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Fuzz Run foresight: Now is the time to train for annual 5K race

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Above, Kristi Greco takes her Thursday lunch hour to get in her daily jog. Greco has participated in the Covington Police Department Fuzz Run since 2002. Greco follows recommendations by fitness experts by stretching before her run. She said she enjoys running because it relieves stress, gives her an excuse to be outdoors and allows her to eat more and not worry about her weight.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Above, Kristi Greco takes her Thursday lunch hour to get in her daily jog. Greco has participated in the Covington Police Department Fuzz Run since 2002. Greco follows recommendations by fitness experts by stretching before her run. She said she enjoys running because it relieves stress, gives her an excuse to be outdoors and allows her to eat more and not worry about her weight.

COVINGTON -- Kristi Greco gets her exercise and stress relief by running. She pounds the pavement five days a week, 3 to 5 miles a day, year-round.

So when the Covington Police Department's annual Fuzz Run comes around in September, Greco is ready to run. She's missed just one race in the past 10 years.

"It's a local race that benefits (the Police Who Care Fund). I like to run races that benefit things, charity races. I like it because every year it's growing and growing and it's nice to run a good, flat course," she said.

While not everyone may be the dedicated runner that Greco is, completing this year's Fuzz Run is still an attainable goal. Scheduled for Sept. 10, the 5K is 11 weeks away, plenty of time for couch potatoes to get in shape.

Those who don't feel up to a 5K need not worry: The Fuzz Run also offers a 1-mile fun run. And it's always fine to walk either event, said Officer Chip Shirah, organizer of this year's event.

"We have more walkers than people who run it," he said. "There are more people out there with strollers -- we need a stroller division. They're just out pushing babies around, talking, doing a 5K to support the Fuzz Run."

For those who do want to give running a 5K a try, now's the time to get moving. The American Council on Exercise recommends starting a training regimen with a walking program and building up to running. A five-week training program is usually sufficient to prepare for a 5K. Here are a few other tips courtesy of the Council on Exercise:

* Start out with a simple program that allows you to succeed and advance goals only when you feel comfortable. Do not push your limits.

* Have a complete medical examination before beginning.

* Begin with a walk/run program four times per week for 20 to 25 minutes. Vary training by alternating every other day with 20 to 30 minutes of an aerobic cross-training activity to build cardiovascular fitness.

* Select a starting distance you are comfortable with, about 1 to 1.5 miles. Increase distance and duration by 10 to 15 percent each week. For example, if the duration is 25 minutes the first week increase that to 28 minutes the second week.

* Vary your runs to break the monotony. Choose one or two days a week to run your distance and use the remaining days to focus on shorter, harder runs or interval-type sessions.

* Have proper running shoes that suit your individual needs. The best running surface is a rubber track or dirt or silt along the roadside. Asphalt is better than concrete.

* Consume a light carbohydrate snack one to one and a half hours before runs and adequately hydrate. Drink at least 16 ounces of fluid two to three hours before the run. Drink 7 to 10 ounces every 15 minutes during the run. Eat a light carbohydrate and protein snack soon after the run. Monitor hydration by weighing yourself before and after the run, making sure to drink enough fluids to replace weight lost.

* Take one to two days off per week to let your body recover.

* If you are not familiar with the race course, check it out during a training run.

* On race day, do not run faster than your training pace.

Shirah said last year's Fuzz Run drew more than 2,200 participants, and organizers are getting the word out early to try and get an even better showing on this, the 28th year.

"Ninety percent of the runners are from Covington and some only do one race a year. Some race all year. There's lots of first-timers, too, and those who keep coming back," Shirah said.

Those who participated last year will receive an application in the mail. Others can register by going to www.active.com or www.covingtonpolice.com. Applications can also be picked up at the Covington Police Department, located at 1143 Oak St.

Registration is $18 through Aug. 31 and $20 afterward, through Sept. 7, the registration deadline. The 1-mile run will begin at 8 a.m. at the Conyers Street Gym, with the 5K following at 8:30 a.m.

Shirah is pushing for more participation from area schools and businesses this year, noting that the local business with the most participants will receive the Cotton Cup, an award named in honor of Police Chief Stacey Cotton.

In addition to runners, the Police Department is seeking sponsors, door prize donations and vendors for a health fair to take place the Friday prior to the race and a business expo on race day. For more information, email chip.shirah@covingtonpolice.com.

Proceeds from the activities benefit the Police Who Care Fund, an idea that initiated with retired officer Frank Hilton. The fund is intended to support officers injured in the line of duty.

"That's where it started. It's never been used for that (locally)," Shirah said, noting that instead the money has gone to local officers and their family members with medical expenses due to illness, families of officers killed in the line duty throughout the state and various local non-profit organizations. Shirah said the majority of funds stay in Newton County.