From baby steps to quantum leaps.

That's the type of gains those who partake in the 10-week running/walking training program can expect to make.

The program, carried out by trainers from Dedicated Fitness in Palmerton, is geared to help train them for Blue Mountain Health System's 5K Road Race, Walk, and Kid's Fun Run.

Currently in its fourth week, the program helps shape contestants for the 11th annual 5K, which is scheduled to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 12, in the Palmerton Borough Park.

Kerri Jahelka, owner of Dedicated Fitness, said the group - which consists of all volunteers - meets three times a week, at 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Jahelka is in charge of the Beginner's Group, while Ryan Heller oversees the Advanced Group, and Sara Nansteel the Intermediate Group.

"It's a planned program that's unique to this 5K course, so that anyone can participate," Jahelka said. "We teach form, running etiquette, how to breathe, and how to pace yourself."

As the program progresses, Jahelka said the group runs further, so that ultimately they'll be able to either walk or run in the 5K.

Jahelka said the group meets in the gym, where it heads over to the fountain in the park and stretches. From there, she said the groups break up and does its run, where they return at the same time, and end with a stretch.

"We have people bringing their children with them, families participating, and people are able to overcome that 'I can't run' mentality," she said. "We're teaching them tips on how to overcome that, and what happens is we get this goal where it's all about committing yourself to achieve something new, and at the end, you will be proud of yourself that you've completed your goal."

Jahelka noted that each year, the 5K event continues to grow, and that "people are getting healthy and fit."

"We try to enforce how to run in town," she said. "It's for everyone of all ages and abilities; and walking is just important as running."

Ann Behler, of Palmerton, said she's participated in the 5K event each year since its inception. Before that, she never ran a 5K, she said.

"I joined Kerri's gym and team," said Behler, 57. "It's a lot of fun, a lot of camaraderie, just competing as a goal for yourself; it's wonderful."

Behler said her goal is to finish the event in under 30 minutes, something she has not yet been able to do.

"It's a big sense of community, and we're doing something good to support the town, Dr. Martinez, and the hospital," she said. "I've made a lot of new friends, and feel good that at my age, I'm able to do this."

Behler credited Jahelka for her level of involvement.

"Kerri has offered this community so many wonderful things," she said. "Something for everyone."

Jahelka said all it takes is the desire to want to do well.

"People who are hesitant or afraid can just start with that first step," she said. "Just by setting a goal is what makes you strive, just makes you feel better."

Jahelka said anyone interested in participating in the 5K may sign up online at www.bluemountainhealthsystem5k.com.