By Jim Sullivan
---- — Some people will run if it helps others, and 85 new local runners did just that in the first annual Flag Day 5K last June. Newburyport’s Sue Hines wants to bring in some more with the race’s Couch 2-5K program.
“I just love the people,” Hines says of her couchers. “It’s unconditional. You go there, you run, you do what you need to do. It’s people helping people. If you have a group of people helping you with something, you’re going to do it.”
Hines is the mother of 1st Lt. Derek Hines, who gave his life serving his country in Afghanistan in 2005. The 5K itself benefits the 1st Lieutenant Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund, which supports Massachusetts soldiers who have suffered serious or life-altering injuries while on active duty as well as their families.
Last year’s 5K raised $50,000 for the fund and saw 1,200 runners. This year, organizers hope to see 2,000 running the scenic, flat course that starts at the North End Boat Club and works its way through Newburyport and back again.
“It’s definitely one of those things that you actually work a little harder on,” says Adam Benoit of FMP Productions, which is managing the event. “I just agree with everything the fund does. They give as much back as possible.”
“I don’t even think I could take it all in,” Hines says of the first Flag Day 5K. “I’m just so amazed by the people. It’s all about love. It’s about families and the love is truly amazing.”
But not everyone is an avid runner like Hines, so she and her friend, Nancy McCarthy of Natural High Fitness started the Couch 2-5K program last April and both were surprised by the turnout.
“I couldn’t believe we had 85 people last year,” said Hines. “It was just great. One woman’s in her 50s, another woman might be in her 60s, another is in her 40s. They still are running (too). They run three times a week.”
One of those people was Newbury’s Kim Pugh, a friend of Hines who, 53 at the time, had never run a day in her life.
“I could not run,” admits Pugh. “I was not a runner. I mean, I was exercising and I could go to classes and all that stuff, but running is totally different to me.”
But Pugh and her friends began meeting at Fuller Field three times a week and before they knew it, they were headed for a 5K.
“We talked about that runner’s high, but I still haven’t experienced it,” says Pugh, laughing. “It’s going to come, I really think so. But it was hard. It was hard to do a 5K. When you don’t run, you have to learn how to do it. It’s a gradual process. We started in April and by June, we ran the race and in the process we met a bunch of really nice (people).”
Since the Flag Day 5K, Pugh has gone on to run three times a week herself and has begun to haunt other races as well.
“It was a great thing to do for Derek,” Pugh says of the Flag Day 5K. “And for the soldiers. From there we did the Yankee Homecoming and the Tufts 10K, then we did the Frigid Five, so we’ve done a whole bunch of races.”
For those who aren’t currently running three times a week and might want to give it a shot for a good cause, this year’s Couch 2-5K will begin at Fuller Field on April 6 from 6 to 6:30 p.m.
“The cause is such a good cause,” says Pugh. “It’s for everybody.”