This is Carolina: Ages 12 to 112 make ‘First Strides’ a success

This Is Carolina: First Strides

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - One Grand Strand woman is bringing her love of moving to everyone who will drive to the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex to live happier, healthier lives.

Like many people from up north, Jane Serues migrated down to the Grand Strand permanently. Serues is part of the first group of women who were invited to the 1984 Olympic trials to run in the first women’s Olympic marathon.

She created First Strides, a 12-week program to help women improve their walking, jogging and running abilities.

Becky Stowe, who is 77 years old, said she saw an article about the program and knew it was the right fit for her.

“I saw the article in the North Myrtle Beach Times. I thought this is for me because it said no experience, any age from 12-112, so I thought ‘Oh, I’m in that group!’ So I signed up and am having the best time of my life,” Stowe said with a laugh.

The program’s website says that participants can go “At a pace that’s right for you.” Their weekly meet-up starts with a quick topic discussion on health, stretching, a warm-up and then a run.

“The first week the talk was maybe 50. And all of a sudden there were more and more and more. They said they had almost 150 women that had signed up for this and I thought ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive,'” participant Judy McAndrew said.

Each week you may see some women dressed as their group name, or in a theme or even singing a song. The Panthers, Cheetahs and Gazelles are among the group names.

“I am a mentor. I’ve been running since 2012. It’s just super fun to get the chance to be with the folks getting off the couch and enjoying that friendship," running mentor Patricia Redovian said.

Serues knows from experience the friendships exercise can form. She said she’s been a runner for 44 years, and she started the First Strides program based off a similar program in Pennsylvania she was a part of.

“It seems like several women have mentioned that they lost their husbands in the last four months or last two years and they’ve been sitting at home and not knowing what to do, and this was something a friend mentioned to them. So they came and by being active it gives you control over something when you feel like you’re out of control,” Serues said.

She also knows the health benefits are more than meets the eye.

“My story’s a little more unique. I had breast cancer and a double mastectomy, and I hadn’t been able to get back to walking, forget about running, but walking. It seemed like it was time to try it and I thought what’s the worst that could happen? So here I am. I noticed probably after the third week I wasn’t having any more trouble with my balance and I did notice that I was holding myself back and I wanted to run,” participant Mary Huffman said. “Anybody that is out there that hasn’t walked can join a group like this, you don’t have to be a runner, it’s just good to get out. I know there’s a lot of people out there that might hesitate because of the runners but don’t be."

First Strides is a judgment-free zone where women can have fun together, exactly the way Serues hoped it would be.

“I did have the opportunity to run in the women’s Olympic U.S. trials in 1984. The first time they had the distance of the marathon in the Olympics," she explained.

She said sports weren’t much for her as a child since it was before Title IX. Serues described the Olympic trials as 'fabulous,’ and said she finished in the top 100 runners with a personal best time.

Serues, Huffman, Stowe and McAndrew hope more women will join them for First Strides, which they hope to continue at the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex in the late winter.

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