Sometimes, High Country Running is written about runners who are fast, accomplished and make our mountain town proud. This week, it’s about a group of runners I coach who are equally inspiring and should make us equally proud. Maybe you’ll decide to be one of them.

As adults, how often do we try something new? Something physical we may have told ourselves for years we “couldn’t” do? Folks who sign up for Team Run Flagstaff’s beginner running program, Step Into Running, not only take on this challenge, but they do it in public where other people can see them. It’s a huge risk.

Some ask themselves:

• What if I can’t finish the workout?

• What if I’m not fast enough?

• What if my face turns red and I’m sweaty and gross?

• What if I’m not wearing the right clothes?

Some tell themselves:

• Everyone else knows how to run.

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• Everyone else is faster.

• Everyone else runs farther.

• Everyone else has done this before.

However, if ever there was a gentle place to run -- on the body and on the soul -- it’s Buffalo Park. This is where Step Into Running workouts take place. The trail is mostly flat and not at all technical, and it’s wide enough to run with a partner to keep you company. Views of the San Francisco Peaks and the occasional herd of deer remind you how lucky we all are to call Flagstaff home -- and to be able to embark on this new challenge in such a beautiful place.

If ever there was an encouraging group of people -- to a new runner’s body and mind -- it’s Step Into Running volunteers. Many started their running journeys during this program. They understand how hard it is to start from scratch, to be only able to run for 30 seconds at a time. They know how satisfying it is to improve, and that everyone who sticks with it will see gains.

Volunteers monitor run/walk segments during Thursday workouts, so participants only have to worry about putting one foot in front of the other. They tell stories, answer questions and make workouts seem shorter and more manageable. Most of all, volunteers cheer their running partners’ accomplishments every week.

Step Into Running isn’t just for new runners. It’s also a safe place for athletes to start over, returning to running after an injury or hiatus. It can be hard for someone who once ran regularly to begin at square one, knowing what their bodies used to be able to do. This program provides structure, consistency and support for athletes making a comeback.

Whether you’re new or returning to running, Step Into Running might be the perfect community for you. We run alongside, give you a boost when you need it and believe in you every step of the way.

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Stephanie Edgerton has been running since 2011, after a long break from participating in other sports. Running changed her life for the better, and she loves encouraging and providing a safe space for others who want to give it a try.

Do you have a column, tip or idea for High Country Running? Run it over to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds at runner@juliehammonds.com, or tweet her @highcountry_run.


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