COVINGTON – The Covington YMCA has three run training programs underway aimed at preparing runners for the 18th annual Covington YMCA Cheerios Challenge on April 20. Each training program is led by an experienced coach and geared to serve runners of different ages or levels of experience.

“Our goal in these programs is to make what seems ‘impossible’ possible,” said Kacie Brown, YMCA membership director. “Many have the desire to run one of the Cheerios Challenge races but struggle to stay disciplined through training when going it alone. A group of people training together under leadership that provides guidance and encouragement makes the goal much more achievable.”

Eddie Barrett, teacher and coach for Social Circle City Schools, leads the 1 Mile/5K Training for Kids that includes runners ranging in age from 5 to 10 years old. He said, “I want them to be confident at the starting line and prepared to do their best.” Much of this group’s time is spent learning the fundamentals of running. Sessions typically include a dynamic warm-up, running, and then static stretching with lots of encouragement sprinkled in.

Couch to 5K Training is led by Russell Towns, Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center camp manager and a certified run coach. His two goals are to prepare members to start and finish the Cheerios Challenge 5K race and to give them a foundation for continued exercise. “Russell is extremely encouraging and fantastic with new runners,” said Brown. “He leads with a smile and a gentle spirit, never intimidating or harsh.”

“I like the training program, it makes it easier for everyone,” said group member Liz Simpson. “I was a swimmer and hated running, but it’s growing on me.” She is training for the Cheerios Challenge as well as for a race at Disney World early next year and particularly likes running on Covington’s multi-use trails. She said, “I love trails and would like to see more.”

The third group includes experienced runners preparing for the 10K and 15K races. Katie Smith, certified personal trainer and certified run coach, leads this group. “Katie excels in running and has great knowledge on how to succeed,” said Brown. “She has a special way of getting her runners, classes and clients to believe that their goals are possible and that the journey can be fun.”

The Covington YMCA Cheerios Challenge is not just a goal and set of races for the approximately 2,000 runners and walkers who will participate April 20. It is also a fund raiser with huge community impact. “All proceeds from this event go to the YMCA’s Why It Matters program which allows us to offer financial assistance to children and families in our community who otherwise could not afford YMCA programs,” said Brown.

This is the fourth in a series of stories about how local citizens use and appreciate Newton County’s recreational trails. If you know a regular trail user or someone with a good “trail story,” please drop Newton Trails a line at


• Eddie Barrett instructs the Covington YMCA 1 Mile/5K Training for Kids. (Photo by Duane Ford)

• Covington YMCA Couch to 5K Training is led by Russell Towns (third from left). (Photo by Duane Ford)

• Covington YMCA Couch to 5K Training members workout on the Cricket Frog Trail. (Photo by Duane Ford)

• Covington YMCA 10K/15K Training is led by Katie Smith (third from left). (Photo by Duane Ford)

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