Couch to 10 Miles: The Most Inspiring New Runners

I am so excited to introduce two runners to you. This father and daughter duo went from couch to 10 miles in 18 weeks. Their story is so tremendously inspiring. It was such a pleasure to help them along in their journey back to health.

Kelsi and Brian were looking for change

Brian and Kelsi have a very close and loving father and daughter relationship. Brian is 53 years old and Kelsi is 26. They were both overweight and had health issues. Brian had type 2 diabetes and severe sleep apnea. They were tired of dealing with the challenges of being overweight, including sore backs, sore knees, no energy and just a general feeling of unhealthiness. They were looking for a change and wanted a healthier lifestyle.

Together they took up cross country skiing back in December 2017. They enjoyed it tremendously, but when the snow was gone, so was their exercise plan. They searched for something to do in the summer months.

A night ski

They decided to try running

Running seemed like a good choice. It was inexpensive. All you really needed was a good pair of running shoes. You could just go out your front door and run. They downloaded a couch-to-5K app on their phone and went for it.

For June and July, they progressed slowly through the weeks of training according to the app. They became stuck on the third week of the training app program. Repeating that week over and over, their motivation dwindled. They were sore, not knowing if the soreness was a sign of a problem or not. They were usually winded, struggling to catch their breath. Was this all a problem or not? Should they rest more? Should they push harder?

Training on their own just wasn’t working

They stopped running in August 2018. They gave up on the training app. It wasn’t holding their motivation and they were unsure of what they were doing. They had no clue on what to wear, how hard to push or when to back off and rest.

Then they learned about a local run training group

Then a good friend and work colleague told Brian about a local training group. This group of very knowledgeable and experienced volunteer runners would teach new runners to run in a 10 mile race. It sounded promising. But could they commit to it?

Before the race, posing with the friend that signed them up for training.

The training group started again in January

The Fresh Air 10 Mile Training Group, now lead by Marilee and Cheryl, was established in 2004 by coach Sandy. The beginner program starts with a 5 km run at intervals of running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute. It slowly builds over 18 weeks to have people running in Thunder Bay’s Fire Fighters 10 Mile Road Race. This year was the 86th running of Canada’s oldest 10 mile road race.

A friend of theirs ran the 10 mile race last year. Maybe they could run 5 km, they thought. But, Brian and Kelsi highly doubted they could run 10 miles. That was very far. They hadn’t even made it to 3 miles yet. They were stuck on week 3 of the previous training app.

Kelsi’s mom told her to just try it

But then Kelsi’s mother told them to at least try. And their friend, before Brian could change his mind, signed them up for the local training group.

” What do you mean we are signed up? No way! Are you serious? ” – Kelsi –

The program has expanded over the years

There were 4 coaches for the beginner running program headed by Cheryl. Lori, Karen and myself all worked together to help the new runners along in the program.

There were other running groups at all different levels, including 10:1 interval groups and straight running groups. I had taken the program for 3 years before as a runner. The program originally started with 11 runners and 4 trainers, but has grown to over 200 runners and 17 trainers.

Volunteering as a coach in the program was a rewarding experience

This was my first year as a volunteer coach in this program. I had coached in other programs. However, this 10 mile training program is so full of other energetic, encouraging, experienced and wonderful trainers. I could go on and on about how wonderful these people are, but I think you get the picture. It was an honor to be apart of it this year. I learned just as much as a fellow trainer as I did when I was a trainee.

It was fantastic and rewarding experience for me also because I met new runners, like Brian and Kelsi. The beginner runners inspired me each and every week to push myself. Each week, they went beyond what they had ever done before. It reminded me to do the same.

Brian and Kelsi showed up on that very cold January day to start running

The training started on a very cold and miserable day in January 2019. Few runners came out to brave the cold that day. But Brian and Kelsi did.

” If my dad was going to do it, I was going to do it. We encouraged each other. ” – Kelsi –

They were given a training schedule to follow. The long runs were to be completed on Saturday with the group, but the shorter runs were done on the runners’ own time. Brian and Kelsi did every single run as prescribed. They didn’t let the cold, wind, snow or rain deter them. They put in the work and showed up every Saturday to run with the group.

Brian and Kelsi on a Saturday group training run.

