When Blythe Fawcett of Baldwinsville walked into her first session of the Y Running Program at the North Area Family YMCA in October, she had never run more than five minutes straight in her life.
Last month, she completed her first half marathon - 13.1 miles - at Walt Disney World in Florida.
"It really opened my eyes to something remarkable," Blythe said. "It was a life-changing event for me."
And she's not alone. She's among about 20 women who signed up for a unique running program at the North Y. With guidance and support from each other and experienced YMCA trainers, they set their sights on completing Disney's Princess Half Marathon together.
The real magic didn't happen in the Magic Kingdom Feb. 27, however. It happened during their weeks of training. The women developed a circle of support as they strived to meet their collective goal, Blythe said.
"It gives me chills just to think about where we started and where we are now," she said. "I really would say that we're kind of a family now."
Y Running Coach Kevin Collins, who has qualified to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials three times, led the group with encouragement and expertise, Blythe said. North Area Family Y Health and Wellness Supervisor Maggie Triolo kept the group's spirits up when the work was hardest, she said. Triolo led the group of women, some of them accompanied by members of their families, on the trip to Florida.
"We trained in all kinds of weather," Maggie said. "We built a small community."
The run was so successful that the Y is making plans for a similar mid-winter running getaway next year, said North Area Executive Director Lisa Pachmayer.
And for Blythe, the experience was so powerful that she recently became a campaigner for the Y Partners Campaign, the YMCA's annual fundraising effort. Money raised in the campaign offsets some of the $1.38 million in subsidies that the Y provides to people who otherwise would be unable to afford a Y membership.
To learn more about Y Partners, visit ymcaofgreatersyracuse.org and click "Give Now."