Bea Sides has been running for more than half her life, but joy is not the word she would use to describe the feeling that running evokes.
“It’s not so much joy, it’s a sense of accomplishment,” Sides says. “I know people who have finished their first ever event and end up crying, and I understand that emotion because it’s something that you didn’t think six months or a year ago that you could accomplish.”
The 67-year-old says her running journey began a little over 35 years ago when her father had a heart attack and was rushed to Omaha by helicopter air ambulance from the Columbus area.
“I had relatives staying with me so I couldn’t get up and do my aerobics inside the house. I started getting up and running, and that’s how my running got started,” Sides says. “I just fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since.”
Sides’ running has led her to compete in marathons and half marathons across the United States, from Nashville to Syracuse. She ran the Boston Marathon—twice.
Her most rewarding running experience isn’t a specific race, however. That honor goes to her involvement with establishing Step into Running, a group training program for women and girls through the Omaha Running Club.
“[Step into Running] was a way of teaching women or showing women the process of running and how to get into it if they were interested,” she says. “It was giving back to the community, and the community gave back to me through my running.”
Step into Running is an 11-week program that begins every spring. Participants meet every Tuesday for a session lasting 45 minutes to an hour.
Sides says she’s seen anywhere from 50 to 75 women and girls start the program, and roughly 20 to 30 percent have finished the program.
“We just want them to enjoy what they’re doing, and meeting other women has also been big,” she says. “There’s been some of the women who have met and started friendships within the Step into Running program, and some of them 15 years later are still friends.”
Sides says the sense of community Step into Running provides is one of the most important factors for both veteran runners and beginners.
“If you have somebody who’s going to be waiting for you, you’re more committed to going and doing something,” Sides says. “Having that other person makes you accountable.”
There are no qualifications to join the Step into Running program. There is a fee of $5 for current Omaha Running Club Members and a cost of $25 for non-members, which includes an Omaha Running Club membership.
The women who join the program are welcome to run in any event they wish to. There is also the Go Girl Run 5K every Labor Day.
“Go Girl Run is kind of the climax to the running program,” Sides says. “Any and all women and girls in Omaha can participate.”
Sides encourages women and girls of all ages to take up running, and she offers this advice to beginners, especially beginners over 60:
“I’d advise them to get a good pair of shoes; they don’t have to be expensive shoes, just good shoes. And to take it easy, find a training plan that works for them. The most important part is finding others that are interested in it as well. It’s the community that gets you out there and keeps you going.”
Visit omaharun.org/step-into-running for more information.
This article first appeared in the May 2019 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.