They looked forward to the Saturday group runs

In fact, they looked forward to each Saturday. They found the group runs were so encouraging. It gave them the knowledge and mental strength to keep going.

They learned what to wear. They learned how important the right shoes were. The leaders talked to them about muscle soreness, when to rest and when to push. How to run up hills and run in snow. How to properly recover from long runs. What to eat before a run. How to prevent chaffing and blisters. Kelsi and Brian learned so much during the 18 weeks.

” If the Fresh Air 10 Mile Training Program didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be running! ” – Kelsi & Brian –

They love the spirit of the running community

Brian and Kelsi’s favorite part of the training program was the spirit of the community. They felt completely welcomed and accepted as runners. No one doubted that they could run 10 miles, except Brian and Kelsi themselves. And if the other runners and trainers thought they could do it, maybe they could?

Kelsi and Brian were always smiling on their runs.

Brian and Kelsi did all the training runs

The weeks went by and Brian and Kelsi ran and trained. Progressing from 3:1 intervals to 5:1, 7:1 and eventually 10:1 intervals, they ran 3 miles, 4 miles, 6 miles and 8 miles.

They ran the practice run in 2 hours and 28 minutes. They successfully went from couch to 10 miles! Amazed that they just ran 10 miles, they wondered if they could improve on that time at the race?

Before they knew it, it was RACE DAY!

Monday, May 20, 2019 was race day. Brian and Kelsi were very nervous. This was it. This is what they were training for.

They decided to try to keep up with the 2:05 pace bunny. They were able to keep up until almost half way, but the hill at the overpass was tough.

Kelsi ended up getting a cramp in her shoulder and side, so they slowed their pace a little. Brian kept with her the whole way.

Running with the 2:05 pace bunny

They ran and interacted with the spectators. The community support was wonderful. People lined the streets clapping and shouting words of encouragement. They laughed and joked with some of the spectators and race crew volunteers.

Kelsi and Brian completed their first race of 10 miles

Brian and Kelsi crossed the finish line of their very first race, a 10 mile race, in a time of 2 hours and 13 minutes. Amazing!

Crossing the finish line

” It was surreal. We did that! We ran 10 miles. ” – Kelsi –

They are going to keep running

Kelsi and Brian have no intentions of stopping. They plan to join the Thunder Bay Metre Eaters Running Club and train for their first half marathon in August 2019. They are enjoying this new athletic life.

Their health improved

Both Brian and Kelsi have lost over 50 pounds each. They are eating healthy foods and are now very active. Brian’s diabetes is now well controlled and his sleep apnea has improved tremendously. His knee bothered him before he started running, but it hasn’t hurt since he has been running. Brian attributes this to his new found leg strength.

Kelsi noticed she didn’t get any of the colds and flus going around this year like she normally does. Her immune system is much stronger.

Brian and Kelsi with finisher medals after the race.

Anyone can do this too

Brian and Kelsi want everyone to know that they can do this too. If you do the work, anyone can run 10 miles.

” If we can do it, anyone can! It takes a shift in mindset to overcome fears and biases. We need to overcome the negative voice inside that says we can’t. Because we can!” – Brian –

Brian adds that there will be bad days, sore days and slow days. You have to keep going and push through it. Your body will adjust. It takes time, but it will. You have to make it a priority.

” You have to bring it to the top of your to-do list. Otherwise you won’t get there. ” – Brian –

Running for the enjoyment of running

A 3 mile run is their easy run now. Kelsi says she now enjoys the quiet of a run after a stressful day at work. She can switch everything off and just go run.

They are both looking forward to taking it to the next level.

” It was about doing it. Now it is about doing it better ” – Kelsi and Brian –

It was a pleasure to run with Kelsi and Brian and share their journey to 10 miles. Pink Ribbon Runner wishes them all the best in training for their first half marathon.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on how Kelsi and Brian are doing. I will be posting pictures of them crossing the finish line of the Kakabeka Falls Legion Half Marathon in August. As I absolutely know they can do it.

Brian and Kelsi have the right stuff!


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  1. This is awesome! I hate running, but it’s such a good exercise that requires little equipment. I’ve never looked into a running group, but this sounds like a great way to get motivated!

    1. Social running can be a great motivator. Runners can be such a fantastic source of support. I love my running buddies. They have gotten me through some tough times. And who doesn’t want to be around positive people on their “runner’s high”.

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