Couch to 5K Runners Group

SHREWSBURY PUBLIC LIBRARY, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.A.

Ready to give running a try? Bring your community along with you! That is what Caitlin McKeon Staples, Reference Librarian, did. Inspired by resources Let’s Move in Libraries gathered on running programs in libraries, and in particular a library in Iowa that did a Couch to 5K program in 2012, Caitlin and staff at the library started by reaching out to a local running store (Marathon Sports). She found that the store was thrilled to work with the library on this free program: The running store donated their time, gift certificates, and more. Caitlin said that “They have been so supportive. It’s nice to have that community partnership.” The library also partnered with physical therapists (All Access Physical Therapy) and nutritionists to bring healthy living more generally into the program.

To make the program as unintimidating as possible to those new to running, Caitlin identified a casual 5K that only costs $5, and The Friends of the Library paid registration fees for participants. The program was open to 30 participants, and to incentivize participation the library created a punch card: Come to at least 2/3 of the runs and you enter a raffle for prizes paid for by the Friends of the Library. With the running store, the library organized three group runs a week, with different library staff joining the groups on different days. The running store provided waivers of liability that all participants signed. The library also asked participants to sign waivers: They developed the form used based on resources gathered by Let’s Move in Libraries.

In the end, eight individuals completed the entire program. Caitlin was “very happy with that number since the program was such a huge commitment. The best thing (apart from now being able to now run, myself) was seeing the accomplishment of participants in the group. Everyone was so happy. It was one of the most positive programs I have been involved in.” One thing Caitlin did learn for next time was that the prizes don’t really matter: “Most of the participants didn’t care one way or the other if they got a prize. The real prize for them was succeeding in the program.” Whether or not the library organizes another Couch to 5K program, the Shrewsbury Public Library now has new community partners they can turn to for this or other health programs in the future.

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Lessons learned: Local partners enthusiastic to work with the library on programming.

Participants do not need incentives: The life change itself is reward enough!

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