By Steve Guntli
A year ago, April Eaton couldn’t run very far without stopping to catch her breath. Karen Kean avoided jogging like an unpleasant chore. Now, the two Blaine women are completely addicted to running, and they credit it all to one woman.
Carol Frazey, a physical trainer and author, runs the Fit School walking and running program in Bellingham twice a week. The course focuses on positive thinking and encouragement to help people adopt healthier lifestyles.
“We drank Carol’s Kool-Aid,” Kean said. “Once you drink it, that’s it. You’re a runner.”
The two women met at a Fit School class and discovered that they lived 2 miles apart in Blaine; they have been running together ever since. Since joining the program, the two run at every opportunity. Between them they have run 5ks and a few half-marathons; Kean even participated in the grueling Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay in 2014. Their running adventures have taken them all over the country and into Canada. Eaton has lost more than 30 pounds since she started running, and both women have shaved more than two minutes off their mile time.
While Kean and Eaton are hooked now, they were indifferent to running when they first started.
“I ran a little bit in high school, but I really wasn’t into it,” Kean said. “I would run a mile and then I was done. Now I run half-marathons, and I never in my life thought I would do that.”
Kean runs with her teenage children to help them train for races and events.
Eaton ran for the first time 10 years ago, when she was 42. A long-time smoker who has had multiple surgeries on her ankles, she didn’t think she was physically capable of running more than a mile at a time.
“I found a flyer at Fairhaven Runners, and the women on there looked like me – they weren’t these 20-year-old gym rats,” she said. “So I pulled the trigger, took one class and it has just worked for me.”
Frazey has three simple rules that everyone in her class must obey. First, for every negative thing a runner says about herself, she must say three positive things out loud. This is intended to keep people from discouraging themselves. Second, runners can never compare themselves to anybody else.
“That was huge for me because I would get frustrated if I was constantly trying to keep up with Karen or trying to beat her time,” Eaton said. “It’s about working at my own pace.”
Frazey’s third rule: it’s your time. If a participant wants to walk the course to chat with friends, he or she can do so.
“The Fit School isn’t like working with a personal trainer or keeping to a rigorous schedule,” Kean said. “The important thing is to be out and moving.”
Kean and Eaton plan on running as often as possible. Kean is working on convincing Eaton, along with several other women they’ve met in their Fit School classes, to join in this year’s Ragnar Relay.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Eaton said of Frazey. “She caters to people of all ages, all socioeconomic backgrounds, race, religion, and she makes sure everyone gets what they need. Maybe she’s a witch.”
For more information, visit thefitschool.com.