Like clockwork, the excuses begin.

“I can’t do that, I’m not a runner,” someone inevitably will tell Pat Fellows.

“I’ve got knee problems,” another will say.

“I’m too fat,” another adds.

Fellows, the co-founder of the Louisiana Marathon, hears the familiar excuses from people interested in changing their lifestyles by beginning a running or walking regimen.

“It’s almost as if they’re defeated before they even start,” Fellows said. “I mean, running is hard, naturally it is, but a lot of people almost defeat themselves ahead of time.”

Fellows nearly fell into the same trap. In late 2000, he was 30 years old and had never run before starting a couch-to-5K program that instantly had him hooked.

Now, Fellows, along with Marathon co-founders Danny Bourgeois and Craig Sweeney, will provide daily tips and tricks in The Advocate for either first-time runners looking to tackle the 5K on Jan. 17 or experienced athletes who need that extra boost.

Termed a “running festival” and encompassing an entire weekend, the Louisiana Marathon and half-marathon runs Jan. 18 while the gun fires for a quarter-marathon, 5K and kids 1.2 mile race Jan. 17.

When the trio founded the race, Fellows, Bourgeois and Sweeney set a goal for 15,000 race participants by the fifth year. With the fourth installment set, the goal is on schedule and another, more ambitious goal is still in the works.

“What we’ve seen as runners is the amount of local people, engaged every weekend starting Labor Day or a little bit later,” Fellows said. “First-year 2,800 (participants), second-year 4,400, last year 6,500, this year we project to be between 8-10,000.”

“We were the 49th worst in health ratings, least healthy states, in the nation (when the marathon was founded),” Fellows said. “We’d said, “Why can’t we go from 49 to 1?’ ”

For first-timers skeptical of their abilities, Fellows said their first step — literally — is the most crucial.

“I always tell people, the first step to doing it is stepping out the door,” Fellows said. “Commit to doing 15 minutes. If you can’t do 15, get your head around five. It’s getting them out the door the first time and trying to break that intimidation. Getting out the door is the hardest part.”

And when the first step is taken, Fellows said to keep the age-old adage “crawl before you walk” in the forefront.

He encouraged all novices to take up a walk-run program that alternates running and walking intervals to prevent soreness and overwork.

“There’s no shame in walking,” Fellows said. “I’ve walked in every marathon or race I’ve ever done. There’s no shame in deciding to get out there.”

Those with races under their belt or who have trained before may not have that specific problem, but with the holiday season, Fellows said keeping a routine can sometimes fall by the wayside.

To compensate, Fellows tells those who have evening plans to carve out times early in the day to offset the indulgences that may occur later.

“For some people I work with and train, they like to eat, and part of training is being able to do some of the things you want to do and not have guilt,” Fellows said.

Getting ready for race day

The Louisiana Marathon weekend is little more than a month away. Check in every day with The Advocate to get set. ... And go online for video links to help with the training.

DAY ONE

When starting, it helps to have a goal in mind. Whether it’s a number on a scale or a date on the calendar, having a goal provides motivation. Let’s say you want to run or walk the 5K at the Louisiana Marathon on Jan. 17. Today’s goal: Just start. Walk or run for 15 minutes. Can’t do 15? Try 10. Then agree to do it again the next day.

Link to video?