Editor’s note: This article was originally published September 10, 2013

As a former non-runner, I understand the intimidation of signing up for a race, even a short one.

What if you’re the last one to finish? What if you can’t finish? What if you can’t even start?

The best way to avoid all those scenarios is to join a running group. But a lot of people don’t want to pay for exercise they could (theoretically) do on their own for free.

That’s why the YMCA’s Couch to 5K training program is so brilliant.

One, it’s free.

Two, if you stick with it for six weeks, you get a free one-month membership to the YMCA of Austin, a shirt and a finish line celebration. You also get discounts for race registration.

This year’s program prepares participants for the 2013 Run for the Water 5K on Oct. 27. A four-week extension program is designed to prepare runners for the 2013 Turkey Trot 5 miler on Thanksgiving Day.

Training begins Sept. 16 at most locations.

All levels are welcome and beginners and first-timers are particularly encouraged. (No need to be intimidated!) The program includes a nutrition seminar, professional coaches and a supportive group environment.

Registration is required and can be done online at www.AustinYMCA.org.

The program is being offered at six locations in Travis & Hays counties - North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg Lane; Townlake YMCA, 1100 W. Cesar Chavez; Hays YMCA, 465 Buda Sportsplex Drive; Northwest Family YMCA, 5807 McNeil Drive; East Communities YMCA, 5315 Ed Bluestein and Southwest YMCA, 6219 Oakclaire Drive.