After a car accident and a divorce, Michael Meighan decided to start paying closer attention to his health. He signed up for his first 5K, the Lambert Dillard Memorial 5K hosted by the North Rutherford Family YMCA, after being invited by a coworker.

Training for the race was a challenge, but he had already been integrating light running into his workout routine. He set a new running goal and started pushing himself. “Eventually, I worked my way up to running at least 3 miles two or three times a week,” he says. “At the time, that was huge for me.”

Michael also completed the YMCA Frostbite 5K.

On race day, Michael was a little apprehensive—until he arrived and saw the community he was running with. “My insecurities about the race quickly disappeared,” he says. “Seeing so many people of all shapes and sizes at the event working toward a common goal—but all for personal reasons—just reinforced my enthusiasm.”

Crossing that finish line gave Michael “an amazing feeling of accomplishment.” He thought the race was going to be really tough, but conquering his first 5K just made him want to do more. “The race went very well. My finish time was better than I thought it was going to be. It gave me the confidence to set a new time goal for myself for the next 5K.” And, at that next 5K, he beat his personal record.

While his physical health has improved drastically since setting those first goals—he’s lost 35 pounds and is in “the best shape of [his life] since high school”—Michael encourages runners to take on a race to also improve their mental health. “There are so many benefits to just putting on your headphones and hitting the pavement,” he says. “It’s about the sense of accomplishment. Achieving something you’ve worked toward is an amazing feeling.”

Join Michael and others in our Y community for the VIRTUAL Lambert Dillard Memorial 5K/10K on September 18-20, 2020. Complete the race at any time through the weekend and submit your race results online to see how you compare to other runners! The first 75 registrants will receive an exclusive Lambert Dillard Memorial 5K/10K medal, and all runners will receive a race T-shirt. Learn more here.