Friendship at the Heart of Lansing Woman’s 5K Journey

A small notice in the newspaper changed Sally Purdy’s life.

In 2010, she noticed an ad for a Couch-to-5K program put on by Playmakers. With only one of four kids still in high school, Purdy decided it was time for her to do something for herself.

Despite running track in college, Purdy never thought of herself as a great runner because she often finished last.

“I never thought of myself as an athlete,” she said.

Purdy always maintained an active lifestyle and encouraged her kids to do the same, but those first 30 seconds of running with the group and she and her fellow trainees “thought we were going to die.” Still, she liked the run a little, walk a lot training method used in the program. By the end of ten weeks, she ran the Jingle Belle 5K along with the other women she’d been training with.

“We fell into each other’s arms and our husband’s arms,” she said. “It was so emotional.”

Sally Purdy with some of her running friends. She is seated third from the right in a pink tank top.
Sally Purdy with some of her running friends. She is seated front row, third from the right in a pink tank top.

Purdy said many of the women in her group lost weight over the course of training and even more had improved energy levels, muscle tone and other positive physical changes. Purdy didn’t have a lot of weight to lose but she did drop down a few sizes. Regular running also inspired her to think a bit more carefully about what she eats.

“It prompts a healthier lifestyle,” Purdy said.

Since that first season, Purdy has gone on to do many more 5K races and even conquered the Lansing half-marathon, her longest race. One of the best aspects for her centers around the friendships she’s made running. Logging miles leads to great conversations, laughs and a “second teenagehood” with women she holds dear. They also make sure she makes it to her early morning runs.

Purdy has spread the healthy vibes, establishing a walking club at a public housing unit in Haslett. She’d seen what running had done for her friends and wanted to help residents she worked with as a social worker get healthy.

“Exercise begets exercise. Health begets health,” Purdy explained. “You can become an example for people you work with, your friends, and neighbors.”

When asked if she would encourage other women to start on a similar Couch-to-5K program, her answer is an emphatic yes.

“Your life will feel more fulfilled,” she said. “I just feel personally blessed that I opened up that paper.”

Purdy and her Playmakers teammates will take to the starting line of the Capital City River Run on Sunday, Sept. 20 as the culminating event for the latest session of the program.

Coach Debbie Richards said Playmakers started running co-ed Couch-to-5K programs in 2000. The program morphed into a women’s-only 5K training team after 2009. A men’s team was added this year with about 20 participants. Richards runs four sessions of the program per year with 150-200 women per session.

The next session for both the men’s and women’s 5K training groups kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 4. Women start at 6 p.m. and men start at 7 p.m.

“Our philosophy is to help people move, move with good form and move often,” Richards said. “Safety is very important. We want you to choose if you want to walk, or walk to run, or run. We have options for you to move.”

Considering a 5K? There’s no better time to train than the fall. Get off your couch today!

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Photos courtesy of Sally Purdy

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