When Jewel “Diane” Johnson, 62, of Little Rock, saw that the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was helping sponsor employees participating in the Little Rock Marathon 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon, she was simultaneously intrigued and nervous by the prospect of competing in the 5K.
“The idea of doing the Little Rock Marathon makes my hand shake,” said Johnson, foster parent trainer at UA Little Rock MidSouth. “I have done one 5K before, and I have been preparing myself for this. To say that I can do the Little Rock Marathon and finish it will be an accomplishment no matter how long it takes me to finish.”
After learning she had diabetes five years ago, Johnson dedicated herself to healthy eating and a fitness routine, but even she was surprised by how well she took to running in the past year.
“I never thought I wanted to run,” she said. “I used to just walk. Then I started running and I liked it. When I started, I only ran the edges of the lap at the gym. Now I can run miles without having to stop. That is the biggest accomplishment that I never thought I could do.”
To promote fitness and health among students and employees, UA Little Rock is helping to sponsor 98 Little Rock Marathon runners in the 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon categories. They’ll be wearing new maroon UA Little Rock t-shirts.
Johnson participated in her first 5K last year and completed the 2017 Women’s Run in Conway in 38 minutes.
“You ran through a neighborhood, and people were sitting in their front yards playing music and cheering you on,” Johnson said. “The people were very supportive and encouraging. I have never seen anything like it.”
To prepare for the Little Rock Marathon, Johnson arrives at the UA Little Rock Fitness Center at 5:45 a.m. and completes four miles five days a week in addition to doing strength training exercises in the evenings.
“I would tell people that it’s fun to run and train,” she said. “They might think it’s not fun at first, but it is. If people are like me and afraid to run, I would tell them, ‘You just have to take the first step. It’s not as bad as you think.’”
If Johnson does well enough this year, she plans to move up to the 10K or possibly even the half marathon in 2019.