PITTSFIELD — It's 8 a.m. on a mid-winter Sunday and a dozen novice runners have shuffled into the Berkshire Running Center for a lifestyle change. The nine women and three men of varying body shapes have enrolled in a six-week course — a couple are repeat students — to learn how running is a great way to get and stay in shape.
Owners Kent and Shiobbean Lemme introduced the program last winter to those looking for the fastest way to burn calories and increase physical activity.
The couple split the instruction, with Shiobbean working on time and distance on Sundays and Kent teaching technique Wednesday evenings. Except when lightning is imminent, the twice-a-week sessions are held in all kinds of weather. When lightning is imminent, the group runs inside a city parking garage.
"By the end of the six weeks, we'll have you in a pattern of running three times a week," Shiobbean told the attentive would-be runners on Day 1.
After a 10- to 15-minute primer on the basics — how to dress, the need to stretch and keep running between classes, Shiobbean led them out of the BRC's Summer Street location and — without warning — broke into a jog with her 12 disciples realizing they needed to keep up the pace. The group headed for The Common on First Street for a 20-minute run-walk workout on the inner macadam loop of the city park.
After the teacher gave her pupils some praise and encouragement, they returned to headquarters, the first lesson completed.
Several told an Eagle reporter they joined the running class to revive the active lifestyle they led years ago.
Hannah Delisle, of Pittsfield, grew up playing softball in eastern Massachusetts. But once she went to RPI in New York to study engineering, her studies consumed her time and put her exercise on the back burner. Now 27, married with a new house and job, DeLisle wants to give running a try.
"I was never a runner, I couldn't even run a mile," Delisle said. "I thought you were either built like a runner or you weren't."
Krisztina Kovol calls herself a "restarter" taking the class for the fourth time, mainly to stay motivated.
"I'm just lazy, I'll admit it," said the 44-year-old from Housatonic.
Growing up in Hungary, Kovol was always skinny, a physique she says has eluded her for 20 years with no one to blame but herself.
"Eating bad and no exercise will show," she said.
Motivational strength in numbers is why Jeff Doshier, 43, from Lenox, signed up. He is hoping to develop a sustainable exercise routine through running, after an on-again, off-again approach for the past decade. Last July 4, he and his family did the Independence Day race in Pittsfield, an accomplishment worth cherishing.
"As part of a group, you have accountability. And after running the 5K, we walked away pleased," he said.
The Lemmes emphasized that the class shouldn't be seen as a competition.
"Don't feel the need to keep up with someone or compare performance," Shiobbean said. "It's motivation, knowing others are waiting for you at 8 on Sunday and 5:30 on Wednesday."
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.