New Runner to Marathoner by Noelle Karas


I was never a runner and always struggled when it came to running, even back to my high school gym classes.  However, back in the winter of 2014 I decided that I needed to start taking my health more seriously and decided to begin running.  I started on the treadmill doing walk/run intervals and running for 30 seconds felt like an accomplishment.  At the same time, my boyfriend, Greg Armstrong (now also a Reston Runner), got back into running too, which he hadn't done regularly since he left the US Army many years ago.   We encouraged each other to stick with it and started noticing improvements in our health, which felt great.

                  As spring approached, I had heard about a training program for women offered by Reston Runners, so I looked up some information and reached out to Amy Barrett to make sure that I didn't have to be able to run long distances in order to participate, because I could not even run more than 1/2 mile at the time.   Amy explained that the Women's Training Program (WTP) was open to all women interested in running; it met weekly and began with a presentation on a running topic before heading out on the trails.  Runners went with the group they were most comfortable with—walking, walking/running interval, beginning running or advanced beginning running.  Amy explained that there was a Women’s Distance Festival 5K at the end of the program, which most WTP ladies participated in.  This sounded like a great opportunity,  so I signed up for the WTP, which began in May of 2014 and joined the walking/running interval group, which increased each week, with the goal of being able to run the 5K by the end of the program.

                  Participating in the WTP was one of the best decisions I could have made - not only did it provide me with a wealth of information, excellent training and a sense of camaraderie, but it motivated me to develop a love of running and a desire to continue to build up my training.  Amy did a phenomenal job of overseeing this program and all of the coaches were extremely helpful.  I made great progression throughout the program, but still felt a strong sense of nervousness leading up the Women’s Distance Festival 5K in June of 2014.  I really wanted to run the full distance, but wasn't convinced that I could.  Greg was a great source of motivation and took me out to run the course a week before the race - he ran with me, encouraging me along the way, and to my amazement, I ran the full course. 

                  The excitement and support the day of the race was amazing and I will never forget the great feeling when I finished, almost fifteen minutes faster than what I had ran the week before.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to stick with it and continue running.  I had heard about the 10 Weeks to 10K Program that Reston Runners also offered, which specified that you should be able to run a 5K before participating in it, and I was ready to take on this next program.

                  I signed up for the 10 Weeks to 10K Program, which began in July of 2014, with great excitement and even convinced Greg to sign up also.  He knew how much I had gotten out of the WTP and we were both ready to improve our running and learn even more.  The program met weekly and built on the base you already had to give you the endurance, speed and confidence needed to successfully complete a 10K.  Chris Dettmar and Amy Barrett did a great job leading this program and I learned a lot from participating in it, as well as being able to build up my distances and incorporate hills into my running.  I was also lucky enough to have Amy "take me under her wing" and run with me on many days, giving me advice that I will always remember and that has gotten me across several finish lines since. 

                  Greg and I both participated in the Dulles Day 10K and then the Reston Perfect 10 (I ran the 10K and Greg ran the 10 Miler) in September of 2014.  Then in October of 2014, we ran the half-marathon relay at the Hershey Half-Marathon.  Completing these races was so much fun and felt like such great achievements, we both knew that we wanted to continue and run even more - we were hooked!

                  We both continued to run and train throughout the winter, as well as research and learn as much as we could about running.  Greg decided to run the NYC Half-Marathon in March of 2015, which motivated me to sign up for the Long Island Half-Marathon in May of 2015.  Greg did great in the NYC Half and watching the race was truly inspirational.  I felt ready for the Long Island Half and was excited to run my first half-marathon on Long Island, which is where I grew up, however, I was still extremely nervous about this challenge, especially since only a year ago, I could barely run 1/2 mile.  The race was great and the feeling of crossing the finish line, 30 minutes faster that what I thought I would, was absolutely amazing.  It wasn't too long after completing this race, that I got the itch to run a full marathon, but it seemed so extreme, I didn't know if I would be reaching too far.

                  After a lot of thought, I decided to sign up for my first marathon and I chose the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA in October of 2015 - I went to college at the University of Scranton, so that city definitely holds a special place in my heart; additionally, I had heard many great things about Steamtown and wanted to put myself to the challenge.   I quickly learned that training for a marathon was a completely different level than training for a half-marathon, but I set my mind to it - I was willing to dedicate the time, push my physical and mental limits and make the sacrifices necessary along the way to accomplish my goal.

                  As part of my training over the summer, I signed up for the Interval Training Program (ITP) offered by Reston Runners - since I had benefitted so much from the previous two programs, I was convinced that the interval training and summer speed work was exactly what I needed to help me get in marathon-shape.  The ITP met weekly and involved a variety of track workouts designed to condition runners to run at their optimum paces for various race distances.  This training assisted runners in developing their physical capability and running economy, as well as conserving those carbohydrates that would delay "hitting the wall".  Ellen Hart did a great job of designing workouts focusing on developing speed, strength and overall cardiovascular fitness.  This type of workout was totally new to me, but I enjoyed participating in the program and it really proved to be beneficial to incorporate it into my training as I built up my long runs. 

                  On Saturday, October 11, 2015, I ran across the finish line of the Steamtown Marathon and the feeling was almost surreal. The sense of accomplishment I felt cannot be put into words - I loved every single moment of the 26.2 mile journey.  At that moment, every single second of training and sacrifice and soreness and pain, of running in the heat and the cold and the dark and the rain, over the previous 17 months, was worth it.  Joining Reston Runners and participating in the three amazing programs they offer is what got me through my first 5K, as well as across that finish line of my first marathon.  The knowledge, guidance and sense of empowerment that I received from Reston Runners, and the training programs that they offer, is absolutely priceless.   Anyone who ever thinks, "I'm not a runner", definitely can be if they set their mind to it and become involved with a group like this - if I did it, so can you, after all, I was never a runner, but now I'm a marathoner.





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