OKEECHOBEE — Often we feel as if we are so badly out of shape that there is no hope for us, and we might as well not even try, but Denise Sikorski tells her real life “couch to 5K story,” and it is enough to make just about anyone think, “If she can do it, I can do it!”
For many years, Mrs. Sikorski was a good 90 pounds overweight, she said, and she tried every diet you could imagine, but nothing seemed to work. She found it difficult to stick with them too. She just didn’t know what to do to lose the weight. She didn’t have a plan, and one day she saw something posted online where some ladies were walking. They had FitBits, and walked 10,000 steps a day. She thought, “10,000! That’s a lot of steps!”
She asked her husband to buy her a FitBit, and he did, and he said, “Good luck with this, but you know, you’ll have to stick with it.” Because she never did before, she explained. It did work though, she said, because she realized she was tracking what she was doing, and she knew if she could burn more calories than she took in, then something had to happen. In the first week, she lost 10 pounds, and she was hooked!
She remembers her first day walking, and her husband went out with her. He told her he would walk with her, and she only made it three mailboxes down the road and had to turn around and go back. Every day, she tried to go just a little bit further, she said. She talked anyone she could into walking with her — her husband, her kids, anyone. Each day, she would say, “I made it to this house or I made it to that house.”
She started walking around August or September, and then one day in October or November, her friend Kayla came to her and asked her to do the Open Hands Health Care Center’s 5K with her. She remembers thinking “A 5K sounds really far. Three miles, how am I going to go that far?” But she signed up, and went anyway, and she was very nervous. She just never thought she could make it that far, she said.
She got her bib, and she was so excited to have a bib number and actually be in something like that with a group of people. So, she and her friend walked it, and they finished it. They were towards the end, but they finished, and she remembers being so proud. One of the best memories was of Nicole Talley, the founder of Open Hands Health Care Center, standing on one of the corners as they were coming around, and she was holding a sign that read, “Courage enough to start, determination enough to finish.” She thought that was the coolest sign, she said. It gave her a big push to keep going and finish it up. So, they finished it, and she was so proud. She went home, and she cried, and that made her husband cry, because they were both so proud that she walked three whole miles.
She knew at that point, there was no stopping. She got up to that 10,000 step goal, and then she got up to 20,000 steps, and then she began reading up on running. At that point, her new goal became running a 5K. She started talking to people who had trained and asking how they did it, because when she first started, she started out sprinting and would wear herself out. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t run. She couldn’t breathe and was too tired. Finally people started advising her to slow down and make sure she could breathe, and when she did that, she would run a little and walk a little and run a little and walk a little. Then she met her friend Lynn, and Lynn invited her to run with her. They ran six miles that day. They just went very slow and talked and could breathe the whole time. From then on, she was hooked. She knew, if she could run that far, one day she was going to run 13. They signed up for their first half marathon the following February and she hasn’t stopped running since.
“It’s a lot of fun to push yourself,” she said. “There was a time in my life when I could only walk three mailboxes, and I never thought I would ever run anywhere again.”
Mrs. Sikorski is not the only unlikely person to participate in an Open Hands 5K. Over the years, several people have completed the race who most would have said could not possibly do it. Tyna Futch walked the entire 5K while pulling her grandson in a wagon only weeks after coming out of a coma. Christy Silvas pushed her mother-in-law, Celestina, who was 89 years old at the time, and another woman completed it not long after surgery. If it is something you want to do, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. The race is family friendly. They don’t discriminate, you can walk, ride, run or roll.
Mrs. Talley approached Mrs. Sikorski about helping with this year’s Open Hand’s 5K. She has participated in them every year, and Mrs. Talley asked her for a runner’s point of view on the planning committee, so she went to the meeting, and there were so many nice people there, she said. Their heart is in the right place with wanting to help the community and help people get the health care they need if they don’t have insurance. She was just in awe of them, she said. They will also be doing a food drive again this year, and for every item of food donated, you will receive a raffle ticket, she said. There will be some great raffle items donated by local businesses.
A food drive is really good, she said. “We shouldn’t have people worried about how they are going to feed their families in the community. If we can give, then we need to do it. We need to give back, give food, raise the money. We need to be there for our neighbors. That’s how I feel about it. I think Open Hands is doing good things,” she said.
If you pre-register by Oct. 17, you get a free race t-shirt, and the cost is $25. If you wait and register at the race, the cost is $30. You can pre-register on the Facebook page “Open Hands Health Center Finger Lickin 5K Kickin.” The Facebook page even offers a 10-week plan to run 5K for beginners.
If you do not have access to a computer, you can register at the clinic which is located at 309 Northwest Fifth Street. The phone number is 863-357-1257. The race will be held at Oakview Baptist Church which is located at 677 Southwest 32nd Street. The 5K is scheduled for Nov. 9. Registration begins at 7 a.m., and the race begins at 8 a.m.