The Women’s 4-Miler Training Program

Denise Stewart entertains ladies in walking/running training, Summer 2008

The Women’s  4-Miler Training Program

A Woman and her race-training program go down memory lane:

Race day, 2003:  attending only as a spectator, I drove out to the Foxfield grounds and watched a good friend run the Women’s 4-miler.  Thought it was an incredible event.  My friend ran very quickly.  I was impressed and promised myself I would never stand on the sidelines again.  But, I was very out of shape.

Summer 2004:  had forgotten all about big promise when a friend invited me to do the Women’s 4-miler training program.  She told me just to show up at the UVA track with $15.  I showed up.  She patted the little seat on the bleachers.  She had actually recruited about 6 women to come.  I was impressed.  I wore two sports bras to contain “the girls”.  Good strategy except that I could barely breathe.  Bought a better bra and settled into running every Saturday, a longer distance every time.  I completed the weekly schedule for running and I did the reading.  I listened to the speakers there every Saturday, and I didn’t debate whether I would go every Saturday.  If I wasn’t out of town, I rolled my fine self out of bed and I went.

Race Day 2004:  Overdressed and got too hot, but I finished in 45 minutes or so.  I sprinted at the end.  Call me crazy.  The people waiting in the chutes asked, “Are you okay?”  We had to go to Lowe’s on the way home, and I was walking around that place with my red face thinking…I am the most athletic woman on the planet.

Summer 2005:  Signed up and did the training again.  I had lost 25 pounds over the past year.  Running was easier.  Loved the speakers, loved the music, the port-a-potties, the gifts, the energy, the reverence, the way I ran into people from all these different circles of my life.  Kept little gems of tips, like the one track coach who told us that she tells her runners to pretend like they are running with two small handfuls of potato chips, and that they can’t crush the chips.  It keeps you from clinching your fists while you run.  I still think of that.

Race Day 2005:  Had to go to a bachelorette party in Florida, so I did the early “race” that the training program holds for ladies who can’t be there for the real race.  I was so happy to get an official time, to have a payoff for all the training.

Summer 2006:  Got serious this summer about the running schedule, attending strength training classes and eating right.  Dropped 15 pounds over the course of the summer.  My third summer of participating in the training, and I still lived for the little things: the moment you know you’re in the home stretch, the prizes, when they call out and ask who is the youngest, who is the oldest, who just got married, who’s been married forever…

Race Day 2006:  My college roommate come down from Pennsylvania to run the race with me.  We rocked it although I wanted to die near the end.  We finished in under 37 minutes.  I felt bad to the bone.

Summer 2007:  Doing the training this summer I had revelation after revelation:   I do better with a cup of coffee before I run.  Breakfast has to be about an hour before or I get the acidy burps.  I do better with a schedule and regular running times.  I like sprinting at the end.  I like picking someone to pass and gradually overtaking them.  I don’t like almost throwing up.  I like running in the mornings with a group or by myself.  I don’t have any close friends that have suffered with breast cancer yet.  But, I am young.

Race Day 2007:  Running the last mile, the motivational mile, the mile that has been dedicated and decorated to honor survivors and victims of breast cancer is a powerful thing.  Seeing women of all ages and sizes and capability out there running is a good thing to witness.  There is nowhere else to be Labor Day weekend in Charlottesville.

Summer 2008:  Joan Esposito, head Pink and coordinator for the training program asked me to speak one Saturday at the training program.  I thought…she is crazy, but it turns out they enjoy my story and my sense of humor and my cartwheels.  I still did the training program and it kept me running all summer.

Race Day:  Put myself in a pace group that was too slow for me, and I spent a lot of time weaving and dodging and trying to pass people without tripping them or me.  Won’t do that again, but I had a wonderful time running the race.

Summer 2009:  Spoke again to the training group.  Party on.

Race Day:  Just went and watched this time.  It was my most meaningful athletic experience ever.  Ever.  Seeing so many women that I know running and walking and together was so cool.  Seeing so many fathers and children on the sidelines is powerful.  And I could drink as much coffee as I wanted and then wait for the port-a-potty after the race had started.

Summer 2010:  Volunteering for the first time to be a Pink Lady, which means I help train others for the summer.  Life is good.  Come join me.  All women look good in pink.

If you would like to participate in the Women’s 4-miler Training Program  as a participant or a volunteer, (starts on Saturday, June 19, 2010), please check out their website at  You can pre-register.

Denise Stewart is the owner of Wellness Charlottesville, LLC.  She is a wellness coach, a writer and an actress.

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