It was something Abi Elder never thought she would be able to do. The Aiken resident is a member of the Couch to 5K program, and the athlete participated Saturday morning in Aiken Electric Cooperative Inc.’s Run United 5K Run.

The event also featured a 10K race and a Kids Fun Run in The Alley.

The routes for the courses took the participants through downtown Aiken, and more than 175 runners were entered in Saturday’s races.

It was someone from Elder’s church who acted as the catalyst, inspiring Elder to get off her couch and to start hitting the pavement.

“My goal last year was to walk the race and to run it this time,” said Elder, who participated in the 5K. “When I started, my goal was to do my first 5K. The group inspired me to run the whole way. They were there at the end.”

The goal of participating in her first 5K was just the motivation Elder needed. But, the runner methodically prepared for Saturday morning’s race, training with her group that met Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings, for 12 weeks.

“We started off doing 1 mile, and then we went up a half-mile every Saturday, until we were running about 3½ miles,” said Elder. “I’m doing something I never thought I could do. It’s a mind game at first. You tell yourself you can’t do it, and once you see yourself doing it, you know that you can accomplish anything.”

All the proceeds from the event are being donated to the United Way of Aiken County, and not only did the races’ participants benefit healthwise, they also derived satisfaction in helping the community.

“I run four or five times a week, between 3 and 10 miles,” said Todd Hardwick, who competes in marathons and half-marathons.

Many of the participants found Saturday morning’s cooler temperatures ideal for running.

“Once you get a mile into the race, the weather doesn’t even bother you,” said Hardwick.

The 5K and 10K courses were marked by a member of the Aiken Running Club. The first Run United races were held last fall at Citizens Park.

“I run at home and work for the company,” said Tucker Miller, an Aiken Cooperative Electric Inc. lineman. “I enjoy the mental aspect of it, and running is good for you.”