Lesly Melendez has something in common with Feaster Five race director Dave McGillivray.
She has an understanding, albeit on a smaller scale, of running a road race.
“They’re a lot of work,” she said.
For three years, Melendez, who works for Groundwork Lawrence, which helps restore distressed neighborhoods with environmental projects, has directed the Greenworks 5K.
Proceeds of the race are used to promote fitness, health and open spaces in the city. A great venture.
There was one problem. Unlike McGillivray, an avid runner, Melendez, 45, had never actually run a road race. One reason was mental, she didn’t think she could do it. Another was physical, due to her weight and stamina.
Enter friends Heather McCann and Kevin McCarthy, both Merrimack Valley Striders.
They told her about the Feaster Five’s five-year-old “Walk to 5K Program,” which is for those who have never run a race. It helps them work their way up from walking to jogging to running.
It’s eight weeks in all, meeting every Sunday morning at the starting line of the Feaster Five.
“I had decided to make some changes in my life and health was one of them,” said Melendez, of Lawrence. “It’s crazy. Here I am organizing a road race and everything that goes with it, like health, and I’m not taking care of myself.”
Despite the wind and cold, she braved the 5K race and finished at 59:33, which included walking, jogging and running.
She was emotional soon after crossing the finish line, raising her hands in the air as if she scored a touchdown.
“I’m so proud of myself because I never pictured myself doing something like this,” she said. “I didn’t think I could do it. This is just the beginning. I have a lot more I want to do. I want get in better shape.”
Melendez, who has a 17-year-old daughter, Dakota, at Lawrence High, says diabetes and hypertension are in her family’s medical history.
“I haven’t had those problems … yet,” she said. “I needed to take better care of myself. This is the beginning.”
Where does it go from here for Melendez?
“Honestly, I dream of doing a half-marathon,” she said. “I still have a long way to go, but that’s my dream. I also plan on joining the (Merrimack Valley) Striders to get more coaching and support.”