John Mascolo knew he wanted to run a marathon before he turned 50.
At age 49, he’s cutting it close.
“I’m ready,” he said this month as he assembled with other Marathon 101 participants at Hardesty Park in Akron.
He was entering the waning days of an 18-week training program the Akron Area YMCA and the Akron Marathon operate, specifically designed to help new marathoners get ready for Saturday’s 11th annual event.
“We market it to someone who is trying to get the marathon off their bucket list,” said Kirsten Beverley, who coaches Marathon 101 with Rick Corney.
Last year, the program was offered at each individual YMCA, but scattered participation resulted in low turnout on training days.
And because part of the benefit of running with a group is mutual encouragement and camaraderie, Beverley and Corney this year pooled all the Y branches into a single program.
There were 42 people — from college students to retirees — who signed up in anticipation of running the half or full marathon.
Training kicked off Memorial Day weekend and started with a 3-mile run. Some participants had to walk part of the way, Beverley recalled.
In addition to meeting up to four times a week, the group attended three lectures the Summa Center for Sports Health offered on topics ranging from sports injuries to nutrition to race-week preparation.
The program has lost only about four people to the intense workout, Corney said.
Bertha Jenkins said she learned about the program after she won her age group at a local 5K race and was given a free membership to the Lake Anna YMCA in Barberton.
“That’s where I heard about Marathon 101, and I said, ‘I think I’m gonna do that,’ ” said Jenkins, who completed the half marathon last year and wants to tackle the entire 26.2-mile course through downtown Akron this year.
Rick Morris, 53, of Akron, originally registered for the half marathon this year. He hasn’t run a full course in 15 years. Two weeks ago, however, after spending his summer with Marathon 101, he changed his registration to the full marathon.
Last year, when he trained for the half, he found it a lonely, uninspirational chore.
“This year, I thought maybe I could run faster if I trained with other people. You have to have someone else to push you,” he said. “On your own, you can stop or goof off or miss days. But you know these guys are going to be there four days a week. It helps.”
“There are wonderful things about training regimens that you can read on paper, but when you’re doing something this big, it’s better to have professionals out there with you, holding us back or pushing us when we need it,” he said.
Beverley and Corney both work part time for the YMCA, but other jobs pay the bills. Beverley is a training coach and seminar speaker under the business name KB Endurance; Corney is a design engineer with GOJO Industries.
Marathon 101 gives them an opportunity to share their love of running.
They also like that the program has attracted some more experienced runners, like Morris, who mostly want the company and encouragement.
“The newbies ask questions, and the [experienced runners] feed off their inspiration and excitement. It’s a trade-off,” Corney said.
Marathon 101 was offered this year at a cost of $40 for YMCA members and $80 for nonmembers. Those interested in next year’s program should inquire at their local YMCA starting in April.
The lectures offered by Summa Center for Sports Health were part of a free Runner’s Institute offered to the public. Look for the summer schedule next year on the Akron Marathon website, www.akronmarathon.org.