changes, unusual shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea.”
(For more information and to register for the race, visit Coke10k.com. The free Commit to be Fit training calendars for the months of February, March and April can be found by searching Coke 10K on Facebook.)