Did you know that if you can walk or run 1 mile, you can participate in the Akron Marathon Race Series?

Train to walk or run 6.2 miles, and you could collect up to four medals by the end of summer as part of an iconic Akron event that engages 100,000 competitors, volunteers and spectators every year.

As a reporter, I’ve shared many inspirational stories from the Blue Line, folks who signed up because they wanted to honor a late loved one, raise money for a charity, celebrate losing weight or conquering an illness, or simply strive for a healthier lifestyle.

Never having run an organized race before, it didn’t occur to me that I could be one of those stories.

But I can, and so can you.

I’m looking for some readers who are not runners to come join me and photographer Karen Schiely in a summer-long adventure as we train together for the three-race series.

We’ll start next week preparing for the June 24 meet at InfoCision Stadium, where we can choose between two events in the National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile.

Then we’ll step things up to get ready for the Goodyear Half Marathon & 10k on Aug. 12, which includes a trip around Goodyear’s famous Akron test track.

I figure we’ll be sailing confidently into the Sept. 23 marquee event — the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay. Some of us might be ready to tackle the half marathon. The rest of us can form relay teams with legs as small as 3.5 miles.

If we complete all three events in what is collectively known as the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, we’ll get a fourth medal, a cool wall hanger to display them on, some fun swag from an organization that is nationally known for treating its runners like royalty, and a lot of self-satisfaction from a job well done.

So let’s put to rest all the excuses you’ve been making while reading up to this point.

1. You’re worried about how to get started.

We’ll have a standing date at 9 a.m. every Saturday April 8 through Sept. 16 (excluding race days) at a local park. To train for our first race in June, we’ll meet at Firestone Metro Park at 2400 Harrington Road in South Akron, where the level ground offers a comfortable start for walkers and beginning runners.

On April 8 and every second Saturday of the month, the Akron Marathon folks will arrange for us to have a speaker at the pavilion before we set out. We’ll hear about a new topic each month and be able to ask any questions that have been nagging us.

If Saturday doesn’t fit into your schedule or Firestone is too far, you can still be part of the Blue Line Beginners. We’ll stay in touch by email so we can hear about how you’re doing and you can read — and be a part of — our daily blog.

2. You’re worried about the distance.

The minimum June event is a mile. You probably walk that much grocery shopping. The smallest option in September is a 3.5-mile leg of the relay. The longest distance we’ll face is the 10K (6.2 miles) in August, but we’ve got plenty of time to build our stamina.

3. You’re worried about not keeping up.

You can train at your own pace. A mission of the Akron race is to encourage a more active community, regardless of ability or skill. People ride the Blue Line in wheelchairs. They do it juggling or jumping rope. They do it wearing costumes or in color-coordinated custom-made T-shirts. It’s a joyful celebration of fitness that isn’t easily defined.

Only a tiny handful of the 15,000 people who race every year actually expect to win. You’ll be surprised how much company we’ll have in the back of the pack.

4. You’re worried about your physical condition.

You definitely want to visit your doctor before beginning any fitness routine, but once you get the OK, we want our Blue Line Beginners to represent all sizes and levels of fitness.

I’m 56, out of shape and started my training last week by walking around the block in my Barberton neighborhood.

Schiely, from Akron, is 51 and pretty fit, but wants to make sure she stays that way with each passing birthday. Like me, she’s not a runner, “except when my dogs make me,” she quipped.

A few other things you need to know:

•?Schiely and I will maintain a daily blog at ohio.com/akronrun with tips and news. With the help of Akron Marathon staff and their expert resources, we’ll figure out things like how to pick a good running shoe or what training strategies will help us go from couch to finish line.

•?You need to be at least 15 years old to be part of our training team. There is no age limit on the other end. But we are looking for beginners, so we ask that you haven’t been in an organized race before.

•?While we are focusing on first-time runners, feel free to bring along experienced friends and family to our Saturday outings. We may even need some of them to join our September relay teams.

•?I will write about our group several times during the spring and summer, but you are not required to be a part of any story. If you are a new runner and just want the companionship, come out anyway.

•?To remain part of Blue Line Beginners, you must register for the first race by June 1. That will give you plenty of time to gain some confidence and decide which event you want to do. It costs $20 to register for the 1-mile event, and $50 to run the 8K. You can register for the other two races later in the year. Registration fees and information about all three races can be found at www.akronmarathon.org.

Ready?

To sign up for Blue Line Beginners, just send me an email at pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Give me your name, age and hometown, then tell me a little about yourself.

Now, turn to your family and tell them you are going to run the Akron Marathon Race Series this year.

And when they chuckle and remind you today is April Fools’ Day, tell them it’s no joke.

Because it doesn’t have to be.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.